Posts tagged poetry
If there’s a problem with genre fiction at all (and particularly the horror genre, and even more particularly Lovecraftian genre fiction – OK, multiple problems, I know, I know), it’s that its writers have an unfortunate tendency to bog down in the minutia of the form and format, resulting in stories which merely rehash the already fragrant pulped material of previous years. And so we end up with protags going for a drink down at Tcho-Tcho’s Bar & Grill, or yet another shuddersome “Check it! The Yellow Sign!” and so on. I highlight Lovecraftian tropes here (because that’s my eldritch bailey-wick) but this same issue can and does appear anywhere in genre material: we all know what to expect from zombies, vampires, Little Green Men, and the like, and most toilers in the genre vineyards see little reason to break from those tried-and-true molds.
That’s prose, and such laziness can in most cases be forgiven. There’s only ever one Story, after all, or at most a dozen, so more repetition than reinterpretation/rehabilitation can be expected, even tolerated.
Unlike mere story, though, each poem is (or should be) unique, and when the above happens in poetry, and particularly poetry in the speculative fiction arena, the results are disastrous: lame re-treadings of sci-fi or horror tropes, humourous barely-a-poem asides loaded with references for the in-crowd, and no examination of wider themes relating to the poet’s world or indeed, the world outside that world. This is why (with the exception of Ann K. Schwader) I’ve steered clear of reading “horror poetry”: it is largely a shallow dip into a mostly empty interior geek-space, the space of the specific subject of the poem (zombies, extra-dimensional beast-gods, whatever) and it has nothing to say to me. With a poem like that, once read there’s just no good reason to re-read, and that, for me, is what characterizes a decent piece of poetry, the urge to return and begin again. So why start?
Well, on several recommendations I bought and started Bryan Thao Worra’s DEMONSTRA. I read it straight through in one sitting, and have since read it several times more, in whole or in part. DEMONSTRA is clever, insightful, compassionate, often funny, sublime. Worra brings a very human eye to the world he sees, and that world is filled with, yes, Lovecraftian critters and deities, rampaging kai-ju, giant robots, and the occasional zombie, but also the cultural warping of the Lao diaspora, the god-forms and spirit beings of Laotian belief systems, wrestling sages, surreal road trips, and the meathook realities of wars public, secret, and internal.
Only two pieces into DEMONSTRA, there is a poem about the Deep Ones. Now, there are only so many places a poet can go with Lovecraft’s batrachian breeders from below, right? Worra doesn’t go to any of those places and the result is a poem of peculiar melancholy and spiritual intensity. A line:
Bending, curving, humming cosmic.
Awake and alien.
That is as good a definition as any of what great poetry actually is: the written word used as a hyperspatial bridge to another, radically different point of view, an eyes-wide-open felt experience of ourselves as not-ourselves, which yet comes round again, bending, curving, to speak to our centre: great poetry is a humming transmutation device for the soul. And that is what Worra’s writing in DEMONSTRA does, piece after piece.
Some highlights were Zombuddha (a striking comparison of the traditional Western zombie with the rough lineaments of enlightenment that made me laugh out loud with the pleasure of recognition “Yes! Of course!”); the rich re-telling of Call of Cthulhu from a Lao perspective in The Terror in Teak; the epic road poem The Dream Highway of Ms. Manivongsa (“Fifty years from now, no one will see any difference / Between J.R. and J.F.K., or who shot them. / Now, flee.”); and Full Metal Hanoumane, which includes a geeky reference to Planet of the Apes, true, something that in lesser hands would make a clanging mess of the poem, but here transforms it into a clear bell tolling in the purple depths of space.
Worra has mastered his subjects, instead of the other way around. He has, over four previous books and multiple publications, also mastered his poetry, and I suspect he has mastered his self, his own “writer’s ego”, to a degree that allows him to enter his interior world, return with jewels that reflect that world and ours, and then place those jewels in perfectly appropriate settings that only add to their lustre. I highly recommend this book: it is a bright spot in the overwrought gloom of standard speculative/horror poetry and well worth acquainting yourself with. The appendices: of Lao spirit-entities, and Cthulhu Mythos deity-names translated into Lao; as well as the lovely artwork of Vongduane Manivong that grace the pages, are an added bonus.
DEMONSTRA is published by Innsmouth Free Press, a Canadian micro-publisher of weird and truly wonderful work. You can order DEMONSTRA from them directly here. Bryan Thao Worra can be found here and followed on Twitter @thaoworra
Sure, he’s got a voice like the fragrant lubricating honey of alien bees poured over the red-hot workings of some kinda sexy murder-machine. And yeah, his spoken weirdness is pulled from the top drawer of the Weird Bureau and then rubbed all over his thoroughly unusual genitals before delivery to a gleeful audience, as Nature intended. Plus, the guy looks great in a suit.
But were you aware that SKAWT CHONZZ (Plutonian Crime Lord and the only anti-poet to be treading the stage at the Verses Festival / Canadian Individual Poetry Slam this week in Vancouver) is also altruistic as fuck? IT’S TRUE.
Enjoy some grainy video of skawt in his natural habitat below, and then head on over to >> this link << to pick up a FREE COPY of his genuinely disturbing occult-themed “poetry” chapbook R’LYEH SUTRA (now in electronic form), from Martian Migraine Press. Yes, if you’re attending any of the slam bouts at the Verses Festival this week, you’ll no doubt be laying down some cash for glorified folded and stapled 8.5×11″ copy paper but only skawt chonzz gives away precious, highly refined electrons that work on any computing device for free!
That’s just the kind of crime lord he is. Enjoy!
Just kidding. Our hands are actually somewhat tied by Amazonian policies, such as they are. So, if you’d like skawt chonnz‘s R’LYEH SUTRA for your Kindle or Kindle enabled device, that’s swell, but the lovely beast that is Amazon requires that you part with some shekels for the privilege.
On the other tentacle, if you’re quite happy to read your electronical book-type thingies in EPUB or PDF format, then prepare to feel your wallet remain at its current weight! Download links are below.
MOBI version (good for the ubiquitous Kindle e-reader and Kindle enabled devices and at $1.99, an outrageous steal of a deal!)
EPUB version (good for Kobo, Nook & Sony e-readers)
PDF version (good for regular ‘puters with Adobe Reader)
skawt chonzz is bringing his peculiar brand of Plutonian spoken-weird to Vancouver’s Verses Festival and the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam only from April 10 through 12, but you can load up on the lyrical strangeness of his R’LYEH SUTRA for the rest of the week. This free (and cheap-as-free!) offer lasts until Sunday April 14. And if you like skawt, please check out the other great authors here at Martian Migraine Press!
Martian Migraine Press: the Best Kind of Headache!