Tuesday, October 11, 2016

RIP READS: Autumn Calls to the Dark Side

Today, we are changing things up a bit with our RIP Reads with our guest, Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit.  She is here to share a bit of the season via poetry! 


Credit:  Abigail Larson

Autumn Calls to the Dark Side

Leaves start to lose that green color, turning red, yellow, orange, and finally, that crunchy brown. They fall from the trees and become piles and piles ripe for children to jump into and scatter them again. Autumn can be this carefree, but it also means the sun is gone earlier and shadows rise up sooner. It means fireplaces ablaze, and if you’re camping, ghost stories are a must.

Every year around this time, the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge brings the community together around things that go bump in the night, the mysterious murders in alleys, the imps hiding in the dark, and other scary things. What’s scarier at this time than Edgar Allan Poe?

Most people think of Poe as the king of dark, horror tales, but his poetry has a definite dark side. Take “The Haunted Palace,” spirits are all that is left of a great estate, both beautiful and sorrowful. And everyone will recall that incessant “tapping” at the chamber door in “The Raven.” Many of his poems are in the dark, very little light, and haunted by the past or loss. One of his most disturbing poems, I think, is “The Conqueror Worm,” in which:

          “But see, amid the mimic rout
               A crawling shape intrude!
          A blood-red thing that writhes from out
               The scenic solitude!
          It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
               The mimes become its food,
          And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
               In human gore imbued.”

William Blake tends to have poems that are both light and dark, as can be experienced in Songs of Innocence and Experience. Many of these poems served to illustrate the repressive nature of religious teachings at the time. Take for example, “A Poison Tree,” in which the speaker is angered by a friend and that anger abates, but wrath against his enemy grows. “I watered it in fears/” and “I sunned it with smiles/and with soft deceitful wiles//” Finally, his wrath turns into an apple his enemy cannot resist. “And into my garden stole/” and “glad I see/my foe outstretched beneath the tree.//” Much of this collection is accompanied by Blake’s own illustrations. These serve to demonstrate these opposing natures in man.

Poetry that embraces the dark and science fiction, mystery, and more, is not relegated to the classic poets. Jeannine Hall Gailey is a prime example of a poet not afraid to explore the darkness in humanity. In The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Gailey explores the fine line bordering scientific experimentation, one that scientists often cross, leaving the rest of us to contend with the consequences – including those of radiation left by those involved in the Manhattan project. She uses real life scientists and their experiments, as well as comic book characters, to explore science. From “America Dreams of Roswell”:

          “The scientists were unsure
          about igniting the whole earth’s atmosphere, nevertheless

          the violet light demanded goggles; the shadows of
          ranch houses burned into the ground.”

In “They Do Not Need Rescue,” “No one needs rescue here in America’s Secret City./…/Not the children/dying of leukemia quietly in hospitals funded/by government grants, uncounted because/their numbers might seem damning.//” Gailey’s poetry could satisfy your need for some science-fiction, even if that science is a little less fiction than we’d like it to be. In her new collection, Field Guide to the End of the World, Gailey continues to look at mortality, but in a new way, a more humorous way. Think of the zombie survival guides; imagine a guide that could help you survive the end of the world. What would be in it? Perhaps some poetry should be there to guide you through, and it could be fun for this year’s R.I.P. Challenge, too.


P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.


  1. Very interesting essay :) Poetry is pretty much uncharted waters for me, so I feel like I've learned something new today. Speaking of Poe, I love The Raven as read by none other than James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) in the very first Treehouse of Horror on The Simpsons. Chilling.

    1. Dinara, that is one of my favorite audio readings of The Raven. It's so wonderfully read.

      I hope this essay gave you something to think about and maybe check out some poetry this autumnal season.

  2. I haven't read William Blake in many years. I like your post. Thanks.

  3. Terrific guest post by Serena! Poe is surely perfect for this time of the year. I enjoyed reading about classic and contemporary poems--and have read Jeannine Hall Gailey's work.

    1. Thanks, Suko. I hope you find some other haunting reads for the autumnal months.

  4. Great choices Serena! Love (sarcastically) the visuals conjured up by “The Conqueror Worm,” LOL

    1. Ah, good old Poe. Always knows how to get you!

  5. I really need to read Gailey's work!

    1. I have a library of it, if you want to select a volume!

  6. I love that you talked about poetry! I think it doesn't get enough credit, and I haven't read enough of it lately! I should really pick some more up.

    Thanks for being our guest!!


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