From British author Naomi Clark’s Blog, Wednesday 6 June 2012, http://naomijay.blogspot.co.uk/ — the essay I cite appears in full below this one

Werewolves versus vampires: James S Dorr gets poetic

The debate is nearly over! We’re down to the last two posts, and I’m bringing you James S Dorr’s perspective today. Without further ado…

I’ll say it up front, my preference is for the blood drinkers. Naomi invited me to write this essay in fact because I’ve had a book of vampire poetry published last August, Vamps (A Retrospective). Beyond that I have two primarily fiction collections, Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret from Dark Regions Press [plus, as an update, my latest from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, The Tears of Isis, which became a 2013 Bram Stoker Award(R) nominee for Fiction Collection] and several hundred individual stories and poems in venues from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to Xenophilia and The Yellow Bat Review.

To start with a commercial, Vamps is published by Sam’s Dot Publishing and can be ordered via http://sdpbookstore.com/poetrybooks.htm#vamps for $7.00 plus $3.00 shipping in the U.S., a bit more for Canada and overseas. Also you can get to the same place by pressing the picture of the book in the center column of my blog at https://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com or, by clicking on “Poetry (Essays)” under “PAGES” in the right-hand column, you can find descriptive material about the book and even previews of some of the poems. This is, to be sure, in the form of an essay, the beginning of which I’ll reproduce here as a sort of introduction to vampires.

(VAMPS: THE BEGINNING)

In 1897 British artist Philip Burne-Jones, having been dumped by the popular actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, exhibited his latest picture depicting Campbell in what looks like a nightdress bending over the helpless, supine form of a young man in bed. He called it The Vampire. This inspired the artist’s cousin Rudyard Kipling to write a poem, “The Vampire,” with these opening lines:

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)

The poem in turn inspired a play which became the 1915 movie A Fool There Was, starring Theda Bara, whose performance popularized the term “vamp” for a sexually predatory female. That is, one who sucks the life, or the love, or the reputation, or honor, or riches from her victims just as the vampires of legend preyed on honest peasants.

1897 was also the year Bram Stoker published Dracula, about a more traditional, literal blood-sucking vampire, while Theda Bara’s likeness, in its turn, inspired artist and poet Marge Simon’s cover painting for Vamps (A Retrospective), a reminiscence of vampire poetry I’ve written and published over the last nearly 25 years (25 years before Stoker’s Dracula, incidentally, Le Fanu’s Carmilla was published, about a literal vampire who was also a sexually predatory female — so, as you can see, it’s all related).

I love this kind of stuff, and the thing is it’s not entirely coincidental either. Had Theda Bara never existed, Musidora was still starring in the French film Les Vampires, also in 1915, while 16 years later Bela Lugosi brought male sexuality (and bloodsucking) to the film Dracula. None of which is much to the point except that I’m fascinated by vampires.

And who wouldn’t be? The nexus of sex and death, birth and rebirth, Eros and Thanatos, vampirism is powerful stuff. Virtually every nation and culture has some variation of the vampire myth…

The nexus of sex and death — doesn’t that say it? The femme fatale or her male counterpart, attractive yet dangerous. In vampirism is found the temptation we all might admit to, to play with fire. To partake of the beauty, but somehow escape the fatal bite that follows the kiss — or even perhaps to embrace that part too, to share immortality and to become, ourselves, seducers.

That’s what a vampire is, a seducer, a parasite really, not that others can’t tempt one as well. Werewolves at least have a certain virility, while do not the females of their vulpine cousins define the term “foxy”? And don’t get me wrong, I’ve written were-being stories myself too, of a Chinese were-vixen, a Midwestern were-hog, a were-rat who discovers love in the midden heaps of the New Jersey “Meadows.” A poem, “The Fox,” even appears in Vamps, although I would note that vampires shape shift too, notably to bats in the movies, but also to a wolf at one point in the novel Dracula.

