Thursday, March 31, 2016
Back in the days of Deathrealm, I tended to read more poetry than I do in my current old age. I cannot lie, poetry has never been one of my favorite mediums — I know, my loss — but for the magazine I certainly managed to home in on some brilliant dark verse from numerous authors, and Jessica Amanda Salmonson's work was something of a Deathrealm mainstay. She contributed both short stories and poetry to the magazine, and her work often managed to define, as much as such is possible, the unique brand of weirdness I sought to present in its pages. From her heartfelt tribute to Wilum H. Pugmire, simply titled "Wilum" (which I think appeared in the premier issue — forgive me if I can't recall them all specifically without digging into the vault) to the psyche-stabbing "The Gorgeous Beast," to the Jonathan Carroll–inspired "In the Looking Glass, Life Is Death," Jessica's poems held an allure for me that few other poets could rival. Author/poet Fred Chappell once told me that reading poetry made him feel smarter, and I think there's something to that. After reading Jessica's latest poetry chapbook, Daisy Zoo and Other Punk-Ass Nonsense, I'm quite sure I got a dose of smartness that I'd never have come by otherwise.
There's not so much darkness in Daisy Zoo; it's more full of whimsy, of vivid sensuality, of quirkiness, of cynicism in many guises. For want of a better term, it's just damn fun. Smart fun. Sometimes gentle and touching and sometimes a kind of "what the fuck?" fun. I don't want to excerpt but so much because most of the poems are quite short, but one of my favorite WTF poems, called "Gotta Love Rats," features this:
"I love rats — wo yeah
Love 'em wearing hats — wo yeah
Love 'em in my trousers — wo yeah
Make me yell 'yowzehs' — wo yeah."
And there's plenty more. How about this, from "Stop! Stop Right Now!" —
"I want you to know
Your haiku are stupid
Please stop writing them."
For me, that just does it.
For the most part, these are simple-structured rhymes, but in their simplicity they pack all the more wallop. You can read the entire collection in a sitting or two, and while you might get a few chuckles — even more than a few — you may also come away from it feeling as if your emotions have been scraped just a little raw. Jessica pokes and prods your brain perhaps more than you realize, at least until you step away from the verse and take stock of what just happened.
Sometimes feeling smarter is funny. Sometimes it hurts.
While supplies last, you can get your own copy of Daisy Zoo and Other Punk-Ass Nonsense from Jessica for $10 via Paypal. Use email@example.com.