|Volume 35, Issue
Cover: Sleep Voyeur
© 2012 Skinny Gaviar
Wyrms & Wormholes
Rilke has said that beauty is only the onslaught of terror. He may be right, but the reverse is also true: there is beauty in terror as well as terror in beauty. How else to explain the appeal of horror, the delectation of an exquisite frisson of fear and/or disgust? Wandering the garden by night, in the tenebrous wasteland left in the wake of months-long drought and the depredations of squash borers and Japanese beetles (themselves gorgeous in the iridescence of their dark armor), pale pumpkins deflate like the doomed hot-air balloons of a miniature humanoid race, collapsing into a ruin of rot; outcast tomatoes squelch underfoot with only momentary resistance, suggesting putrescent organs that even a zombie wouldn’t touch. Farther out, along a moon-gilded road, the fabulously loopy entrails of what had possibly been a raccoon, orange (orange?) and glutinous, seem to glow from the shadows of the drainage ditch. Of course, the horror instantly reaches its zenith when the dog discovers the mess, and tries to roll in it.
Identifying—and creating—beauty in the terrible, the horrible, is the poet’s task. The poet Ross Gay speaks of “the dazzle/of gold-threaded embroidery inside/ the hangman’s mask”—not only noticing beauty where its existence might be presumed to be impossible, but generating a surreal juxtaposition with horror. But horror—terror, if it’s done well—in the literary sense is not merely a special effect, not just one of the tools at our disposal, not only a symbol of our collective angst, but, by giving voice to our secret embellishments on darkness, a weapon in the battle that all of us fight against loneliness and despair. Gay ends the poem with these lines:
I keep prodding speculative poets to be more intrusive with respect to the mundane community. Hallowe’en is the perfect excuse for confronting others with zombie poems, vampire poems, werewolf poems, or poems that are just plain weird. Make a practice of actively engaging other literary communities as a genre poet—although whether I bring speculative poetry to my mainstream-poetry crit group or poetry to the speculative fiction group, the cringing, deer-in-theheadlights look on the faces of the other participants is the same. Tell yourself that it’s the beauty that terrorizes them.—F.J. Bergmann
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