The difference though is a matter of control. The were-creature turns when the moon is full, whether or not by his or her desire. The vampire, while in much popular fiction constrained to operate only at night, can do what he or she wants when the sun is down. In fact, if one delves deeply enough into European folklore, the difference between werewolves and vampires becomes rather thin, with vampires also gaining power from the moon especially at full and, again in Dracula as well as in Dr. Polidori’s classic The Vampyre, while not being destroyed by sunlight as such, at least losing any special powers that would distinguish them from normal men and women.

But given the choice, I’ll still go with the vamps.

__________________________________________________

From BLOOD & SPADES: POETS OF THE DARK SIDE (HWA NEWSLETTER, Jan 2012)

VAMPS:  THE BEGINNING

Nothing connects….  Everything connects….

In 1897 British artist Philip Burne-Jones, having been dumped by the popular actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, exhibited his latest picture depicting Campbell in what looks like a nightdress bending over the helpless, supine form of a young man in bed.  He called it The Vampire.  This inspired the artist’s cousin Rudyard Kipling to write a poem, “The Vampire,” with these opening lines:

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)

The poem in turn inspired a play which became the 1915 movie A Fool There Was, starring Theda Bara, whose performance popularized the term “vamp” for a sexually predatory female.  That is, one who sucks the life, or the love, or the reputation, or honor, or riches from her victims just as the vampires of legend preyed on honest peasants.
1897 was also the year Bram Stoker published Dracula, about a more traditional, literal blood-sucking vampire, while Theda Bara’s likeness, in its turn, inspired Marge Simon’s cover painting for Vamps (A Retrospective), a reminiscence of vampire poetry I’ve written and published over the last nearly 25 years (25 years before Stoker’s Dracula, incidentally, Le Fanu’s Carmilla was published, about a literal vampire who was also a sexually predatory female — so, as you can see, it’s all related).
I love this kind of stuff, and the thing is it’s not entirely coincidental either.  Had Theda Bara never existed, Musidora was still starring in the French film Les Vampires, also in 1915, while 16 years later Bela Lugosi brought male sexuality (and bloodsucking) to the film Dracula.  None of which is much to the point except that I’m fascinated by vampires.
And who wouldn’t be?  The nexus of sex and death, birth and rebirth, Eros and Thanatos, vampirism is powerful stuff.  Virtually every nation and culture has some variation of the vampire myth and, while Vamps (A Retrospective) may concentrate more on the European and American versions (that, after all, being my culture too — though even then I will introduce occasional offshoots like blood-drinking krakens, shape-shifting fox-women, or accusatory ghosts), I do try to bring in a mix of styles and approaches, from a homage to Kipling in terza rima (which also includes science fiction tropes) from “Elemental Vamp,” pp. 7-9 (page numbers indicate the page[s] the poem appears on in Vamps), originally published in Aboriginal Science Fiction, Sept-Oct 1988,

A ragtime bone, a hank of hair
made Kipling’s vamp — today the breed
needs more.
The elemental air
is thin above, its winds unkeyed
to bats’ wings: thus, approaching space,
the vampire rests within a seed
or ferro-plastic carapace
(a single coffin-end left clear
for forward view) and, there in place,
with rockets lifting off the fear
of old-time stakes….

to modern economics in horrorku style in the previously unpublished “State of the Blood Market in Transylvania,” p. 79,

local pressure low
peasant necks in short supply —
Vlad’s brides back in town

But does the world need another book about vampires?

I really wouldn’t know myself, it’s just that over the years I’ve written a lot of vampire poems.  And then it happened that I pitched an idea for a Christmas collection of fiction and poetry to Tyree Campbell at Sam’s Dot Publishing — some of the entries in which included vampires — which, ultimately, he declined.  However, Sam’s Dot had published my poetry before in various of its magazines, so I queried again about a possible non-holiday themed book of poems only.
This one Tyree bit on (to pardon the expression), giving me pretty much a free hand to plan it myself, then send him the results.  So, wanting to have some kind of structure (and having, remember, a whole lot of vampire poetry I’d already written), I decided to make it a book about vampires and vampire-related lore, from parasitism in ancient times — the gods exploiting humans as in “Dreaming Saturn,” pp. 17-22, originally published in Dark Destiny (White Wolf, 1994) —

