Which is your favourite James Bond? Is it the smirking, swaggering, explosively violent man portrayed by Sean Connery? George Lazenby’s deceptively good-humoured detective? Daniel Craig’s intense and barely controllable rogue agent? Or is it the nebulous narrative voice, complete with acerbic and self-deprecating humour, in Ian Fleming’s novels? For Kimmy Beach, the answer is all of them, and none. The poet’s fifth collection is an exploration of the well-known character’s essence, the alchemical composition of his fictional (and physical) allure.
The Last Temptation of Bond, however, is far more than an erotic exploration of a beloved character; it is also an examination of the limits of that character, the points at which Bond might become fractured and undone. Beach explores Bond at his most vulnerable, at moments of self-doubt, loathing, failure, and fear (the same way Scorsese treats Christ in the film alluded to in the collection’s title). In so doing, Beach adopts the role of the supervillain who has Bond strapped to a table – only this time the laser hits home.
In “Agony in the Hotel,” Bond tortures himself by recalling his great failures, many of which involve the women in his life. Bond remembers the death of Tracy on their wedding day: “Her blood ruined her wedding gown.” He imagines what would have transpired if the villains he’d faced had been successful in their plans for him: “Groin split. Sees himself lying open, bleeding and dead.” Later, as another laser approaches his groin, women Bond has loved or betrayed enter the room to witness his demise.
Beach is no stranger to exploring seductive pop-culture figures in her poetry. Her debut, Nice Day for Murder, was a collection of poems for James Cagney; her third book, fake Paul, follows its narrator’s obsessive, ultimately destructive love for Paul McCartney and his tribute-band dopplegänger. She handles Bond even more intimately, wriggling her fingers into the fault lines of his psyche and gleefully ripping. There is a table and a laser and a reckoning that was always coming for Bond; in forcing the suave secret agent to confront this, Beach displays both a deep admiration and an unmitigated sadistic streak.