Julie Reeser is not only one of the most hard-working writers I have been lucky to come across, but also a kind, insightful, and genuinely good human being. So when she asked me to review her second book of poems, Beak, Full of Tongue, I was so excited and accepted so eagerly that it was a day or two later before I realized I’ve never actually written a review of an entire chapbook before.
Julie, ever the positive person, took this in stride and with a sense of humor—and somehow actually wound up encouraging me a bit in this process. This same eagerness, positivity, and authenticity is evident not only how Julie seems to approach life, but also in how she writes about it.
This is not to say these poems are all about raindrops and whiskers on kittens because, as we all know, that isn’t life. But Julie seems to find a way to capture the unflinching realities of living, its difficult truths in often harsh cross-sections of moments, but in an almost kaleidoscope-like way, tainted with pastel and unfiltered honesty.
In “Ersatz”, it begins with two sentences: “Not all doll skin is the same. These are the thoughts I have when kissing him.” in which the speaker likens herself to a doll, how “all with blue eyes gauged to attention” and yet hers are “compressed dust”. This poem is only eighteen lines and made me feel something with which I can identify and not fully name. As if I, too, without knowing, have “fingers firm, daring nothing.”
“Tako-tsubo” was another one with lines and feeling that stuck with me after I finished reading. Specifically “I give you permission to indulge, to breathe into the ribs, of every blue moment, spend it all”. This sentence—its structure, idealism, imagery—made me think of some of my favorite poets. And the fact that takotsubo is a form of cardiomyopathy, known as “broken-heart syndrome”, again paints a single poem into not only different facets but also different depths.
As I continued reading through Beak, Full of Tongue, I found myself continually writing down sections that took over, that I could not shake. From “Waterlogged”: “It’s not that you were great at moving your body in depths. You weren’t. But, the water made you buoyant, held the sorrow at bay and washed away the dirt.” The entirety of “Confessions”. And was floored by “Love in Springtime” with its “I can see death on you, love; mine or yours, everyone’s. Death enamored and content, fattening up on our love.” How Julie was able to explain and capture so many nameless feelings that I have spent years either trying to write about, or feeling and yet not have been able to recognize their existence is, “simply”, because she is a poet.
Beak, Full of Tongue, to me, is a collection of ethereal emptiness, but not necessarily in a sad way. More that it just reminds you of the tangy-sweetness of being human. With imagery and words that are “just-right”—visceral and dreamy, layered with a thousand things to say in a single moment. “I swear birds and girls have eyes so fine and intense they can see through time” Julie writes in “Appetites”, which might be my favorite of the collection. “They perch on telephone lines, chattering with one eye roving and the other fixed. This one watches the calf being born. Beautiful life, but I know it is hungry for any sign of weakness.”
Julie’s poems are the kind that make you want to write. They are tangible and insightful. They inspire, they revitalize, they haunt. And they—like all good works of art should—make you hope that maybe you, too, could have something just as beautiful to say.
Julie Reeser lives in a stone bowl in Montana full of yellow birds and melted snow. Her work has been published in Montana Mouthful, FrostFire Worlds, Mirror Dance, The Cafe Irreal, and many others. Julie actively engages on Patreon with daily writing inspiration, poetry postcards, handmade tiny books, and other fun projects.