These were the child-eaters, the dream-destroyers,
the dark creators:
Saturn, the Black Sun, called Kala-Siva,
worshiped as Lord of Death;
Rhea, his sister-wife;
Mimas, the ruler of Earth’s volcanos;
two-faced Iapetus who, out of Gaea, was sire to
Prometheus, himself twice traitor;
foolish Pandora, who loosed pain and longing;
moon-strider Phoebe;
vampyre; vrykolalas; others, named old and new —

to, well, modern leisure, as from “Moonlight Swimming,” p. 62, originally published in Illumen, Autumn 2010,

Moonlight swims were the most romantic,
the lighting good for her
accenting the wet, pale sheen of her skin,
contrasted against her swimsuit, her hair.
Of course, bathing in sunlight was
out of the question — the danger of peeling
the least of her worries, but night
was made for her. …

or from “Eight Top Vampire Hobbies,” pp. 58-60, originally in Paper Crow, Spring-Summer 2010,

3.  Avoiding Churches.
Collecting maps can be a must
when one visits new cities.
One never knows, especially in Europe
where chapels and abbeys crop up
like mushrooms, what may lie in wait
to disturb one’s aplomb
just around the next corner.

or “Alley Thoughts,” p. 32, from Star*Line, July-Aug. 2006,

She stalks, alley-cat-footing
sidewalks from taxi stands,
seeks jazz, seeks blues-throated
singers to match her own
blood fevered anthem —
throbbing bass, descant sax
screeching above the line,
brushes and cymbals’ clash! …

These would be in more or less chronological order in terms of when I wrote them, if not necessarily when they were published, with some variation for sake of efficient fitting to pages, or in one or two cases fitting to mini-themes within the book.  Also two homages to the greatest iconic vampire of all would bracket the contents as a Dedication (via the German actor Max Schreck — as “Count Orlock” in Nosferatu perhaps still the best film Dracula ever — in “Blood Portrait,” originally published in The Goreletter, April 2007) on p. 3 and an Afterword (speculating about the fate of Mina Harker in “Chagrin du Vampire,” from Star*Line, Fall 2010) on pp. 80-81.  And, just to ice the cake, once I had the poems selected I sent them to our own Marge Simon with a suggestion that she might submit illustrations for them to Tyree as well.

The Gallery

Seventy-five poems, about a third of which are unpublished, plus eleven interior illustrations look at the vampire myth through various “characters,” Annchuck, Melissa, the gods of Ancient Greece, jazz fans, baseball nuts, track stars, “Medusa,” Nikki (who flies, and whose poem is also on the back cover), victims and lovers (willing and otherwise), vacation goers (regretful and otherwise), a vamp from the future … these and more make up Vamps (A Retrospective).  Herewith, some samples (several more poems subsequently reprinted in Vamps have also appeared in my previous Blood & Spades column “Edgar Allan, Allen Ginsberg, & All That Jazz” in Vol. 20, Issue 119 of the HWA Newsletter, June 2010):

THE BIRDCATCHERS

They come from the plains outside the city
with cages and baskets,
a flurry of screeching,
to show off their wares.

These are the birds they have snared at first morning,
when dew is heavy:
the merlins, the windhovers, juggers and owls,
blue-and-white taloned birds, birds without feathers
— all scales and sharpness —
the carrion eaters.
Birds of the night.

These are bought by the city’s young women
because, it is said, they make excellent pets.
Because, it is said, they crave only spun sugar,
molded in spheres,
to the shape of the eyes of one faithless in love.

(P. 10, originally published in The Tome, Summer 1992)

CITY MAGIC

Coyote in man-pelt,
you’ve seen him lurking
in alleys and doorways —
the one with the smile
that shows no whiteness.

He goes with the night,
wherever he pleases.

He rides the whirlwind.

He is the trickster,
with teeth needle-sharp
when they pierce your soul.

