I’ve been on hiatus the last couple of months. First my Mac broke down and it took forever to get it up and running and restored, just in time to leave on our annual summer vacation! I hope you had fun without me!
I seem to be getting a lot of requests to review horror or dark poetry lately, that is, in relation to Science Fiction or Fantasy poetry. I haven’t actually tallied them up, but it sure seems like that’s what I’ve got on my plate these days. One could speculate as to why that is. Are horror writers better at marketing? Are they more present on social networking sites and I therefore see more of their work? Or are there so many more people writing dark/horror poetry? I wonder. If you have any theories, tell me in the comments. And speaking of comments, I’d love to hear anything you have to say about what I write here. I kind of feel like I’m writing into the ether!
But me, I’ve never been a big fan of Horror. Especially film – I find it too upsetting, unsettling, scary, or plain gross. But I’m finding, as I delve more deeply into the genre with respect to poetry (and fiction) that it’s not all splatter, or disgusting, but rather it can be quite profound and psychological. I’ve been expanding my horizons within the genre and have found that there is a lot of variation, which I suppose is no surprise. I’ve been listening to Kevin Lucia’s Horror 101 on the Tales to Terrify podcast (part of the District of Wonders Network including my own beloved StarShipSofa), which has shown me that I’ve read quite a lot of Horror without realizing it. Mostly it’s been Gothic Horror and Weird Fiction, but many (Kevin Lucia among them) consider those sub genres to be the grandparents or cousins of modern Horror. They certainly do have something quite creepy about them.
But what is horror anyway? We’ve been having a very interesting discussion on the SFPA Yahoo Group (which, by the way is actually open to others interested in genre poetry, not just members. It is, however, often used to announce and discuss SFPA business) about the nature of horror literature. Is it a true genre or rather a mood which is created. The general consensus seems to be that it sends but can be either or both. Michael Arnzen posted this, which, in addition to being a bit of poetry in and of itself, hits the nail on the head, in my opinion:
Horror is a church. Its blood-stained glass both colors and reflects its readers’ worldview. It sacrifices many readers on the altar of repugnance. Some resurrect in order to pray and pray again. It appears on many territories – from the realms of dark fantasy to the alleyways of noir mysteries – from the cobwebbed stacks of literary libraries to the fecund boudoirs of paranormal romances. It has no bible. It has no church. It is a moving church. It is falling on top of you.
The image of the H above is part of a notegraphy.com Note that Arnzen created for his flash fiction summer school students using the service.
Which brings me to what I originally set out to review: Chad Hensley’s recently published collection, “Embrace That Hideous Immaculate”. It is one such “dark/weird/horror” poetry collection that I’ve received in my inbox this year.
Embrace the Hideous Immaculate, Chad Hensley
Raw Dog Screaming
Editor Stephanie Woytovich
His blurb on Amazon:
A crafted reporter on cultural extremes in music and art, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Chad Hensley saw several years of his writing on underground subjects as EsoTerra: The Journal of Extreme Culture, through Creation Books in 2011.
Hensley’s work has appeared in such praised publications as Terrorizer, Spin, Rue Morgue, Seconds, Gauntlet, Hustler, Juxtapoz, Morbid Curiosity, and Super7 Magazine as well as the books Apocalypse Culture 2 and The Darker Side: Generations of Horror.
His fiction and poetry have received honorable mentions in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. His poetry has been nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award. His poetry collection What the Cacodaemon Whispered was a Finalist for the 2001 Bram Stoker Award.
Hensley is an Active member of the World Horror Association.
Happy are those who have the constitution to picture vividly that which Hensley describes. I’m not one who does. I’m not a very visual person, and if I visualize such things on purpose, it tends to give me nightmares. But happily, It’s my choice whether to visualize or to dwell on, or just enjoy the language employed here. The images evoked with his words have a terrible beauty and the language is in turn elegant and revolting and often, paradoxically, both. The subject matter ranges from Death himself, Ghosts and Apparitions, through the (hidden) horrors of the world to Gothic and Mythic beings (vampires, werewolves, shapeless monsters, Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian creatures and Ogre Queens). Chad’s poems are often from the point of view of children of monsters or the Old One or some such, exploring the horror of such a relationship or awakening our own horror when we discover the nature of the relationship being described. There are poems in which the reader is drawn in and others in which we are repelled, which I think is telling of the whole genre. It is absolutely repugnant most of it, and yet we are seduced and find ourselves attracted to the macabre and grotesque only to turn away disgusted or to find ourselves trapped.
I’ve recorded 6 poems for your listening pleasure.
The Ghost of Buena Vista
Mother LIlith (a sonnet)
Children of the Worm
The interior art, by Steven Archer is quite striking in a black and white etching style. There are only a few, but they match the poems they accompany quite well. This one graces the poem “Children of the Worm”:
There’s a very interesting feature on Chad Hensley at the HWA website. You can read about how he was “discovered” by Raw Dog Screaming editor Stephanie Woytovich, read more of his early poetry and read his thoughts about the nature of Horror poetry in general.
* * *
Next time I’ll either be doing a poetry round up or another review!