Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stabbed In Stanzas: Horror Poetry Book Review

Proverbs for Monsters
by Michael A. Arnzen;
Dark Regions Press, 2007;
296 pages; Trade Paperback $19.95
Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

Michael A. Arnzen is one of the best up-and-coming horror authors of the twenty-first century. He’s won numerous Bram Stoker Awards, including for the 2007 fiction collection, Proverbs for Monsters. This collection of twenty-nine stories and thirty-four poems showcases the best of Arnzen’s work. Most are reprints from his appearances in places such as Cemetery Dance, Poe’s Lighthouse, Flesh and Blood (the late, great horror magazine edited by Jack Fisher), Mythic Delirium, Bare Bone, and his own previously published collections. There is disappointment that there isn’t more original work in this book.

Arzen is a master at taking ordinary situations and turning them into horrific incidents – an offbeat amusement park, an operation with an unexpected result, a self-help book for an unusual use, and weird trivia, to name a few. His stories are reminiscent of the style of country oral storytellers. You feel as if you’re sitting around a campfire instead of reading in a plush chair. Arnzen relates to readers in a folksy manner in which others are often unable to do.

Arnzen’s poetry is like sharp shards of glass – puncturing the reader and getting under his or her skin by consonance as in “Resuscitation”

I move for mouth-to mouth

and alliteration as in “Why Zombies Lumber”

They lumber and lunge like sleepwalkers

Most poems being short add to this effect.

The collection title, Proverbs for Monsters, is taken from the title of a poem included in this book that offers witticisms and advice for monsters. Every other poem and all the stories illustrate a monster in a most horrific and realistic manner, even in those tales that are fantastic. This collection is very deserving of the Stoker Award and other accolades.

--Karen L. Newman