Book Review: Beauty You Drie a Hard Bargain (Marie Kane)

Reviewed by Erin M. Kelly

It is said that one of the many marks of a great poet is how one chooses to use words to create something magical. The construction of words should ignite the page when pen is put to paper — while stirring something inside those who read whatís created. That emotion could be happiness, joy, or even the feeling of finding truth. It can be a combination of all three of those emotions, or an array of new ones that havenít been brought to the surface.

Whatever the emotion is, it should come with an element of truth or honesty. It can be something a poet has already found and wants to convey to the reader, or a feeling that the reader is trying to find themselves.

As author Marie Kane eloquently displays in her latest book of poetry entitled, Beauty, You Drive a Hard Bargain, it can serve as an example of how to be fearless in oneís pursuit of not only learning to live with a disability, but also learning to live truthfully. The poems in this collection offer a sense that that Kane herself has learned to live her truth — or is in the ever-evolving process of doing so, despite the weight of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Kane also weaves moments from her childhood into these poems, using such vivid imagery as a backdrop. In addition, she brings a strong narrative aspect to every poem, which enhances the readerís experience of going on this incredibly personal journey with her.

The book, published earlier this year, is divided into four sections. Each second hones in on a revealing aspect of Kaneís life. The poems achieve a great, illuminating magnitude of emotion that pulls the reader into her world. Thus, allowing the reader to feel a range of emotion themselves — whether a personal connection is found within a particular poem, or the sheer use of words ignites something inside.

To that point, in the last stanza of the title poem, Beauty, You Drive a Hard Bargain, Kane also displays a beautiful sense of vulnerability:

But Beauty—you traitorous vixen! I should have known
that your hesitancy when shaking hands foretold
betrayal. I have not been the same since you. Beauty,
with all your glitz and glamor, poised demurely
in the back seat, my sapphire and diamond necklace
flashing at the nape of your soft neck—while
the Burden of Disability sat up front with me
and madly drove the car.Ē

It is with this level of vulnerability in which Kane drives the narrative aspects found throughout the book. It lets the reader know that she feels comfortable enough to offer others a glimpse into her world. It can be argued that this also shows a sense of inner comfort or peace felt by Kane during the writing process. Whether or not she arrived at this point with the immediate intention of opening a door for others to enter, thereís something to be said about the way the poems in this collection convey a message of courage — and most importantly, beauty.

Kane shows that beauty isnít limited to physical elements. She reminds readers that while beauty may often be perceived as a perfect image of any given object or individual, it can only truly be defined by the person whoís living in his or her own skin. That aspect speaks to the human condition in a way that brings the poems in this book to life. It also speaks volumes about the inner struggle in finding true beauty, as displayed in the poem, "Looking at the Photograph":

After my brother died, I found a picture of us
fishing in a wooden rowboat with Uncle Norman.
On my brotherís slim rod, a golden-scaled fish is
frozen into a question mark…

From there, the poem continues to dive deeper into the realm of inner struggle. It ends with vivid yet chilling imagery centered the thought of self-worth:

I wanted to drink cheap beer in the sun next to that
water, arch back into the warm grass, wake from sleep
knowing who I am.

This is the kind of poetry that not only exemplifies truth at its core, but also lends itself to the bigger questions about beauty itself. It connects with another aspect of the human condition — self-exploration. Thatís part of what makes this book such a deep and full examination of beauty, and the fact Kane is so willing to bear her soul in these poems. In many ways, her powerful use of language, imagery, and awareness of her MS draws a line back to the title of the book.

All of these elements make a complete circle, encompassing a single thought that often proves to be true. The thought is that genuine beauty is hard to find, and it does present a difficult Bargain in some way — for everyone. Kane conveys this message in such a straight-forward, honest manner.

Beauty, You Drive a Hard Bargain should be applauded not only for its ability to take readers on a journey through poetry, but also its honesty. This book should be read with an unassuming eye, while keeping in mind the writer was ready — or at least willing — to share something daunting and powerful with the world. Thatís an amazing, honorable strength — one in which needs to be truly savored.

Title: Beauty You Drive a Hard Bargain
Author: Marie Kane
Publisher: Kelsay Books
Publication Date: 2017


Erin M. Kelly is the author of the forthcoming book, How To Wait (Finishing Line Press). She was born with Cerebral Palsy. Kellyís work has been published by The Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Mighty, The Good Men Project, Wordgathering Poetry Journal, and others. Her monthly column "The View from Here," for the local newspaper in Altoona, Pennsylvania, addresses the challenges she faces daily. I enjoy freelance editing and served as Editor for the memoir, To Cope and To Prevail, by Ilse-Rose Warg.