(P. 14, Towers of Darkness, Nocturnal Publications chapbook, 1990)

VAMPIRE THOUGHTS

She’d never liked tombs.
The marble was clammy,
the wood of the coffin always had splinters,
but what was a person supposed to do
when days were so hot,
and milk white complexions peeled so
in the sun?
At least mausoleums were airy,
cool
during most of the year, and,
once a new boyfriend got over the shock
of driving his date
to a graveyard address,
the sex life was okay.
But cleaning up afterward,
that was what rankled —
hours of what could be the rest of her un-life
spent bent over tubs
soaking bloodstains from velvet,
sewing up fang marks in
white linen ties.

(P. 25, Xenophilia, July 1991)

NADJA

She never understood it,
Van Helsing’s anger,
after all, was it not he
who had murdered her father —
him and the others —
not even respecting the old Count’s
title?
Did not rank still retain
privileges these days?
Still, she was a countess,
noblesse oblige and all that,
she who, if anyone, had reason
to be mad, she must retain her calm,
show by example a high-minded nature.
True, she had her vices too
but she held these in check,
slaughtering humans for blood only when
her thirst no longer could be restrained,
only when necessary.
It wasn’t her wish, that.
It wasn’t her wish to so be persecuted,
but breeding was breeding and thus
must be satisfied,
even if that meant wearing her corset,
steel-lined and uncomfortable,
especially when she slept,
taking it off only for a new lover;
avoiding mirrors — she who had every
right to be vain.
But then no one was perfect.

(P. 64, unpublished.  Marge’s illustration for this on the page preceding it, along for the one for “Night Life” on p. 71, was inspired by the Rumanian-born actress Elina Löwensohn who starred in the 1995 film Nadja, as was, in part, the poem itself)

THE ESTHETE

Speak not to me of the high plain of Castile,
broiled in an August sun,
shimmering wheat parched-yellow, so bright tears well
from eyes
baked red in furnace heat;
nor condemn, either, those who prefer shadow,
the curved, Moorish arches of an Andalusia, its
moon-muted gardens soft, moistened by sea breeze,
its Cordoban alleys cobbled in twisted paths,
leading to darkness.
Or praise, if you will, the stone squares of a Paris,
its ancient cathedrals cragged under a starlit sky,
taverns and dance halls dim lit to the night’s end, while,
under,
its catacombs
apprehended in foxfire and willow-light,
Fata Morgana of primeval funguses,
shimmer within their own damp-tunneled confines.
And water, yes — speak too of night-blackened liquids,
the smell of life, sweat glistening under a gas-lighted
street or a boulevard,
hearts’ beating within a mews or a hidden court —
safe from gendarmerie —
as teeth gleam in moonlight;
and think, then, of night’s hues
subdued within greyness
while pale shoulders glow pearl,
a faint scent of jasmine,
a stillness accented by, clasping, a sudden sharp exhalation!
A soft splash of crimson.

(P. 44-45, Tomorrow SF, Feb. 1998)

THE LIST

She writes her requests in a
fine Copperplate hand —
she never forgot her Victorian penmanship —
seals with a red kiss the envelope,
folded,
mails it to the North Pole.
Her wishes are simple:
a gown, a new corset,
continued good dental health,
rings for her fingers,
a pair of black stockings,
a carafe, perhaps, of blood.

(P. 68, unpublished. “The List” has since inspired a short story, “Naughty or Nice,” currently scheduled for publication in Daily Science Fiction [http://dailysciencefiction.com])

And finally another horrorku that answers a question I always had about vampires.

WHO KNEW?

it seemed all icky
at first, the vampiress said,
except blood tastes so good

(p. 79, unpublished)

So might I suggest now that Vamps (A Retrospective), for only the cost of a modest pizza (with blood sausage topping, natch), could make an excellent Christmas gift for vampire and non-vampire friends alike?

