Capturing Meaning, Giving Voice to Secrets: Poetry as Power

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Poetry generates reaction by the simple utterance of the term. It carries the baggage of bad high school literature classes, where curriculum dictates, then force-feeds students, particular, famous or notable poets that may not resonate with individual readers.  Furthermore, students in such classes must attempt to write their own poem within a required form (e.g. iambic pentameter, haiku, sonnet, rhyme schemes, etc.) that oft times restrict the creativity of the writer by virtue of forcing strict adherence to meter (counting syllables, accents, etc.), alliteration, metaphor, and the like.  So, like anything crammed down the throat, the response is visceral. Of course, that does not mean that everyone detest poetry. Many, myself included, love the power of language in any form. Still, poetry carries a reputation, often one of elitism or of irrelevance.

What is missing, it seems, connection of poetry as a genre to its power. Everything from sharing stories of heroes to political protest to professions of love can be captured in poetry. Why? Like song lyrics, they become memorable (even if poorly written), because poems possess a rhythm that helps the words take root in the mind. Further, the symbolic nature of language, captures, pictures, and places in the mind a message that may “seen’” as well as felt.   That stated, those high school classes that attempted to demonstrate poetic forms did so as a means to present the purpose, power, and potential of verse to move the reader – emotionally or literally toward action.

Unlike the novel, short story, and prose in general, poems tend to tell a tale with very few, well-chosen words.   The words selected should be evocative, provocative, and in someway connect the reader to the writer – not as a unilateral message (i.e. the correct interpretation), but as a connection of share understanding or experience. That is, there should be an experiential quality present. Put another way, you should get it because you feel it – you “know.”

As a poet, I am rather disinclined to follow particular structured forms. I am unlikely to write a sonnet, create heptameter, use a set rhyming pattern, and so forth. I tend to be minimalist. Yet even as a minimalist, narrative is possible; hence, my goal is to tell a story. I find it liberating to deconstruct a scene, memory, a dialogue and simplify it.   My goal: share the emotional experience, the demons lurking in my head (so the can prey upon others), and speak the silence of repression.   My other goal is to free readers from the canonized, presumed “classics,” and stuffiness of poetry. Sounds like a contrary idea – love poetry/hate poetry. Yet, it important to say “lots of poems suck,” and many poems exist in places that are ignored, they await discovery.

If you ask me who my favorite poets are, please do not expect me to mention Shakespeare, Blake, or Keats.  Those guys have a certain beauty, but they are nowhere near my favorites.   If you ask me, and really want to know my favorites, I will share that with anyone; however, that is not my point here. I don’t wish to imply that writer I prefer comprise the list of the better poets. All I desire in this post is to voice a perspective on poetry.

Poetry by its very nature should be fully experiential, create imagery, becoming visceral and evocative of emotion. That is my perspective.   My poetry, my words, all emerges from my experience in the world and I hope to capture meaning and share it with readers. I write poems in a manner that they can be spoken aloud. Words shared. Hopefully, I am successful.  

My poetry collection Undone contains verse that may be considered love poetry or erotic poetry.  I consider it a story of sorts.  Judge for yourself.  I welcome your feedback.  UndoneCover

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S.Y. Thompson’s new book Under Devil’s Snare — another reason to be ensnared by excellent writing

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Under Devil’s Snare 

 Without doubt, a good writer captivates readers. An excellent writer can deftly move between comfort zones — deftly taking readers to new, unexpected places, holding their attention, moving them into the world within the novel, veritably creating a space that they become, not just involved in, but a part of. S.Y. Thompson is just that sort of writer. I picked up Under Devil’s Snare and as a fan of Fractured Futures, Destination Alara. Admittedly, I somewhat expected a similar speculative fiction novel from her others which involved space/time travel. Honestly, I hoped for that, since I’m crazy for science fiction oriented speculative fiction. However, Under Devil’s Snare is assuredly a more of mystery novel, and an outstanding one at that. S.Y. Thompson reminded me, blissfully, that good mystery focal novels create that urge, no, a need, to sit still and read until the very end in one fell swoop – afraid that if you put the book down, something might happen without you! I read Under Devil’s Snare, cover to cover pausing only to actually to go to the market. It really is that good – and, it still is speculative fiction – just rather atypical.

