Beautiful Monsters


Finalist for best poetry book of the year, Texas Institute of Letters

Publisher: Pecan Grove Press (Saint Mary’s University, San Antonio), 2010

Order: Pecan Grove Press


Beautiful Monsters

With a painter’s eye for detail, a historian’s long views, a geographer’s instinct for places, and a poet’s capacity for le mot juste, Jeffrey Greene takes us on a trip that moves from wildness to civilization, from the New World to the Old. His title poem, which opens his book, depicts ecology as a part of history: the feral swine, and more specifically their domesticated relatives, are now part of us, courtesy of medical science, lending their bones, skin, and valves for our well-being. The book ends with “Elegy for a Muse,” to Dina Vierny, Aristide Maillol’s model. Between ferality and decorative beauty, Greene also contemplates ordinary life and its potential for heroism, the nitty-gritty of urban politics, as well as the family romance and its mythic parallels as he moves through Connecticut, New York, and Texas before settling into France, his destination. Beautiful Monsters reminds us how closely allied all seeming oppositions—of place, temperament, time, and feeling—actually are. It is a book filled with quiet wonders. —Willard Spiegelman

"With this new book, Jeffrey Greene has become a type of endangered species: a thoroughly mature poet who, with high artistry and deftness of hand, brings us face to face with the shadows and light of life's unconquered mysteries. These poems are infused with a rare sense of compassion for all living things. They speak to us of the terrifying roar of time's passage, while revealing to us moments of symmetry and grace "so foreign to the chaotic human heart"—a balance masterfully achieved."

—Ellen Hinsey

"Beautiful Monsters is Jeffrey Greene's newest and best book of poems. His voice is wise and appealing and individual. At ease in personal experience or historical circumstance, he finds his subjects in both the kingdom of animals and the creations of man. Here are wolves, moles, and wild boar, derelict cities and damaged citizens, "small acts of human decency to mythic figures at the end/of their journeys," and a crew of figures that includes Walt Whitman, Robinson Jeffers, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. There is music here and a rightness of craft. What a fine book! What superb poems!"

—Stuart Dischell


"Just as he's fused both beauty and beast in the rousing title poem, Jeffrey Greene finds a rich vein of integrity in his quest to reconcile our human and animal natures. There's an apt and spirited sense of justice in his lyrical championing of vilified boars, hogs, and wolves. Beautiful Monsters is a trenchant, compassionate, blessedly sane volume in which Greene blends lively animal odes, everyday Americana, pertinent Greek myths, and meditations on mortality and time's sweep, with a seamless, forthright grace." —Cyrus Cassells