________________________________________________________________
From BLOOD & SPADES: POETS OF THE DARK SIDE (HWA NEWSLETTER, Jun 2010)

EDGAR ALLAN, ALLEN GINSBERG, & ALL THAT JAZZ

So when Marge Simon put the touch on me to guest Poets of the Dark Side, she recalled that I might have done it once before, years back.  I e-replied yes and I thought I’d mentioned Edgar Allan Poe, so why not, this time, cite Allen Ginsberg?  This would not necessarily be for content, though the opening of “Howl” (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”) as well as such lines as (picked at random)

who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams,
woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up
out of basements hung over on heartless Tokay and
horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to
unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the
snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to
open to a room full of steamheat and opium,

may well depict horror in of themselves, but rather the sound of the things.  Take a moment to read those two lines out loud, then remember as well that poets in Ginsberg’s milieu often performed to the accompaniment of jazz, in smoky basements.  A muted piano, stand-up bass, a drummer for accents with cymbals and brush, an alto sax — though the poem can stand by itself, as can the sounds of Poe (need I quote “The Raven” with its eight-beat repeatedly-rhymed lines or, for pure virtuosity, “The Bells” — the poet as carillonneur! — practically bringing its subject up on the stage with it).
Make no mistake, I love — and try to write — poetry for content, for thought, for sharpness of image, for newness, for insight, the bon mot, the mot juste, for wit, for humor (not necessarily all in a single poem, of course), but I do read poems out loud as well, and one thing I truly love is the sound, the juxtaposition of sounds together, of rhythms, cadences (Ginsberg’s, for instance, inspired by Biblical verse as well as by what he would term the “natural poetic voice”), repetitions, assonance and alliteration, meter and rhyme.  Not all of my poems show all these things either, some perhaps very few, but as I was going through material of my own for illustration, I ran across this description by Daniel C. Smith of a poem of mine in a review of issue #1 of Niteblade:

James S. Dorr takes a more contemporary approach to the use of language (utilizing a staccato rhythm and a terse economy of language) in his contribution “Metal Vamp.”  The sudden start/stop stop/start feel to the minimalist lines and the way the imagery punctuates the rhythm serve the poem well while providing both a chilling and an arousing effect.
Dorr reminds us that even in death there is an undercurrent of sexuality.

(Star*Line, March/April 2008)

The poem itself, first published in Star*Line, November/December 2004 and reprinted in Niteblade, September 2007:

Metal vamp, crash
of bass, amplified
mayhem, she
struts her form,
leggy, taut,
hair swinging counterpoint
hips driving, drunk
with sound —
Mornings rise, she,
sated,
settles in coffin-bed,
languidly, stretching,
curves’ lushness reclining,
lips bursting with red.

As some may know, I like vampire poems — sex and death, yes! — with jazz-inspired rhythms, but note also that I’ve used a touch of alliteration, “driving/drunk,” “she/sated/settles,” “languidly/lushness/lips,” and compare that with this poem, “La Méduse,” first published in Asylums and Labyrinths (Rain Mountain Press, 1997) and reprinted in a number of places including my collection Strange Mistresses and, as winner of the 2002 World Horror Convention Poetry Competition, Gothic.Net, April 2002.  While not at the level of Poe’s “The Bells,” here, hopefully, one may still catch an echo of the sound of the reptiles in its subject’s hair-do.

She spoke to her hair at times
whispering sibilants,
soft as a night breeze that coursed the Aegean,
or bitter as Paris.
She, sure in her beauty, walked largely in darkness,
her frayed black coiffure blending well into shadows
as, searching for subjects, she
paced the cold streets, hungry.
She was a sculptress.
She carved men in hard stone,
its marble sheen the color of her own skin,
moon-hued and shining
her eyes deep as fire-pits,
but welling now hot tears as
she conversed, silently,
as she paced, finding one —
the boy young, but with wealth,
perhaps a student, a businessman’s scion —
she wiped the blood, afterward, deep-crimson from her mouth,
or, on the handkerchief, was it just lipstick?
She tapped the stone of her heart
nightly, beneath the glow through her room’s skylight
as, draping cloth over a new work-in-progress,
she slept alone, braids tangled,
crying out:  Est-ce que je suis ainsi méchant?
And, in her dreams, some times, her hair hissed its
answers.

