by Wally Swist
Reviewed by Cyndi:Amherst author Wally Swist is a prolific writer who easily crosses genres, as is evident in his latest publication that incorporates four types of writing not often seen side-by-side. The preface provides a guide to the whole by weaving together the separate pieces using the common theme of "beauty," as suggested by the book’s title. Perhaps because he is best known as a poet, Swist weaves poetry throughout the book. His essays and reviews regarding poetry are thought provoking and insightful, especially "Instructions Within: The Poetry of Necessity," which is a review of Ashraf Fayadh’s poetry translated into English. (Fayadh is a Palestinian poet currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.) Later in the book, Swist offers a reinterpretation of "The Nutcracker" that provides a fantastical escape for the reader. While I personally can’t imagine being so busy as to rush on after stepping on a mouse and losing a shoe, the vivid description of that very thing happening to Mrs. Stahlbaum is a delightful detail that offers a hint of events to come that evening when the Mouse King arrives. Taken as a whole, this book offers myriad ways to interpret beauty and, as Swist says in the preface, to "engage with the rigors of beauty."