Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind In The Willows collide with The Most Dangerous Game and Animal Farm in Durham’s Winterset Hollow. Exciting, surreal, and defying all expectations, the author has crafted something both somber and thought-provoking. John Eamon Buckley and his two closest friends join a group of fellow fans of Winterset Hollow to embark on a pilgrimage to the isolated island home of the children’s poem’s author, E. B. Addington. The crowd of friends and strangers couldn’t have prepared for–and never imagined–how intimate their glimpse into Addington’s life would be. What follows is a dizzying upheaval of everything they thought they knew and understood about the world around them. Awaiting the fans is a dark and scathing denunciation of the history they assumed to be true and a personal journey for Eamon as he discovers his connection to the beloved childhood story is deeper and more horrible than he’d suspected. The poem at the heart of Winterset Hollow is something I could imagine published on its own, and I could understand how the fictional characters might have cherished its captivating story. It’s the larger narrative, beautifully written and complete with its damning subtext of the evils associated with colonization and Westward expansion in early America that I adore, though. It’s so well-written and ingenious in its acknowledgment that Manifest Destiny and the American Dream were constructed on a substrate of nightmares levied against all those unfortunate enough to be in the path. The audiobook narrated by Jonathan Edward Durham himself was a spectacular way to experience this story, and he managed to capture both the tarnished innocence of Eamon and the bitterness combined with the sadness of the residents of Addington Isle.
The Professor delivers more than we could have hoped for with his epic poem, Vanitas. With this Robert Browning-inspired poem, he manages to create a vanitas of sorts. Both in the narrative conveyed within the poem and from the reading of the poem itself, the reader is subjected to a consideration of the contrast between life and death. Subtle nuances in the still life painting of his wife send a Duke down meandering and shadow-cloaked pathways within his bitter and jealous imagination. As the Duke becomes increasingly certain the Duchess has been seduced by the painter, he determines that there might be a bit of artistic sensibility in himself as well. Was the Duchess scampering through the maze, seduced by whispering promises of what the artist would give her if only he could? Did seeds of this infidelity take root in the soil of her heart where they germinated, decaying the love for her Duke? Perceiving this rot inside her, the Duke had only one course of action. Of course, it’s always possible the Duke is simply a madman driven to extremes by a jealous nature and bitter envy of the painter’s skill. The truth is something we might never know. Could this latest release from The Professor serve as a prequel of sorts to the Browning poem, My Last Duchess? Are we reading the sordid details of what transpired before Browning’s poem begins? The Professor may be revealing to us the telltale unfaithfulness captured in the Duchess’s slight blush, sending the Duke reeling toward horrific conclusions with fatal consequences. I, for one, choose to accept this as a canonical antecedent.
Vanitas can be obtained by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your preferred mobile device. The link is below:
Jeff Oliver’s Drops of Insanity is a solid collection of poetry consisting primarily of short poems dealing with a variety of topics. Though largely focused on musings associated with identity and mental illness while navigating society and relationships with those factors involved, there are a great many poems that deviate into assorted horror-themed allegories and expressions of pain and suffering. It’s worth taking one’s time, reflecting on the word choice and symbolism implicit in many of the verses, especially since the vast majority are no more than ten lines in length. It’s when we reach the longer form poem of “Her Soul To Keep” that the collection stands out at its strongest. A narrative expressed through the verse; this particular inclusion is a fascinating transition from the previous material collected in Drops of Insanity. At the core, it’s a breakdown of family, disappointment, revenge, and choices with consequences we’d not anticipated. It’s also a poem about demonic possession, murder, and the dissolution of the soul in the searing flames of Hell. What could be wrong with that? While it may feel like this collection suffers from some repetition where content is concerned, I’m inclined to believe this was an intentional flourish from Oliver. Occasionally this repetition appears in the form of epimone, but more often it appears to be a method of creating a sort of cyclic flow to the material contained within Drops of Insanity. Hell is repetition, as we learned from the Stephen King screenplay, Storm of the Century, and mental illness is an exceptionally personal sort of Hell. Looking at it that way, it becomes difficult to imagine Oliver wasn’t attempting to immerse the reader in the overarching theme of this collection of poetry.
The lake and surrounding campground are empty as Autumn’s chased all but the locals away. It’s the perfect time for a fishing trip, and Rick, Gary, and Stephen fully intend to capitalize on that isolation as they catch up with one another after years of being caught up in their own lives. Plagued by nightmares and thin sleep their first night in the tents, the men can hardly wait to get out on the boat on their first day of the camping trip. What they find in the cold water is more than just fish, but that shock is nothing compared to what awaits on the shore. Will law enforcement discover any evidence of what happened to the missing men? Will we see some hint of light or peace at the end of this tale, or will the reader learn that nothing is quite what it seems in this distant campground? The reader feels the chill in the air and the terror experienced by the campers as their weekend getaway transforms into a living nightmare. Love breathes inauspicious life into this story just as he does everything else I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Todd Love always gives us more than we expect with his stories. This story also includes the beautifully sinister poem, Black Thread, with its shifting perspective and unexpected revelation. Love is out to prove to readers everywhere that he knows what he’s doing, and he does it well.