Similarly this next example, Stanza 2, “The History,” from the long poem “Maya” written for the anthology Strange Attraction (Bereshith Publishing, 2000) and later reprinted in Darker Loves, may not be in the shadow of a poem like “Kaddish,” but its long-line structure, to whatever degree it works as spoken poetry as opposed to randomly cut off lines of prose, is in debt to Ginsberg.

Behold the Wheel turning!
Each star in orbit around the great circle —
a desert man, parched, in the land of the Chaldees beholding
a vision of wheels within wheels,
and, later, bones rising;
a fire-wheel that, sunwise, brings peace and crops growing,
but, withershins, grinds naught but drought and destruction;
a woman’s back, broken;
an orb, an apple, the five petals of a rose, and, in a
garden, the offering of sweet fruit,
and with it, of knowledge;
a chariot-king circling all he possesses — a chakravarti
— a  maharaja;
a man in a cave, his gaze turned to watch shadows;
a man meditating, a Bodhisattva beset by the lures of a
demon’s three daughters,
and then by his armies,
and then by the demon himself with his bladed-disk which
could cleave mountains,
but here was transformed to a garland of flowers;
and then by a great storm, a whirling of waters
save that the Naga-king, Musilinda, offered his coils as a
cushion beneath him,
his hood as protection to keep the rain from his brow;
and all was Maya;
and wheels upon wheels:  the four spokes of the Yugas,
the eight-fold spokes of the Way,
five petals of the flower, apple and rose-blossom,
one thousand spokes of Law,
and twelve the spokes of the Ferris, the Fairies’ Wheel,
twelve the dire links of the Chain of Existence:
of ignorance first; then dependence on outward form;
then, third, of consciousness;
fourth, of one’s own self, its corporeality;
fifth, sensuousness; and sixth, objective contact;
and seventh, of these the resulting sensation;
then eighth, desire; and ninth, the clinging to pleasures
life brings one;
tenth, ceaseless becoming; eleventh, the wheel-cycle, ever
and ever, of birth and then rebirth;
and twelfth, though it all, inescapable sorrow.

Here’s another segment from a long poem, “Canto (Evocare!)” written for Dante’s Disciples (White Wolf, 1996).  Note though that the narrator, Satan, resents the measured terza rima stanzas Dante used to represent God and tries to break free of them, yet always, in spite of himself, drifts back:

I am the Cain who, knowing Man too well for
Adoration spited God’s command
To worship this, His creature.  Better, war!

Yes, better death than blind obeisance
In this, His first request, far better to
Be cast in flame —
Evocare!  Be called forth, hence

To hear my word.  Forget His measured rhyme,
His cadenced hymns to glory, hear instead
This my canto:  I, born anew, to conquer time,

To recreate the world; thus was I wed
To Aphrodite, Charis, dark Nephthys —
To Night and Beauty; I, safeguard of the dead…

Yet even then, in a later “harrowing Hell” sequence, might there be a faint reflection of the second stanza of “Howl” (as in its third line:  “Moloch!  Moloch!  Nightmare of Moloch!  Moloch the loveless!  Moloch the heavy judger of men!”)?

Fell Balberith I call, Evocare;
Evocare, be called to me as well
Astaroth, Prince of Thrones; and Second Prince,

Verrine of Thrones; and Third, Gressil; and Fourth
Sonneillon, Prince of Thrones call I, Evocare;
Evocare, of Powers the Prince, Tarreau;

And Carnivean, also Prince of Powers,
be called forth to my side, Evocare;
And Oeillet and Rosier, the First

And Second Princes of Dominions both
Fetch I, Evocamini; and Verrier,
Of Principalities, lastly, the Prince;

I call them each!  …

And then these lines, excerpted from “Chinese Music” (Star*Line, March/April 1998), in part a portrait of musician Charlie Parker, to bring back the jazz idiom (again, best read out loud):

