Taylor’s Response to Kenny Fries’ “Beauty and Variations”

In Kenny Fries’ poem “Beauty and Variations”, there is an open discussion of beauty in relation to the human body as well as a disabled body.  As the title suggests, the poem describes two lovers exploring the nature of physical beauty between one another.  From the start, the tone of the poem is one of pure wonder and sensuality as the narrator compares their body to their lover’s.  The word ‘beauty’ is thrown around quite a bit as the poem explores the deeper meaning to it.  The narrator expresses the desire to discover if beauty is equally easy to find inside as it is outside.  One particular line points to the main question in the text, “What is beautiful?  Who decides?  Can the laws of nature be defied?” (Fries).  The narrator struggles with their physical image compared to their lover’s, who is beautiful from birth.  While exploring their physical beauty as they continue to love and touch the narrator, the narrator wonders at how this interaction has come about.  In the narrator’s mind, beauty can not consist of twisted limbs and missing bones.  But in the lover’s mind, these aspects do not change their affections.  They can touch and kiss and love like any couple would, but the question lingers in the narrator’s mind even as they are intimate together.  While the open discussion of beauty between them takes place mainly within the narrator’s thoughts, there is a certain demonstration of the value of beauty occurring between them.  It is clear the narrator believes physical appearance holds a lot of power in the defining of beauty in society.  Furthermore, the narrator believes that the crooked body that makes up their anatomy is not worth as much as the natural beauty their partner possesses.  The narrator goes as far as stating that they believe their flaws will cause physical harm to their lover, “My hands would leave you scarred.  Knead the muscles of your thighs” (Fries).  This is a good example of equating disability with pain.  Assuming that someone with a disability can only cause or feel pain to a certain degree is a misconception that Fries explores with this open discussion.  Another significant feature of the poem is its sensuality.  Too often, those with disabilities are associated with a life lacking in sexual or otherwise physical activities.  Another misconception that is exposed and is further denied by this Fries poem.  The narrator and his lover are active in more ways than one in this poem, exploring their physicality and mentalities with one another.  Sensuality takes one more than one meaning in this poem.  The narrator’s thoughts are lined with the sensuality they feel with their partner, combined with the sensuality of being intimate with someone who is unlike them physically.  Kenny Fries combats the negative notion of the disabled community being incapable or without sexual interactions, as well as further open up the discussion of sensuality between disabled and non-disabled partners.  All around, this poem raises awareness to the interactions that the disabled community may have as well as how it relates to today’s standard beauty norms.

Leave a Reply