Thin Sleep is a Godless exclusive released for the AntiChristmas event at http://www.godless.com for December of 2021. You can pick it up for yourself by going to the website or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device. The link is below:
Aurelio Rico Lopez III has provided readers with a robust assortment of free-verse narrative poems. There are literally dozens of stories and set pieces conveyed through poetry in this collection, and it’s well worth the time spent properly digesting each and every one. A Predisposition for Madness has certainly put this writer on my radar in a good way. In these pages, you’ll discover monsters both human and far from it, you’ll witness new pandemics and sickness ravaging households and the world, you’ll see warfare and apocalyptic scenarios played out, and you’ll encounter things far more challenging to describe. There’s most certainly something in here that will suit the tastes of any reader, assuming that reader enjoys poetry. Even if you don’t typically enjoy it, I’d recommend giving this collection a chance. The title is an apt one, the cadence of the poems coming across almost as if the stream of consciousness ravings of a madman in a padded cell, alternating between mumbles and screams.
This title was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com for October of 2021. You can read it for yourself by going to the website or by downloading the Godless app on your preferred mobile device. The link is below:
Whether you’re a fan of horrorcore rap, brutal poetry, splatterpunk horror, or you simply have an unhealthy obsession with serial killers and the atrocities committed by those degenerates, The Unclean Verses: Cantos 1 & 2 is definitely for you! I come at this as a fan of John Baltisberger’s poetry–as well as his prose–and this introduction to The Unclean Verses still managed to blow me away. We’re introduced to a man who feels compelled by demons to perform terrible, violent acts. The descriptive, graphic violence conveyed in verse is so damn impressive, and I’m not just saying that because I volunteered to be one of the victims when Baltisberger was first putting this whole project together. I probably deserved what I got, though, because I feel like I was probably a terrible coworker. I guess maybe I just didn’t have my head in the game. In a sense, as I wrapped up my reading of Cantos 1 & 2, I felt almost like I’d just read the least remorseful death row confession ever. Imagine, if you will, an unrepentant spree killer or serial killer mocking both the families of the victims and society as a whole by unleashing a hideous, cruel rap detailing his crimes with passionate aplomb. You won’t be far off from what Baltisberger has in store for you with this release. These first two Cantos will pummel you into submission with the rapid-fire, insidious rhythm by which Baltisberger delivers his barrage of violence and graphic imagery. You’ll quiver with equal parts anticipation and terror, knowing that this is only the beginning.
The Unclean Verses: Cantos 1 & 2 is being released on October 6th at http://www.godless.com as part of the 31 Days of Godless event for October of 2021. You’ll want to pick this one up for yourself by going to the website or downloading the Godless app. The link is below:
I saw a call for Canadian writers to submit horror haikus the other day. Unfortunately, I am not Canadian…because it sounded like fun. I was between newscasts–I direct newscasts for our local ABC affiliate Monday through Friday–and I decided I should see just how dark and awful I could get with the haiku template.
That was how it started…but not how it would end.
There were more–many more.
Just when I thought I might be finished, I had to keep going with a couple late additions.
I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I’ve enjoyed leading you.
This is the second collection of assorted poetry from John Baltisberger I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. This time, it was in audiobook format rather than chapbook, as In Service of Slaughter had been. There’s a good variety for anyone who enjoys horror and poetry in combination, though it is a bit on the short side, being adapted from a chapbook. Baltisberger performs his own narration, which makes the experience more personal and intimate than I suspect it would have been from a third-party narrator. “Nameless Leviathan” stands out for the simple fact that he layers his voice multiple times to create an effect similar to the verse/response effect one might experience in a church or temple. It creates a more chant-like quality rather than feeling like a straightforward piece of poetry, and I enjoyed that a great deal. The limerick included is entertaining, for being so gruesome…but limericks, by design, are always amusing in a strange way…something to do with the rhythm and sing-song quality of the style.
The first thing I will say about Susan Snyder’s Broken Nails is that it is far too short. You’re reading–and often re-reading–the poems, getting drawn into the almost nightmarish world she’s assembling with her words…and then it’s the end. It’s over. You’re not ready for it to be over just yet. As painful and raw as the experience was, you sort of want to continue exploring Susan’s interior. She’s ripped herself open for you and left herself exposed, but then it stops. This poetry collection is separated into three sections, each with a certain overarching theme. The second section, Reflection, was my personal favorite. It was also the most horrific in a number of ways. It’s sincerely a little bit painful as you allow the poet to paint you a portrait of a life that’s included no small amount of suffering. This is not poetry for those who are looking for flowery nonsense. This is poetry that examines topics like murder, sexual assault, suicide, and Satanism…and if you’re interested in that, dive right in.
Beautifully sacrilegious and almost sinful in its flowing, narrative language, War of Dictates by John Baltisberger is something that can be thought of as almost a Kabalistic Hellraiser in poem form. I first thought of it as Paradise Lost for the S&M crowd, but that works only if Aleister Crowley had been halfway resurrected to pen the volume with still decaying hands. Instead of ruining the work by following it up with Paradise Regained (as Milton did), Baltisberger doubles down and digs deep into the darkness and deviance of a place worse than hell. I wish I could recommend this book to everyone, but I know poetry (even the most cruel and depraved) has less wide appeal than it perhaps should. That being said, I still have to recommend it to anyone who might take the time to read it. This is a Gospel written in blood and fire, fueled by rage and dreams.