I’ve been meaning to read something written by Wrath James White for a while now. While he is better known for his work in the horror, splatterpunk, and even bizarro realms, I opted for one of his books of poetry. It is National Poetry Month, after all, and I do have a soft spot for horror poetry. That, and I find something about the title incredibly romantic, in a ghoulish sort of way. What can I say, I’m a bit of a ghoul.
This collection of poetry is everything the description says and more. It is dark and beautiful. It’s haunting and heartfelt. And while I’m not sharing any of the spicier poems, it is decadently spicy. If vanilla is your favorite flavor, steer clear. It is an intimate look into Wrath James White and his wife’s sex life. Reading this feels like voyeurism. That is not criticism, it is a testament to the levels of intimacy experienced while reading these poems and shorts.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like it. It is honest and pure emotion. It’s not pretty or tender, but it’ll make you feel things. This book has earned a permanent spot on my poetry shelf. Now that I’ve had a taste, I’m ready to delve further into White’s catalog.
I read a lot of horror and I read a lot of poetry. So when the odd combination crosses my path, I gobble that shit right up. Axl Barnes is an author I discovered via Instagram. His bio describes him as a horror writer, philosopher, avid reader, and metalhead, attributes I sometimes ascribe to myself (horror review writer anyway). He reads authors I love and writes honest reviews, and he writes dark poetry with horror elements. So there’s lots of common ground. I snagged two of his books, Strangled Epitaphs and Stillborn Gallery when they went on sale for 99c. This is about the first one I’ve read, Strangled Epitaphs: A Poetry Collection.
Let’s talk about a few of my favorite poems. The first to really make me stop and think about what I’d just read was The Barren Clock. The first few lines describe vaginas with no bodies growing around a clock giving birth like meat grinders. The imagery is dark yet vivid and takes the reader on a grotesque journey. Is it a world ending epidemic? Who knows, but I’m all in. Human Spill in Aisle 5…well, you’ll never look at a grocery store the same way. Descriptions are graphic yet poetic. Too Late for Suicide struck a chord with me, particularly the last stanza. Here I am, committed to gray skies and empty parking lots…too tired to create something out of nothing. Junked struck that same chord. Her Portrait in Darkness is bleak yet romantic. Andrea broke my heart. Blow and Go got a laugh out of me. It’s not funny, but my dark sense of humor disagreed. Dumpster Love has some serious bizarro vibes, and you know how I love bizarro. My Pyramid of Books does not reach the levels of macabre as the rest of this book, but this book lover loved it all the same. Bury me inside my pyramid of books…
The artwork that punctuates this collection is as hauntingly beautiful as the poetry. Check out more of Thomas Stetson’s work on ARTUS Collective.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Rating poetry is always so difficult because it doesn’t follow the same rules as novels. I rate based on how I feel when I finish reading and whether I’m still thinking about it when I’ve put the book down. I finished reading this collection days ago and I keep coming back to it. The imagery in these poems will make you uncomfortable. It’s supposed to do that.
Big thanks to Axl Barnes for following me on Instagram and introducing me to his work. You can buy Strangled Epitaphs: A Poetry Collection, by Axl Barnes on Amazon in digital or paperback format. At the time of this writing, the kindle version is on sale for 99c. Go buy it.