Friday, February 12, 2021

The Withering, By Ashley Dioses

 

The Withering, by Ashley Dioses: Jackanapes Press, 135 pages. Poetry.



I picked up a signed copy of this book from the author and read it over about a week to savor the poetry inside. There are 55 poems, divided into 4 sections entitled: A Luminous Darkness, Pale Radiance, Night Cries, and A is for Axe Murderer. In an Afterword, the author tells us a little about her genesis as a poet and about the pieces in the collection. She indicates that these are primarily pieces from early in her writing career, dating back even to high school.  (She has actually had a previous collection of poetry published called Diary of a Sorceress, which contains poems from later in her career.)

The collection is impressive for a writer of such youth. I also wrote some poetry at a young age but nothing as erudite as these. They are definitely not juvenilia, but fully realized and articulate pieces. They are rhyming poems, written around horror themes, and often with a formal structure. It’s a difficult style to master but Dioses moves through them with verve and confidence.

My favorites in the collection are “Obliterate,” “Hollow King,” and  “I am the most Beautiful Angel.” Here’s a quatrain from “Obliterate.”

The stones erode away,

And tales evaporate.

All memories decay,

The years obliterate.


There are also many other wonderful lines in other pieces, such as “My heart and soul are sparrow-black” and “Then scents of smoke, of myrrh, of rum,…”

There’s an outstanding cover by Mutartis Boswell, whose work I don’t remember seeing before but which I imagine I’ll see a lot of in the future. Boswell also did numerous interior illustrations for the book, which are set beautifully to really enhance the presentation of the poetry.

All in all, The Withering is a very professional package filled with some lovingly crafted and memorable poems. If you’re into dark poetry, this is an excellent reading choice.

Friday, January 29, 2021

A Dream of Crows

I dreamt of crows last night, millions of them swirling like black blades in an apocalyptic sky full of flames and clouds. I was a teenager walking with two friends along a highway where cars lay wrecked to either side. The cries of the crows were deafening, and occasionally a dead bird smashed like a kamikaze into the asphalt near us. 

We reached a temporary refuge, the penthouse apartment of one of my friends. She was rich. One friend went to a chair where she huddled in confusion and fear. I sat on the couch with the rich girl. Cell phones worked. She got a call. I heard the speaker through the phone. The “signal” was given.

The girl didn’t know I’d overheard. She made an excuse and left the room. I knew she was going downstairs to be picked up by someone, and that she’d be taken with other rich people to escape the coming destruction. I walked over to my second friend, to comfort her.

The rich girl returned. She said she couldn’t leave us, that she wanted us to come with her. We refused, knowing that even if she wanted us along, we’d never be allowed, and that we'd certainly be killed to keep the secret.

Better to chance the dangers of the apocalypse then to be led to certain death. 

Friday, January 01, 2021

What I Did during the Lockdown

I don’t need to tell you about 2020 in general. We lived through it. Except for those of us who didn’t. And there were far too many who didn’t. Personally, I started the year excited about some writing projects I had going. I also started my 34th year teaching, just as I’d started 33 years before. It had become routine—until March 10, a Tuesday, which was my last normal day. We had face to face classes on Wednesday the 11th but already knew we were going fully online as a University on Monday. I’d never taught an online course; most of our students had never taken one. Panic ensued on every front, including mine. I had about three days to master Zoom and get a ton of notes up on Brightspace, our web-based backup for our classes. I don’t know how I accomplished it. I didn’t sleep much.

Without a doubt, this was the hardest teaching year of my life, including my very first year when I had to teach three brand new classes I’d never taught before. And I was also a lot older to boot. One of the worst parts of it all was missing out on the personal interactions with students, both in class and in my advising capacity. I didn’t realize how important those interactions were to me. Somehow, I made it through, and I know I’m very lucky to have a job that 1) continued, 2) paid me a decent wage, and 3) allowed me considerable flexibility in how I did my work.

As for the lockdown, not being able to go to restaurants, or to movies, or to festivals, or out to visit folks, well, for the most part it was a piece of cake. Those of you who thrive on social activities may not want to hear that, but I’m intensely introverted and it just didn’t bother me. Sure, I missed going out to eat on occasion, and I didn’t like wearing a mask to do groceries or to get take-out, but—for me—these were minor frustrations. I missed, much more, not being able to hang out with friends, to hit the bar for a beer, or have a meal out with my son and his family. Overall, though, the lockdown was not much of a problem for me and gave me more time to fiddle around with my books, which is always a great pleasure.

As for writing, 2020 would have to rank as very good for me, at least in my top three years ever. I had two novels published, both under pseudonyms for Wolfpack Publishing. And I wrote three complete novels, as well as various short stories. I completed over 230,000 words of fiction for publication, which bettered my previous best production by about 50,000 words. One of the three novels I wrote has already been published, “Vengeance of the Black Rose,” and the other two are scheduled for publication in 2021. I won’t talk more about those until they’re hatched.

As of the start of 2021, I’m beginning a new novel today, which is under contract. And other contracts are looming so if I can keep up the writing it should be another good year. I hope most sincerely that we can get past the Covid Pandemic and return to a more normal world. I want to be back in the classroom without a mask on, able to get up close to speak to students, able to see clearly their facial expressions, and their smiles. I want to get back to hanging out more with my son and seeing my grandson more. I’m looking forward to an easier time shopping for groceries and visiting doctors and eating out, and going to bookstores. And I’m hoping that all of you will have a better year, too, and will see recovery from the tribulations of 2020.