But dig while the shade-chicks & shade-boys migrated
following Bird west, Billy Berg’s Hollywood
blacks & whites crowded
man shoulder to shoulder, they didn’t care race laws
Jim Crow or one-color clubs
even the drummer white, Stan Levey double-timing the tempo
at Dizzy Gillespie’s nod
64 bars crashing into “Cherokee” Bird made his entrance
hugging that big Selmer alto so tight like he’s practically
balling it —
all-in-a-single-breath!
— & chicks too afterward, 2 on each arm sometimes
black or white, often the white pale sleek shade-chicks who
more & more pressed up to him between sets, you know,
while we dug visions:
Divide & Conquer — a man in black shadow
a shadow-man, spike-armored …

Getting back to a cluster of short poems to close this (as well as shorter lines), in “Summer Cancellations,” first published in The Palace Corbie for Spring 1992, I’ve tried through the insertion of the ultra-short, one-beat, end-stopped lines “when weeds,/fecund” (along with the word “instantly” in the next line) to speed the rhythm in the poem’s second half to reflect the frenzy of plants gone wild attacking a human.

The living is easy,
but dying easier
in its way:
the afternoon nap
from which one never rises;
a poolside drowning;
the flash of a knife
over night-time beer.
Yet, of all summer deaths,
my favorite
is that in the garden,
when weeds,
fecund,
run instantly riot
and cover the farmer,
sucking his flesh
until skin hangs dry,
leaching the calcium
out of bone
until only a husk
of bandannaed overalls
marks where he lies.

In “Tamisina,” from Xenophilia, January 1993, the almost mockery of the two rhyming lines helps impart, I hope, a nursery-rhyme flavor to an otherwise shocking final image.

Tamisina,
furry kitten,
stops her purring,
heaves and coughs;
on the floor in
just a minute,
coughs a hairball,
soft and fuzzy,
blue and with a
pupil in it.

And in this one, “Fire in the Hole” in Shakespeare’s Monkey Revue, July 2009, the occasional rhyming may bring just a hint of the morbidly-humored “Little Willie” verses (usually four-lined, in rhymed couplets) popular in the early part of the last century.

Willie blew a grave up Sunday,
packing it with dynamite,
he torched it off, just for the fun
of seeing souls fly up to Heaven,
see the bones twirl to the sun
then fall, like rain, pat-patting over
saint and sinner —
so the Book states —
gore and flesh-parts dropping down
on dour churchgoers, service ending,
staining clothes and spoiling
dinner.

“Bon Appétit” in Gothic.Net, August 2002, brings back the staccato rhythm of Daniel Smith’s review above, but just for fun, try singing it to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

These are things crows eat,
that dwell in the city:
insects they find on streets,
cowering in alleys,
the metal-winged beetles,
the moths and the fireflies,
night-wasps and acid-ants —
red, their fangs glistening —
the army worms, centipedes,
fat, poisoned spiders;
cast off fruits and produce,
bursting with seeds and rot;
other birds’ eggs, and rats —
these themselves food-questing;
human dead’s ruined eyes.

Then, finally, back to vampires.  In “Blood Portrait,” written for Mike Arnzen’s “Exquisite Corpse” competition and published (as second place winner) in The Goreletter in April 2007, I tried several effects, moving from the alliterated “KS” sounds (“Exquisite,” “Max”) to “K” (“Shreck,” “lurking,” “corpse”) for an impression of sharpness contrasted to the more liquid “L”s of “gentleman,” “Bela,” “Lugosi,” then sharpness again in the “KL” of “claw”; “B”s and “D”s in “Bela” and “breath,” “drenching” and “death’; short lines for speed at the poem’s start and finish, with longer, more relaxed lines in the middle; and finally the emphasis of rhyme in the final two lines (a condition of the contest, as I recall), but brought out even more strongly by, again, their immediate, staccato beat compared to the four lines, themselves rhymed couplets also, immediately preceding them.

Exquisite,
Max Schreck —
his name even meant “fear” —
lurking corpse-silent through
Nosferatu,
no gentleman vampire he,
Bela Lugosi,
but claw and breath
drenching death.

– END –




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