Artwork: Courtesy of Finishing Line Press
Bryan Dietrich’s poems are lambent, insinuating, delicately threatening. His control of language is fine and measured, the danger, loss and desire subtly intertwined, the stuff of relished nightmare. This is a sensitive book, testimony to the enormity of the loss of his father, imaged in the pulp scifi, horror, comic book, film images they shared. Domestic horror merges with details of damage. Only Bryan would rhyme ‘shudder, larder, murder’.
When people suggest that you cannot make poetry out of horror or
science fiction, point them in the direction of Bryan Dietrich. His
poetry is finely crafted and he uses the atmospheric settings, events,
and trajectories of related fantasy genres in which to locate his
explorations about human values, experiences, sensitivities, hopes
and losses (among others). His website gives us some background: Bryan
lives in Wichita, Kansas with his wife Gina and their son Nick. A
Professor of English at Newman University, he has won the Paris
Review Prize, the ‘Discovery’/The Nation
Award, a Writers at Work Fellowship, a Rhysling Award, the Isotope
Editor’s Prize and the Eve of St. Agnes Award. His poetry has
appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry,
The Paris Review, The Harvard Review, The Yale
Review, Shenandoah, Weird Tales, and Asimov’s
Science Fiction. His first book of poetry, Krypton Nights
(2002), was followed by Universal Monsters, from Word Press.
The Assumption is coming out from Word Press in 2009 and
Love Craft is published by Finishing Line Press in January
Why do we need to practice
These are confessional poems inspired by a unique mix of Lowell, Plath and Lovecraft. The breakdowns are present in his mother, rocking darkly on her bed, imagining the aftermath of suicide.
THE LOVED DEAD
My mother has always envied the dead.
Later, when I was nearly ten, she served
I remember her locked in her room, weeks
Then the truly black moods, naked, rocking
Bryan’s demons are all brought out on show here – the relationships between social cultural psychological personal nightmares, memories and managed interpretations (managed because imagined in the terms of horror), which take us on a journey through time which helps to both surface and expose and to manage. Here no-one teaches us to be alone or what to do with loss, betrayal and death.
And the dead are all around, their calling or the living more an avalanche of reminders growing behind the first traces and sounds – reminders as much of the dead as of loss, the past and our own deaths. Perhaps what we have here is partly that sense of capture of the ineffable, the temporary nature of any ordinary everyday event, while the past is disinterred and exposed like his imagined mother’s body in front of medical students, were her body given to science. This and other bodies of the past, the poetry assures us, would be exposed and all around us – beating back, holding back that inevitable continuity of death, life and the world with the stars and ash.
Okay, we love the dead. But when do they stop calling?
Late night, light loitering only in the most unkind
These randomly mixed items evoke an ordinary enough household, but there is throughout a continuity evident in everything around us, it seems to say, from death through life to death ahead. Perhaps this stuff of horror enables the recognition and expression of such awareness, so that it is not necessary to rock on the bed in a locked room?
And he moves away from the recall of the rather-too-close-to-home, there is a step back to devise ways of dealing with the extreme, through the strategies of fantasy. This still elides with the tales of domestic damage but the strategies and techniques deal with incest, murder, still births, demon children in the more familiar mode of horror and dark fantasy without the self referencing. Lovecraft’s own domestic horror starts the final section:
BEHIND THE SHUTTERS
From the direction of the shuttered room came...a curious,
And in here, in ‘I. House’, the text manages the damages done with myth and folktale – Jack and the Beanstalk’s giant, ogres, the building of family and history on hidden suffering and control.
Monsters. Children. Monsters. Parents. Home
The influence on Love Craft is immediate here in the ways
in which siphoning and funneling the demonic horror through Lovecraftian
imagery and location can provide a critical and imaginative focus
distance perspective. It’s a sensitive, powerful, stylistically
sophisticated collection which handles some of the worst versions
of recall and fear through the management of image, language, rhythm,
scenario, and the slippage between memory and nightmare, familiar
domestic folktale, family tale, and horror. There is no getting rid
of the family past, however, and whatever our own versions of these
might be, Bryan reminds us of our love hate relationships with what
has subtly, intrusively or boldly, invasively made us who we are.
The dead. The dead and all their hang-ups. (Necromancy)
As he says: ‘Tell. Open the book, brace yourself, say the spell’. (Necronomicon)
(Love Craft is to be published by Finishing Line Press,
Website maintained by Michelle Bernard - Contact email@example.com - last updated May 27, 2009 October 22, 2008