In the afterword, the author of BEAUTIFUL MALADY describes how Live-Action Roleplaying (LARPing) allows them to immerse themselves in a character without having to stick to their real-word persona. Yet, without talking about yourself, you are able to convey much of what you really want to say. This is immediately obvious in this book of poetry: Ennis Rook Bashe creates refreshing poems exploring disability and queerness. We are all familiar with those lazy tropes often found in literature centered on the disabled—suddenly they’re cured by modern medicine or even worse, magic/perseverance, it’s been in their head (and their fault) all along, and if it’s not showing the happy ending where someone’s disabilities suddenly go away, you may find a cautionary tale—pity these people, this is a lesson about acceptance/diversity/… okay there we go we’ve got our token disability character.
BEAUTIFUL MALADY examines these tropes and attacks them. In metaphors, in fairy tales, in odes and in unflinching criticism. Lyrical language abounds and creates images that resonate in their ability to capture pain, rage, triumph and resilience.
There’s a distinct voice noticeable throughout these largely unconnected poems. You get a feel of what Bashe wants to tell you, without them screaming it in your face. Sometimes you start reading about a cat hunting sunbeam, unsuspecting, until you are hit with what you really should have seen coming. Trauma turns into lessons learned turns into warning turns into determinations.
Let’s say maladies are flattering. Let’s banish illness as a failure of spirit and rejoice in the unspeakable stories being told. BEAUTIFUL MALADY will hold your hand and lead you along.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.