I don't read poetry.
How many of you have said this?
Or maybe you stated it in even stronger terms:
I hate poetry.
I bet you've said it. I'm sure that I've uttered the first one. I think I've even said that I hated poetry, but it was a long time ago. Still, for the most part, I'm a prose reader. With a few exceptions.
Back when I was a highschooler and was trying to be hip, I attempted to read poets like James Tate, but I quickly went back to science fiction. It wasn't my thing. At least at the time it wasn't.
In later years I read Bukowski. Who didn't? I read quite a few volumes of his poetry and I mostly enjoyed them.
I've also read poetry by writers who are known for writing in the horror field. Tom Piccirilli has written some compelling stuff. So has T.M. Wright. Cemetery Dance published a huge anthology of poems edited by Piccirilli called The Devil's Wine, which has some amazing writing in it. And most recently I've had a peek at CD's upcoming Halloween: New Poems, which truly has some jaw-dropping pieces in it.
But, really, poetry isn't my thing. I like plain, down-to-earth, storytelling. Still, I make exceptions sometimes. Anyone that doesn't read outside their usual genre or style of writing is a fool. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.
Christopher Conlon is a talented as hell writer that I hadn't even heard of until a few years ago. He's perhaps best known as an editor, but I sadly missed his EAP themed anthology, Poe's Lighthouse. That one seemed to go out of print in the blink of an eye. Conlon also edited the Richard Matheson tribute anthology, I Am Legend.
As wonderful and important as the Matheson tribute is, it is Conlon's own writing that excites me the most. His debut novel is called Midnight on Mourn Street, which was published by Earthling Publications in 2008. Not only did I love this book, it was my favorite of that year. It is simply breathtaking.
I've also read some of the short stories of Christopher Conlon. They have all been perfect gems.
I knew that Conlon had some books of poetry out there, but I balked at reading them. I'm glad that I changed my mind and gave Starkweather Dreams a chance.
As the title suggests, Starkweather Dreams is an exploration of the mind and motivations of murderer Charles Starkweather. For those that don't know of the man and his notorious crimes, Charles Starkweather was a serial killer that went on a two-month killing spree road trip in the late 1950's with his young girlfriend/accomplice, Caril Ann Fugate. They were poor young ignorant hillbillies whose crimes shocked a nation and inspired several movies and books.
Starkweather Dreams is a collection of free-form poems that attempts to explore the psyches of Starkweather and Fugate. The results are as fascinating as they are chilling. Conlon puts his readers deep into the desperate, hopeless minds of his subjects, speculating on their innermost thoughts before, during, and in the aftermath of their crimes.
Imagine if Jack Ketchum were to write a book of poems about a killer. If he did, it might end up similar to Starkweather Dreams. But I think Conlon is the better writer of the two.
If you don't read poetry, if you think you hate poetry, perhaps it's time you made an effort to expand your horizons. I can think of no better book than Starkweather Dreams to change your mind about poetry.
Oh and before I end this rambling review, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the cover art by Matt Sesow. When I saw it my first thought was, God, what a horrible cover!. But as I read the poems and would close the book to think about individual ones, I'd look at the painting on the cover and gradually found it to be more effective and chilling. It fits the nature of Conlon's "Landscape with Figures" look inside two of America's most infamous killers to a tee.
Buy it at Amazon.com.