Book Review: Visceral Vices by Shawn Chang

About Visceral Vices

Alexandrines singing of carnage, collapse, a capricious, convulsing wormwood bitterness reeking of decay, dolor, and delusions. Sonnets hissing with treachery, tragedy, a trickling, liminal longing that cannot-and will never-be fulfilled.Stories, alive with guttural shrieks and lilts, breeding demonic aura, human vengeance, and beasts and monsters that, like insoluble echoes or silhouetted revenants, are revived from pluperfect myths, modern inventions, and even spectral, Plutonian remembrances, never to be banished.And, brewing in the cascades of blood and bones, much, much more.Comprising 45 poems and 7 short stories, both previously published and new work, Visceral Vices is the author’s first solo collection, embroidered with leaden barbs, laced with miasmic poisons, and, snaking across corpse-filled fissures, mortally taut in suspension with the surreal, gnarled, writhing skeins of fermenting fancies, plaguing aches, and gratuitous murder.

My Thoughts

I set a very high bar for poetry and short stories. My literary self comes to the fore and I expect excellence. I want the likes of Byron or Shelley. I want Wilfred Owen. I want Robert Penn Warren. I want to feel challenged and moved and even swept away. Which is why I opened Visceral Vices with trepidation. I had not heard of Shawn Chang. Would his words reach my expectations? Could his fingertips brush that bar of mine?

Imagine my delight when I did finally open this book and encountered a formidable talent! Three sonnets in and I immediately paused to read this author’s bio. He is an award-winning Canadian poet whose output has been published in literary magazines and journals around the world. To have these various writings gathered up in one collection is a veritable feast for the reader. Chang composes with breathtaking precision. His writing is fresh, youthful, taut, poised, perceptive, penetrating and considered. I enjoyed “Vernal Kingdom”, “Idylls Bless’d” and “Miasmic Eclipse”, the well-executed short story “Sirens of Lerams”, and the dark irony of “The Ink of Iniquity”. There is so much to savour! I will be returning again and again to this collection. I am grateful for the candid Revenant at the end. Unrequited love and the yearnings of the tormented soul feed the Muse as ever they do.

Chang has a good grasp of Greek mythology which he deploys with aplomb and displays mastery of poetic devices in service to his ideas. The author is not shy of perhaps archaic language, the sorts of words slipping from contemporary view in favour of emojis. Chang harkens back, his poetry and his prose encouraging us to hold on to that which is too easily lost: literary refinement and artistry.

In all, Visceral Vices is dark poetry at its best. How much language can I throw at Chang’s to convey my appreciation and persuade others to take the plunge and see for themselves how good this is? Every aspiring dark fiction author should get themselves a copy of Chang’s book. Will Chang be North America’s next Joyce Carol Oates?

Find your copy of Visceral Vices on Amazon

Isobel BlackthornIsobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’

Book review: Darkest Sunlight by Xtina Marie

What a novelty it is for me to review Darkest Sunlight, a poetic narrative by Xtina Marie.

“The heart was made to be broken.” – Oscar Wilde
To allow your heart to soar, you must risk the depths. Darkest Sunlight is the third poetic narrative from Xtina Marie. In this journey, readers will begin in the darkest of places yet revealed to us by this critically acclaimed poet, only to then find themselves thrust into the brightness of love before their eyes and minds can fully adjust. It is this shocking contrast which best conveys what it is to love, lose, and love again.
In Dark Musings, Xtina explored sadness. In Light Musings, she explored the intricacies of a loving heart. In Darkest Sunlight, Xtina Marie compares the opposite ends of the spectrum, and in doing so, she found a place darker than black.

My thoughts on Darkest Sunlight

Darkest Sunlight is a collection of poems exploring inner torment, lust, obsession, malice, revenge, rage and insanity, as well as heartfelt and erotic love. Marie delves into the underworld of dark intentions and their fulfilment, but also into the nature of love, of longing, of satisfaction and completion. Throughout are touches of dry humor and clever twists, as the reader is taken on an inner journey that is sure to evoke memories and reflections.

Among my favorites are ‘Junkie’ and ‘His Muse’, both demonstrating Marie’s incisive wit. In Darkest Sunlight Marie displays her profound understanding of what it is to be fully human, with all of our depravities and secret desires laid bare.

The entire collection employs the simple form of the classic nursery rhyme with its pairs of rhyming couplets. The meter varies, Marie employing various combinations of dimeter and trimeter lines, but always with that rhyme that harkens back to childhood. Using this poetic form to convey very adult themes is an ironic move, one that draws the reader into the verse almost like an enchantment. Further, Marie’s compositional style displays considerable prowess, for who can compose an entire book-length collection of prose and sustain such a rhyme with finesse? Poetic form constrains; the poet must function within it and create meaning whilst maintaining fluidity and flow; all this, Marie achieves with aplomb. Darkest Sunlight is a triumph and one that will appeal to lovers of this form of poetry.

 

Find your copy of Darkest Sunlight by Xtina Marie on Amazon

 

 

If this poetic narrative had to be summed up in one word it is ‘passion’.