H.A.G.S. #4: Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini and Daniel, Damned by Tim Jones-Yelvington
It’s a week of brevity here at H.A.G.S.—I’ve spent time this past week reading some fresh (and fun) chapbooks that came in the mail. I always love the torque that chapbooks provide in their conceit, whether to fragment a short story, spread it across two dozen or so pages at a careful pace, or otherwise take on the form of a compendium. This week we have both a poetic bestiary and a pop fairy tale to guide us through the candied wasteland of summer.
Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini
Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016
Bestiaries are one of my self-indulgences—as is the Southern imagination—so when I saw Margaret Bashaar posting online about a new chap on her HGP, I was immediately sold. Allie Marini’s Southern Cryptozoology contains a baker’s dozen of entries in its poetic field guide. Not only is this chap dealing with the imagination of the mythical South, but it’s also pulling a lot of fun moves formally—including a header box on each entry listing the cryptid’s location, status (e.g.: unconfirmed/disputed), and a brief description of the beast. The poems-as-field-guide-entries simultaneously do a lot of work with the white space, providing movement across the page to give drama to these tiny narratives. Sometimes the field entries are told from the beasts themselves, sometimes in more of a collective imagination of a small town, or else other folks who are directly connected to the stories.
The cryptid is an interesting conceit from an ecopoetic standpoint, as the “beast” really does work to explore the human capacity to become animal, and likewise queer the ethically challenged relationship between self and animal-as-other. I found myself recalling some charmed associations with novels, such as “Honey Island Swamp Monster”’s ringmaster narrative recalling Mommy Fortuna from The Last Unicorn. Or else the short & sweet “Myakka Skunk Ape” taking apples from a back porch, recalling Larry the avocado-loving amphibian from Rachel Ingalls’ Mrs. Caliban.
A couple of favorite excerpts:
“It is the nature of sizable bodies of water/to keep themselves at least one monster: we serve a practical purpose, after all.” -from “Wakulla County Gill Man”
“Likewise, there is no mention/of how/frightfully sweet/sin feels,/how it tastes of/cotton candy/on the warm, wet tongue/of the preacher’s son…” -from “Hellhounds of the Bible Belt”
Daniel, Damned by Tim Jones-Yelvington
Solar Luxuriance, 2016
In this short chapbook printed on hot pink pages, TJY puts pressures on questions of virality and virility, retelling the story of Hansel and Gretel—except there are two Hansels—and they are made up by the boys from the “Damn, Daniel!” meme.
Their names: Daniel, the one who is looked at; Josh, the one who looks. They bushwack their path. Damn, Josh says, for the weeds have snared his ankles. Swallowed his grunts and heaves.
It’s fascinating the way memes work out. For context: Josh is the one who came up with the memorable phrase in his catchy cartoonish voice—he’s the one who created the content, uploaded the snaps to Twitter that went viral. All Daniel did was be young and attractive and wear Vans and be videotaped, yet he’s the one who became the center of this viral catchphrase. So it’s not hard to imagine some homoerotic drama based around fame—who deserves to be at the center of attention—the youth who watches the other youth, and the youth who is watched. The flux of voyeurism and exhibitionism was always there.
The reimagination comes in the setting, a witchyvoice narrating as Josh and Daniel move through the woods closer and closer. But what does the narrator desire? What do the Hansels desire? Most children in fairy tales who get lost in the woods are damned by their nature, and TJY puts pressure on this word, damned, this naughty word that gives the Ellen-watching crowd permission to swear, to be part of a cultural phenom. Damn! But the shift is moved from an amorphous curse to an environmental damnation, as the tight prose guides us closer to the sweetness of confectionary and the unsavoriness of cannibalism.
Latest posts by JD Scott (see all)
- H.A.G.S. #5: Dear Esther and Gone Home: Two Video Games for Writers and Readers - June 29, 2016
- H.A.G.S. #4: Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini and Daniel, Damned by Tim Jones-Yelvington - June 22, 2016
- H.A.G.S. #3: All the Rage by sam sax and Nostalgia for Death by Xavier Villaurrutia - June 15, 2016