Book Reviews

TITLE:Dark Matters
Author: Bruce Boston

Welcome, friends, to the Usher Library. My name is Madeline Usher. You should feel privileged as I allow very few to enter this room. It is my secret refuge from the insanity of my brother, Roderick, whose delusions cause him terrible nightmares and cause me no end of danger and fear. In this place, surrounded by my beloved volumes, though, I feel free of him.

Through the years, I have collected various works of fiction and poetry that contain that spark of brilliance, both alluring to the reader and enviable to the fellow writer. Allow me to share with you some of my most prized acquisitions. Each issue, I will introduce you to a gem of the literary world and I hope you find them as enthralling as I have.

Let us begin with a volume of poetry. In 2010, Bad Moon Books produced Dark Matters by Bruce Boston. A rich collection of poetry, Dark Matters moves from contemplative to personal to fantastical and back with startling clarity and grace.

Mr. Boston begins his lyrical offering with the epigraph:

“The Earth, moon, sun and all
visible stars in the sky make up
less than one percent of the
Almost all the rest is dark matter
and dark energy.”

And so, the reader begins a journey through the unspoken, the unnamed, and the unseen. The volume’s opening poem, “The Scarified Man,” epitomizes these mysteries:

“The scarified man
is incised and burnt
with the inscriptions
of a lifetime.

In moments before sleep,
half-dreaming, he touches
them one by one, and wonders
if anyone can see them.”

Other poems such as “Conflicted as a Warrior Poet,” more explicitly examine the many contradictions of being human and how we attempt to balance our hurtful experiences with our sense of hope.

Mr. Boston also calls on the voices of past poets. Wallace Stevens and his “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” are celebrated in Boston’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vulture.” Both feature a series of thirteen loosely connected sections or mini-poems centered around a particular type of bird, but while Stevens uses the bird as way to personify and capture sensations, Boston’s vulture elicits a sense of fear or trepidation.

French poet, Jean Cocteau, was the inspiration for “The Beast at Vespers,” a meditation on innocence and death. Boston’s “Shadow City” poems all channel Gary William Crawford.

Mr. Boston’s fantasy and horror poetry are as engaging and profound as his more traditionally themed verses as well—a feat not easily accomplished. Pieces like “Ouroborus,” “The Sizing of Curses,” “A Stray Grimoire,” and “Faith of the Torturer,” among others, play on fantasy and horror themes but refrain from clichéd and amateurish vocabulary and scenarios that so often doom other poets in this genre. Indeed, many of Mr. Boston’s most profound lines can be found in his genre-oriented pieces:

from “Faith of the Torturer”

He expects his first son
to become a torturer.
And perhaps a later child
would also learn to walk
in the bloody footprints
of the family tradition.
No one can possibly guess
how far it might go.

Long as man survives,
he knows there will
be a need for torture.”

from “Ouroborus”

“I slough off death,
raise the bodies entombed,
reap the bone orchard,
clothe these ivory sticks
in fast failing flesh
to reap them once again.”

from “Robovamp”

“Given most men
are sixteen-year-olds
at the unfulfilled heart
of their sexual plight,
her suitors are legion,
they queue in long lines,
they shiver and sigh
and throw back their heads,
to savor her sharp overbite.”

from “The Sizing of Curses”

“Curses all are cursed again.
The ones they are wrought upon
bear the edge of their harsh magic.
For ones who forge such flinty spells,
the weight of their casting hangs
and hangs within the head.”

The one possible misstep in Dark Matters is the poem “A Siren’s Tale.” It does not fit well within the collection. Additionally, while it has pleasant wit, and an intriguing story, it does not display the same mastery of language and poetic craft as Mr. Boston’s other poems.

That criticism aside, Dark Matters is a clever, thought-provoking, and beautifully penned addition to The Usher Library. Be assured, I shall eagerly anticipate Mr. Boston’s future offerings.

Oh, I hear my brother in the corridor! I must make sure the door is bolted. Until next time, dear friends. If I survive that long…

About the Columnist

In a gloomy North England mansion, the lady Madeline Usher lives with her brother, Roderick. They are the last of their once great family, the Ushers, noted through the ages as artists and philanthropists. Indeed, Madeline is a writer and celebrated vocalist, often singing the musical pieces composed by Roderick.
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