So, why did the novel ensnare me? First of all, the story as a whole – a police oriented plot, with a series of murders that is neither a routine procedural or mundane. The relationship between Patricia (a U.S. Park Police Detective) and Samantha (the local sheriff), is sexy, complex, and multi-layered. Lesbian fiction that creates loving relationships that are neither overly simplistic nor merely sexually focal, to this reader, is rather a rarity. The interplay between each of the major characters have a depth and dimensionality that is intricate, layered, and genuine. Thompson’s character development, particularly her usage of dialogue with which readers can identify and hear as authentic, I find inevitably outstanding – every one of her books has that distinction. For this read, that is a necessity, I need to experience voices of the characters as if they are present beside me. Once again, Thompson successfully achieves this.   Furthermore, Thompson’s attention to detail within setting in this book is rich, sensual, and visceral. The reader can clearly envision the community of Panthera, the scenery, the people as unique beings. As a very visual person, being able to “see” where I am inside the novel’s world is an imperative. Thompson always does this well for me – again.

Under Devil’s Snare happens to be Book Two of the Under Series, yet in this instance, beginning with book two, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage. Thompson develops the story such that I felt completely able to immerse myself easily and never feel as though I had missed anything, or was left out of the story. However, beginning with book two compelled me to grab book one (I’m rather compulsive about such things). Now, I am even more of a fan of the series.   I look forward to continuing the journey.   Without hesitation, I highly recommend Under Devil’s Snare, by S.Y. Thompson.   Pick it up, get lost for a day or so.

Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel, A Rachel Cross Novel: another Home Run for JL Gaynor

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JL Gaynor’s first novel, Drive, was a wonder debut novel – an outstanding, emotionally compelling story. However, Ascension far surpasses her debut work and places her squarely in competition with other writers of dark urban fantasy series. She does so by clear reverence for mythos, regard for storylines that make sense as continuing series (the sisterhood of the guardianship), and by virtue of a highly compelling manner of world-creation.

Gaynor creates a space in which the reader feels at once comfortable and ill at ease. That is to say, she creates a blend of tension that deftly drives the story from a present world to the world of magic and mystery. The notion of secrets to keep avoids the trappings of potential banality, or the mundane, by creating uniqueness, along with a pace that drives the story. Furthermore, Gaynor creates intrepid characters, fostering their development along both unexpected and unique ways.

As a fan of Dark Urban Fantasies, and especially those written as series, I look forward to JL Gaynor’s next novel. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the next book is even better than this one, as her writing seems to improve with every novel.

Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel : an excellent, highly recommended book.

The Alleyway and Other Short Stories, by Rejini Samuel (aka RJ Samuel)

The Most Outstanding Collection of Short Stories in Years

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RJ Samuel’s collection of short stories, the Alleyway and Other Short Stories, written under her given name, Rejini Samuel is by far one of the better collections that I have read in recent years. In fact, three of the stories were short listed for an international writing competition (Over the Edge New Writer of the Year) – and rightly so. Her writing is amazing. Actually, to say “amazing” seems trite, but I lack the adequate words at the moment to fully articulate just how moved I am by the stories. RJ lifted me out of my room, allowing me to become a part of the conversations and imagery alive in each story. With each bit of dialogue, I could “hear” the speakers, the subtle dialect/accent, their unique manner of speaking. The descriptions, so vibrant, jump off the page — I could “see” what RJ wrote.

Certainly, I could give a snippet of each story, but as the stories are rather short, I’d be guilty of spoiling. Yet, three stories immediately stand out.   “The Alleyway” blew me away. The dialogue, allusion, emotional landscape, actually transfixed me, I truly “heard” every word as they were spoken by the characters; I could see the facial expressions; smell the aromas wafting through the alley. I admit, that as a writer, this is what I aspire to do, and RJ inspires me.   “Amy_Grrl” made me laugh out loud, with the most apt portrayal of fear of cyber dating and her internal dialogue about the standard lesbian relationship route (u-haul after a few dates) as the biggest thing that she must now attempt to avoid – again. Finally, “A Prison of Words,” struck a chord in me as a writer, speaker, and one who often feels trapped by what and how to say what I mean. RJ captured every emotion perfectly.

RJ is a brilliant writer. She speaks to me as a woman living in a diverse world, as a lesbian, as an artist, and as a person who seeks to connect with others and often feels at a loss as to how to do so adequately.   I highly recommend these stories. The brought me more than a little pleasure, the warmed my heart.

Drive, by JL Gaynor Will Take Your Imagination On a Joy Ride

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J.L. Gaynor takes the reader on a wonderful ride in her novel, Drive. Gaynor’s title so aptly captures the rhythm, internal nuances of the characters’ personality, and the actual events.   It pacing of the plot flows as if the reader was on a journey with the characters, along for a ride filled with emotional ups and downs and the wrenching realism that often besets lovers.  The characters instantly captivates particularly as Gaynor possesses a wonderful ability to evoke a realism of voice within dialogue — each each character speaks distinctly, clearly, veritably articulating her own essence, with her own choice of words. A marvelous, and somewhat rare ability for many writers.

