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Monday, August 18, 2008

Book Review: The Nightmare Collection by Bruce Boston


Bruce Boston began publishing speculative poetry as early as 1970, yet his work did not begin appearing in genre publications until the late seventies. Since that time he has received more major awards for speculative poetry than any other author: a record seven Rhysling Awards, a record six Asimov's Readers' Awards, and two Bram Stoker Awards for his collections Pitchblende (2003) and Shades Fantastic (2006). The Nightmare Collection is his brand new poetry collection, published on Dark Regions Press. The prolific SFPA Grandmaster brings us sixty poems collected from places like Asimov's SF Magazine, Dark Wisdom, Strange Horizons, Talebones, Weird Tales, and includes new works as well.


What makes this collection so intriguing is its multiple use of forms. Boston really shows off his talents by giving examples of both his formal poetry and his free verse, as well as a few prose poems. The collection moves from the metered, blank verse of "Crossing the Styx" to the free verse of "Gargoyle People" to the ballad-esque "Tale of the Bluegone Boy" to the prose poem "Interrogation at City Gate," all with in a matter of pages. This wide variety of forms really shows off Boston's skill as a poet and his poetic ability.

Boston's poems are very dark, and the variety comes through there, as well. Though many of the poem visit traditional horror tropes, albeit in new ways, there are also poems that could be seen as dark science fiction (such as "Your Bad Binary Brother") or even darkly ironic, such as "Dark Gourmet," which satirically reads:

Death
is such
a perfect diet

I can continue it
to the grave
and beyond.

One can never
be too thin...


Of all the pieces in the book, my favorite were the mythologically based poems. Boston really captures some of the iconographic images of Greek mythology, but paints them in a new light (or perhaps shadow?). One particular favorite that stood out was the prose poem litany "Futurity Wears The Head," which includes lines like:

Futurity is vivid as black light violet, cool as a retrospective on heroin jazz. It needs no makeup to sport a Mediterranian tan.

Futurity takes your hat at the door and your shirt at the table. It leads you down a hall where your portrait becomes ancestral.

Futurity beds you on a mattress too hard with pillows that migrate through the night. It bestrides the lines that scroll across your back to mark you with its legend.


All in all, this is a great collection of poetry. If I had to pick out one thing that irked me, it would be the repetition of the "People" pieces. Boston has created a series of poems, all of which are titled "X People" wherein X is a specific noun taken to metaphorical extremes in the poem. There are poems on "Gargoyle People," "Bone People," "Crow People," "Werewolf People," "Cat People," etc. Most of the "People" poems are light and humorous. However, instead of seeing these pieces as detracting from the dark tone book, I almost see them section dividers or light pallet cleansers, almost like amouse bouche arriving before a heavy meal.

I strongly recommend The Nightmare Collection by Bruce Boston. For 9.95, it's a very solid deal. You will be getting a lot of dark poetry bang for your buck from one of the honored, award-winning masters of the genre.


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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau