March 25, 2013
Ashes: A Collection of Dark Poetry
by Donna Burgess
ASIN: B0084IE128 $.99; 199pgs;
Poetry is a window into a soulless nightmare stuck on repeat. It haunts the mind, waltzing through memories like a phantom cloaked in pain, and it preys on what we fear the most. It twists our realities, distorts what we know to be true, and when it’s finished with us, it spreads through our brains like a sickness, perverting our thoughts with subconscious desires of murder and madness.
Donna Burgess is that phantom, and she writes with the expressionist intent to evoke emotion by carefully blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Her style is romantic in the sense that her words bleed off the page and drip into a Rorschach, allowing readers to paint their own image of the story. By distorting truth for emotional effect, Burgess is able to evoke a haunting mood centralized around the idea of giving in to personal darkness. Whether it’s a mother’s battle against her child in “The Resurrectionist Game” or a selfish twin plotting to get rid of her shadow in “Zora and Xena, the Conjoined Twins,” Burgess writes about the battle between heart and mind, conscience and subconscious desires. The reader never knows who will win, but it’s the art of choosing a side that truly makes the fight.
Her poems are refreshing chapters to Death’s story. Constructed by image, Burgess walks the reader through her thought process, taking extra care to stop and explain the visuals along the way. Through repetition, line breaks, and structural freedom, she weaves her words into clever maps that send her audience into a fit of titillation as she teases them towards the climax. Whether she then hands them over to Death’s kiss or holds them captive in a realm of purgatory depends on the story, but the journey remains delicious nonetheless.
Ashes is a collection that spans the subsets of horror, giving every enthusiast a taste of what they’re looking for. There’s violence coupled against silent innuendos and scenes of love wrapped tightly in presents of disgust. She explores the worlds of ghosts and demons, discovers what it means it be unlucky versus damned. There’s no limitations to what comes next on the page, and like darkness, it devours its victims time and time again.
Burgess does not sugarcoat her stories, but rather splatters them with the medium of words, drowning her canvass in a thick impasto of imagery. She builds not a setting, but rather an atmosphere that pulls in the viewer, drowning him in a fog that introduces literary to genre. A skilled and playful wordsmith, Burgess knows the rules and is not afraid to break them, thus making her poetry stand out amongst those who play it safe. With a composition that is both playful and surprising to the eye, her poems remain fresh even though the faint stench of a rotting corpse lingers close by, festering in the sensory hallucinations she contrives.
–Stephanie M. Wytovich