Gaynor’s use of dialogue, both internal and conversationally, fills the imagination with a sincerity of emotional presence; so much, in fact, I felt as though I was with them. I thoroughly Drive.  I look forward to checking out Gaynor’s next book Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, I the book on the table, ready for perusal.

Gaynor’s emergence on the scene of lesbian fiction is a wonderful addition to a growing group of authors who able to create exciting works of fiction using lesbian characters richly, deeply, and with the dexterity that any fictional reader would enjoy, not just the niche set of lesbian readers.

Review: Dark Wings Descending, by Lesley Davis

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A Good Beach Read, Although Not Much More than a Dark Urban Fantasy Police Procedural

One classic form of dark urban fantasy novel twists the typical police procedural story.   In the twisted form, the police detectives tend to form a special task force whose focus rests on solving crimes of a supernatural nature. The detectives in the unit generally often take on two types: the believer (who may possess some type of magical skill) and the skeptic put in the unit as a form of punishment. Generally, crime investigation revolves around a heinous serial killer, who represents the epitome of evil. What makes this rather formulaic sort of novel compelling rests in portrayal of evil/magic in a unique manner, the skill set of the investigators as dynamic, entertaining, or provocative, and that the plot takes the reader on an unexpected path, despite following a procedural formula.

Getting that teaser on the back cover or in the front synopsis about what may emerge, with all the potential fright, demons, and a glimpse into the psyche of the kick ass detective gives the reader the incentive, the thrill to not just pick up the book, but to dive in and get lost in the plot.   Dark Wings Descending, by Leslie Davis gave just that tease, the promise of an exciting journey into deviant, realms of evil. The lure of having a two female detectives, each with her own connection to the crime, and then, of course, their intersection with one another, made the book an instant grab for this reader.

However, shortly after starting Dark Wings Descending, the formulaic, procedural nature of the plot took control, offering nothing new to the genre.   Adhering to the stereotypical big city (Chicago) police department who has a Deviant Data Unit that investigates criminal behavior, speaks to the norm, rather than a twist. Having the lead inspector as a burn out, returning too early to work after an injury, thus vulnerable, as Det. Rafe Douglas does, has occurred in many other books; along with the standard serial killer who poses bodies. The book simply lacked inspiration, as well as finesse.   Dark Wings Descending offered the reader a plot that was hackneyed, in a genre that is quickly becoming passé because of the overwrought usage of such things.

If one seeks to get lost in a simple plot, procedural, and have a little fun with searching for evil serial killer, then the book will serve that purpose. A quick indulgence of Dark Urban Fantasy reading (because it is fun, isn’t it, to explore the psyche of the killer?), then pick up Dark Wings Descending, by Lesley Davis.   However, for something a bit more provocative, then maybe this may be a pass.

Mythology alive, modern, and transformative: D. Jordan Redhawk’s Freya’s Tears

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With a title like Freya’s Tears, anyone with some background in Norse mythology may raise an eyebrow. Will the goddess be woven into the tale at all, and if so, how so? For this reader, who possesses deep affinity for mythology, skepticism hovered above the novel prior to reading it.   “Surely, disappointment will once again reign as another favored myth becomes defiled by misuse,” I thought. With abundant joy, each page unfolded into an incredibly well crafted, unique, science fiction tale that was replete with an astonishing voice of the storytellers of the past.

D. Jordan Redhawk transfixed this reader with Freya’s Tears, a work at once unique and steeped in the beauty of mythology. Redhawk managed to maintain the myth of Freya, not merely by allusion or homage, but by intricately lacing it into a modern work of science fiction. In doing so, Redhawk transcends skill and reaches into the realm of the masterful.

Each facet of the book incorporates the myth: from the ship’s name, Freya’s Tears, wound into the main character Captain Elsibet Ulfarsdottir, the unfolding of the plot, Elsbet’s love, and more.

Apart from subtle, yet complete, weaving of mythology, Redhawk builds an intricate, believable world within a troubled space cargo ship that avoids the trappings of the mundane replication of space operatic formulaic writing. Freya’s Tear’s was my first D. Jordan Redhawk novel experience. If this book is an indication of Redhawk’s other works, I plan to relish the exploration of space, and any other worlds that she creates, by checking out the rest of her bibliography.

 

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Sheri Wohl’s Vermilion Justice uniquely combines tradition and modernity in her vampire tale

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Vermilion Justice, by Sheri Wohl, avoids the trappings of the new sparkling vampire paradigm while by combining a mix of tradition and her own unique spin on the tale.   Wohl weaves a tale that skirts the line of horror, treading down the dark urban fantasy hand in hand with the paranormal, employing excellent use of literary reference, attention to detail, and a clear delineation of the good versus evil. The main character, vampire Riah Preston, compels the reader with a certain verve, intellect, and sexiness befitting of any vampire.

