The Afflicted: Sandra Beasley, 28, a Dupont Circle poet—and now, essayist—whose personal stories periodically appear in the Washington Post Magazine’s new all-things-female series, “The XX Files.”
Diagnosis: I strain. Since gaining a reputation as a poet—her debut book, Theories of Falling, won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize—Beasley has been asked to get more personal for the column. “I have absolutely no filter in discussing my own flaws,” she says. “But I don’t think it’s fair to put someone else’s life out there unless the story is absolutely compelling.”
Symptoms: Tell-fall. Beasley is wary of turning autobiography into exposé. “In poetry, it’s okay to talk more intimately, because the characters are veiled and fragmented,” she says. “But in an essay, I have to be more careful not to casually invoke those in my personal life—the innocent bystanders, as I like to call them.” That’s put a bit of a clinch on Beasley’s material. “A great story that’s really fun and gossipy might be too exposing to somebody who’s close to me,” she says.
Treatment: A cast from the past. So far, the foibles of loved ones are off-limits for Beasley. Some ex files, however, are fit to print. “I have an essay coming out about a guy who I had a brief relationship with that I eventually lost to drug use,” says Beasley. Though the Post allowed Beasley to identify the ex by first name only, the story still flirts with too-close-for-comfort. “It’s bracing to know that I’m going to put this out there, and that he could see this, or even re-emerge,” she says. Still, the tale fits Beasley’s criteria: “I think it’s compelling enough,” she says.
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