Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: The Flayed Man and Other Poems by Phillip A. Ellis

In his newest book, The Flayed Man and Other Poems, available on Gothic Press, Philip A. Ellis seems to be of two write from two distinct voices.
The first, more dominant voice, prefers longer, formal lines, favoring iambic pentameter, as well a formal poetry in general. Many of the poems in this book are sonnets, with the the center piece being "Deep In the Darkness," a seven part sonnet crown. Among the other more formal poems are ballads ("Deep In The Midnight" and "The Assignation") as well as poems of rhymed quatrains and sestets.

This voice has clearly gone to school on 18th century literature. As the name of the press implies, these poems are inspired by Gothic literature, perhaps even pre-Romantic Graveyard Poets. The themes and tropes are similar: the supernatural, ghosts, graveyards, the afterlife, curses, devils, demons, madness, darkness, etc. The inquisitive reader should not cast the book off, though, as simply genre poetry. Though formal, and oft adjective heavy, the poems of this voice are well written. They are not intended to scare or induce fear, but haunt the reader.

The other voice in this book is much more modern. Its poems are less formal, its lines shorter, and images more crisp. It is less interested in classical tropes and presents more image centered pieces, such as the titular "The Flayed Man," "Sleep's Moth," and my personal favorite of the collection, "Cherry Blossom Girl":

Cherry Blossom Girl
How I remember
the cherry blossoms as they fell
over her upturned face,
eyes closed,
her crimson lipstick
almost as deep in hue
as the thick carpet of her blood.

The Flayed Man and Other Poems is a genre collection, but one that is well crafted. For fans of Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Percy, and other poetry of the 18th and early 19th century, this collection is a must. For the rest, the chill of autumn is nearly upon us and winter sure to follow. This is the perfect book to read by candlelight on some long, cold evening and invite a wayward ghost inside to warm himself by your dreams.

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