The overall story combines enough necessary modernity to hold most readers’ attention by the inclusion of a group created to fight evil (Spiritus Group), a mystery, (a missing friend), then returns to the conventional with a trip to Romania, the traditional homeland of the vampires, and a meeting with Vlad Dracula.

In a way, Wohl seems to try to fill the bill for all vampire fans, both traditional and modern. But attempting to please divergent fan base may be detrimental, as her plot development follows a somewhat obvious path.

While Vermilion Justice is well written, it felt a bit too familiar, regardless of the twist of having the lesbian focal characters.

 

Marie Castle Revitalizes the Lesfic Dark Urban Fantasy Landscape

Marie Castle’s First Novel, Hell’s Belle: Book 1 of the Dark Mirror series

Revitalizes the Dark Urban Fantasy landscape

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Lately, the fantasy landscape, regardless of sub-genre, has become littered with perfunctory, now cliché, devices: the detective agency run by supernatural beings, an individual whose magic is extraordinary for her generation, a council put into place to enforce the laws of magic use, and trips to hell replete with demons.   In her novel, Hell’s Belle, Marie Castle indeed employs these ideas, however, she does so not only in an exceptionally clever manner, but she breaths new life into them.   Perhaps I was drawn to her ability to blend a depth of literary knowledge and re-package it in a non-alienating manner; thereby leaving no reader out of the story.   Blending depth of research into a very accessible story takes a deft hand, and Castle does that well. Yet, Hell’s Belle goes beyond simply having an intellectually disposed author (as most authors have such dispositions in some manner.)   Castle generates interest in the expected by adding to them, creating layers of gray, in a genre where evil is generally obvious and good may be as well.   The first idea that caught my attention was the detective agency, Dark Mirror.   Of course, for this reader, who truly enjoys looking through the glass darkly, the name caught my eye; yet Castle used the allusion delightfully well. She wove the allusion into the main character, Cate Delancey, into her identity, into her core witch. Whether that technique was intentional or not doesn’t matter, for the action sets forth a complexity in Cate Delaney.   The character never transcends her place in the magic-cum- human realm. Castle could easily have left Cate as simply a Guardian of humanity, hence “good” in character, yet she never truly is completely “good” in the traditional way.   Furthermore, Castle extends the notion into the conception of Hell. While Hell has it’s Dante-esque cast, Castle manipulates it such that it can be simultaneously frightening and, contrarily, sexy. There’s more to enjoy in Marie Castle’s debut novel.   Her ability to capture Southern culture is exemplary. While many Southerners fail to capture the nuances of language, disposition, and sensibilities; Castle embraces the essence of the culture without trivializing it, particularly in the familial relationships and interactions with others – politeness, often with a bite.   I enjoyed this book a good deal more than I expected to do, as I am becoming a tad jaded by the over usage of once good ideas. I recommend Hell’s Belle and happily anticipate the rest of the series.

Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, by Linda Kay Silva

 

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The Dark Urban Realm has an excellent new series in the making with Linda Kay Silva’s new book,

Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, Book 1

Some creatures within the fantasy/paranormal realm, particularly those within the dark reaches, become stereotypes in a paradigmatic way.   A certain traditional characterization takes place, rendering these beings as trite. Demons tend to be among these stereotypes, unfortunately. Blissfully, in Demon Hunter, Linda Kay Silva immediately dismisses the trivialization wrought by the paradigm in her first paragraph.   She writes, “Demons are not what people think they are. There are seldom horns or spiked tails, no cloven hooves or red skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and aren’t anything like Hollywood portrays them.” (pg.1).   With that opening, I became a fan of Linda Kay Silva. She dispelled the typical vernacular, appearance, and assumptions attached to the concept of demon and advanced the notion beyond the believable, but to the original intention: as cautionary tales about evil in this world.

Silva transcends the obvious portrayals of demon, evil, and of the demon hunter (with her main character, Denny Silver), and creates a psychologically compelling dark urban fantasy, with a frightening perspective on the inevitability of evil as simultaneously provocative and “real.”

Her characters are complex, innovative, and in some ways, terrifying. Silva’s use of journaling allows for the demon hunter, Denny, to have layered voices, which creates exceptional depth of character. Silva’s intuitive sense of legitimacy of the paranormal along with her ability to weave an intricate tale, made me a believer in demon hunters and a huge fan of Linda Kay Silva. She created an inroad to my Dark Urban Fantasy fiendish heart not only by writing a great book, but, by tantalizing me with another of my favorite things – a new series! Demon Hunter: the Silver Legacy Series, must exist on any Dark Urban Fantasy or Paranormal lovers “to-read” list.