“All cut myelin and beckoning horizons, these poems radiate through you.”
The poems in Sheila Squillante’s debut collection, Beautiful Nerve, are meant to unsettle. They draw on our anxieties and fears—somatic, linguistic, metaphoric—leading us somewhere somehow calming in its familiarity but troublingly unsteady: a bridge that ends abruptly as you cross it, the doomed deck of a haunted ship, a three-cornered room, the cutlery drawer, a table where you lie still beneath the surgeon’s knife. Miscommunications and disorientations abound in these poems. Memories and dreams collide with nature and media, creating something superficially simple, but too unstable for us to ever get comfortable. “Look at the landscape for a while,” they tell us. But then “pull out and be on your way.”
Endorsements & Reviews
“In these stunning poems filled with the weight and hungers of milk, honey, and sensuous blood-pulse, Sheila Squillante deftly slips between exterior and interior spaces of embodiment and intellect, quotidian and sublime, dream and wakefulness. With a painterly eye and an impeccable ear for linguistic sound and phrasing, the keenly-thrumming poems in Beautiful Nerve will rivet you with their quirky precision, and make you swoon with their wild and gorgeous music.” —Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of Dandarians
“These poems contain characters that grapple with finding verisimilitude in impossibility. Squillante explores the limits of body and the boundless aspects of perception as the catalyst of growth—to possess the nerve and have that be enough.“–review in The Los Angeles Review
“As the title suggests, Squillante’s poems gently interrogate the nerves that plague us, massaging them into submission, pirouetting along the tightrope of stress and anxiety until we see pain and uncertainty as a tool of wonder.“–review in Bookslut
“The intricately telescoping tangle of these poems—like neural wiring, like arteries, like roots of plants—resists an easy decoding, offering instead a brilliant bouquet of “nervous yellow bloom[s].”--review in Hot Metal Bridge
“This small, squarish volume with its dreamy trees is the perfect little package for Squillante’s strangely haunting collection. These poems, prose-poems, and nanofictions create an intimate place lit with precise, musical language where everyday thoughts bump anxiously against surreal scraps to make their own kind of irrational logic.”–review at Goodreads
“Sheila Squillante’s Beautiful Nerve looks at the familiar and commonplace – a sparrow, a slant of light, the color green, a cookbook, bears – and essentially re-imagines them. They are still familiar, and yet, in Squillante’s hands, they had become something different.”–review at tweetspeak
Interviews & Podcasts
Please enjoy this sample poem, originally published at No Tell Motel.
It’s Your Obsession with Bears and Pregnancy and the Plots of Your Own Dreams That Bore Those around You Practically to Tears
It’s your obsession with bears and pregnancy and the plots of your own dreams that bore those around you practically to tears, though they are too kind or occupied to say so to your face. It’s your reliance on the easily-gotten, the universal, the widely-accepted and perfectly explainable in the world that confounds those around you who expect more from someone with so much time on her hands. Have you finished reading that fat book we assigned you about the sparkling dynastic lineage yet? It’s your inability to manipulate the steam furnace valve, rusted and out-of-reach though it may be, that forces your father into saying harsh things to you under the stucco archway as he enters the house from the garage. Yes, it does cut your elbow as you pass. It’s your “remorseless insistence on free verse” that, we’re sorry, makes this manuscript unsuitable for publication at this time. It’s your preoccupation with corporal rhythms, with sleep and wake cycles, feeding and elimination schedules, whether or not an eye can track an object past the midline of the body, that propels us away from you and back to our smart-talk, our dog-eared copy and our notebook on the bus. It’s your naïve expectation that your father, upon seeing the charred remains of the car in the driveway, its wheels melded to asphalt, the vinyl siding sliding like pudding into a chemical pool, would say something other than “look what you did to my house.” It’s your penchant for feckless musing that infuriates those around you who have placed wagers—that’s good money, cold, hard cash —on whether or not you will finally complete your grieving, help your husband to melt the photos of your old boyfriend in the microwave and move on. Don’t you know how much this has hurt him? Don’t you know how much this has hurt all men? It’s your absolute refusal to see anything beyond the fact of patchy dry skin and relentless nail growth, beyond milky fluids and all the mundane details, that causes us to call into question your commitment to your art. It’s your belief that art is like skin and nails—which is to say, both fluid and relentless—that eliminates you as a serious contender for the part we once thought you perfectly suited to play.