Stephen's Reviews > Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem

Killer Verse by Harold Schechter
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Nov 26, 11

bookshelves: 2011, poetry-plays-and-essays, horror
Read from November 24 to 26, 2011 — I own a copy

Poignant repugnance...ice cold passion...
Evocative cruelty...inhuman humanity...
Lush, callous, beautiful and deeply unsettling...

Poems + Murder =

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What a perfect cover for this book. I love how it gorgeously foreshadows the elegant, polished depravity of this stellar collection of poems centering on murder, death and the darker, more disturbing aspects of human nature. Included in this morbid meter are poems told through the eyes of killers, victims and those loved ones left behind by tragedy to pick up the remnants of a life irrevocably altered by the intervention of man’s inhumanity to man. There are ditties dressed in dread that are light and darkly humorous and there are shocking, violent verses that will bring the soul to quivering.

This is art, dark art to be sure, but it...really...really works.

The material covers the entire history of violent murder and runs the gamut from the biblical homicide of Abel by Cain (Abel) to pieces concerning Lizzie Borden (The Passion of Lizzie Borden) and Jack the Ripper (Whitechapel Nights). Modern poems speak of the atrocities committed by more contemporary serial killers like Ted Bundy ( Denise Naslund), Andrei Chikatilo (In Rostov, The Butcher) and Jeffrey Dahmer (Road Kill). I was surprised at how wide ranging the topics were though the subject matter stayed consistently focused on the violent snuffing out of life.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITES:

While not an exhaustive list, as there are many wonderful poems in this book, here are a few standout pieces that really got to me or that I thought were just brilliantly executed:

Birthing: is a subtle, deeply moving poem told from the viewpoint of the fictional black man invented by Susan Smith after she drowned her children. As with a few of the stronger poems, interwoven in the verse are segments from Smith’s own hand written confession. Extremely powerful.

I Know Who You Are: is an angry, bitter piece told through the voice of Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho, who murdered 32 of his peers on April 16, 2007. The piece was composed from the notes left by Cho and is a startling look into the mind of someone who has lost it.

The Good Shepherd: Atlanta, 1981: Told from the viewpoint of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the title is an ironic jab at the mass-murderer’s methods for luring his young victims to their death. Gacy’s detached brutality and complete lack of empathy for his victims emanates in waves off the pages and this is a very effective piece.

Lord of Crows: Describes the horrific torture and murder of Matthew Shepard near Laramie, Wyoming in October, 1998. Matthew was killed by two men because he was homosexual and his attack led directly to the Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009 (named for Matthew and James Byrd). Subtle but very moving.

Charlie Howard’s Descent: Charlie Howard was another gay teenager murdered for his homosexuality and this sad, tragic piece is told from the viewpoint of Charlie as he forgives his attackers even as he drowns. I was struck by this piece in part because I was unfamiliar with the crime even though it happened at or about the same time as The Matthew Shepard case and it hit home to me how many of these crimes take place that the general public is never made aware of.

This book is worth buying for any one of the above pieces and I am extremely thankful that I came across this wonderful selection of poetry.

Overall, I can’t quite bring myself to bestow 5 stars on the entire collection as there were a number of poems that did not really inspire or raise my emotional state to the level of moved. However, as with the pieces mentioned above, there are plenty of 5 star gems contained in this very worthy book to justify my strongly urging you to pick this up. In the end, one of the highest compliments I can dish out is that Killer Verse has motivated me to seek out and read more poetry.

4.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Lea (new) - added it

Lea This might be one of the most unusual books I've seen -- I'm intrigued. Wonderful review!


message 2: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya I am also intrigued. It is a superb review with embossed, tangible wording. It is an example how a book review can also be a piece of art.


Stephen Lea wrote: "This might be one of the most unusual books I've seen -- I'm intrigued. Wonderful review!"

Thanks, Lea. This is really worth checking out.


Stephen Zulfiya wrote: "I am also intrigued. It is a superb review with embossed, tangible wording. It is an example how a book review can also be a piece of art."

Thank you, Zulfiya. That is very nice of you to say. I am glad you liked it.


message 5: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike A great review Steve and, a demonstration of the power of Goodreads to guide us to literature we probably would never discover on our own.


Stephen Thanks, Mike. I certainly would not have come across this book without GR and I am glad to be able to spread the word to others.


E.V.Franzmnn E.V.Franzmnn Love your review and now I need to read this,,


message 8: by Wesley (new)

Wesley Sounds like a good Valentines Day present to give out. Excellent review!


Stephen Valentines Day or Halloween...this book is versatile.


message 10: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe
Stephen Valentines Day or Halloween...this book is versatile.


Truer words...

You have a great eye for reading material, Stephen, and you write reviews that make the good stuff sound so compelling. So "you must read this NOW".


Stephen Kaethe wrote: "You have a great eye for reading material, Stephen, and you write reviews that make the good stuff sound so compelling. So "you must read this NOW."

Thank you, Kaethe. This was a wonderful find and I hope others enjoy it as much as I did.


message 12: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Great review! This sounds like one of those books that is going to have to go on my "Has my interest, buy I am ultimately too scared to actually read it" list.


Stephen Rachel wrote: "Great review! This sounds like one of those books that is going to have to go on my "Has my interest, buy I am ultimately too scared to actually read it" list."

Thanks, Rachel. I completely understand that this is not for everyone. There are some disturbing moments.


message 14: by mark (new)

mark monday i think i'm too nervous about reading this one - but this is a wonderful review, Stephen.


Stephen Thanks, Mark. There are certainly some dark corners in this one.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Oh. My. GOD.

There is no way in HELL I would read this book, I can't make myself imagine reading poetry about horror (I can't make myself read poetry most of the time, I read Paradise Lost at a tender age); but your adventurous soul puts me in mind of the shame of that. You continue to inspire admiration, if not emulation, in me. Thank you.


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