These poems balance between the harrowing and the beautiful, hovering at the precipice where women are both horseback riding heroines and battered mothers striving to protect their homes, their children, their identities. These poems are knives thrown with precision, fairytales rendered real through the grit and dirt of the natural world surrounding their imperfect speakers. Social media helps us grieve our losses (“suicide, suicide, suicide”) and white rabbits lead us down the winding roads of our past mistakes (“Until / a man just became an escape hatch to another man, / and all the worlds were eventually the same”). Transformations abound in this collection, though not by any conventional fairytale means, as Shaindel Beers with her knife-sharp wit and even sharper intuition unveils the nuance within the nuance of any situation. These poems don’t just seek escape—they create their own worlds within the escape hatches and (re)build from there.
“From the opening poem of Secure Your Own Mask, whose speaker confuses ‘ringing/ and wringing,’ I was hooked. This book does both: it rings and wrings. In searing lyrics, Shaindel Beers explores beauty and violence, and the voyeuristic impulse toward and unhealthy human appetite for both. ‘The world as it was before/ no longer exists,’ but the poems do exist, and they are not only unflinching but also open, even warm, despite it all. Secure Your Own Mask is a remarkable collection. These poems are quite literally death-defying.”—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
“With the cries of bird wives, farm wives, beaten wives, and in almost wrecked lives, the wonderful poems of Shaindel Beers shimmer and sing. “How much of love / is love?” these scintillating works of art ask, their inquiries the kinds of questions the survivor of a wrong marriage doesn’t want to ask, and must—because urgency is the meter of this heart, because the thrumming of poetry has the power to heal.”—Alan Michael Parker
“Consider this book’s imperative title as you enter the world of Shaindel Beers. How many times have you heard that phrase within the flight attendant’s spiel but never thought to yourself, There’s a poem there? For Beers, however, experience and the language with which we negotiate it are fraught, suggestive, ironic, and yet clear as the air above the clouds. The world we share with her hands her raw material—a child, pelicans, lovers, a drunken cowboy, an old house, and yes, particular words—and she proceeds to build these exquisite living machines of language we call poems. They unmask what it means to be really alive. Read, and listen, and be dazzled.”