Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dark Matters By Bruce Boston

Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

In about ninety pages, Bruce Boston presents his readers with poems that explore all sorts of dark matters, and his interpretations of that phrase are quite varied. The darker sides of human emotion, death and afterlife are the author's concerns, but also life, life in the hypothetical spheres of existence and of course more than just one possible future are presented, alongside the 'what if…?' that is often subtly woven into the poems.

There are many darkly enticing, darkly beautiful poems in this collection, and many lines got stuck in my head after the first read. 'The Beast at Vespers' for example is a short poem, but the imagery is strong and clear. 'Necropolis Burning', while longer, also comes with stark imagery and some interesting ideas that hold just the faintest whiff of black humor. Poems like 'A Stray Grimoire' show Boston's capability at formal poetry without being too obvious or boring.

Among the entertaining poems, there are also thought provoking ones to be found in this collection, for example 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vulture'. Again, this piece is spiced with dark humor but also offers questions to the reader in between its lines that we might not otherwise consider. In the same vein 'Ten Dark Quatrains Channeling Nostradamus' gives us images that obviously fit the darker side of our existence and what we make of it. Yet, it pretends to be a Nostradamus-like prediction, thus setting an interesting counterpoint to things we know to be real, especially since some of the quatrains are open to interpretation with their touch on Science Fiction or a future that just might be.

This collection features several brilliant prose poems. 'A Siren's Tale' recounts the life of a siren in her own words, how she fled from the traditional island setting of myth to quite a different locale. 'From the Damnation Cemetery' comes with a deviously dark twist that makes it so memorable as the author took great care to make us see through the narrator's eyes at first.

Throughout the collection, there are poems with recurring themes that work a bit like landmarks in this often rough and always moving panorama of verse. I think of these poems as the People-poems, for all of them answer the question what the world would look like if we were something else, that is 'Harvest People' or 'Rat People', Assassin People' or 'Mole People'. Those answers are sometimes surprising, sometimes enlightening, and sometimes frightening.

Also noteworthy is a series of poems after Gary William Crawford. These explore Shadow City and each one of them is worth savoring.

All in all, this collection offers something for many different tastes, so long as you like dark. It is easy to find favorite poems in those pages, easier still to pick the book up again to see if you can't find more you love. The collection contains black and white illustrations by Daniele Serra; I would have loved to see more poems accompanied by these though, in other words the artist seems to have understood the poetry and managed an amazing translation of the material into his art. Like all the work in the collection, the illustrations show the reader that dark does indeed matter.

(If you find yourself in need of some lyrical darkness: Dark Matters, ISBN-10: 0-9844601-5-2)