A Little Bent for Bentley Little

When I am asked who my favourite horror writer is I always say ‘Bentley Little’ & they go ‘Huh?’ For a writer who has produced nearly a novel year since his first published book in 1990, plus short story collections, his profile hasn’t skyrocketed. I first discovered him thanks to Stephen King who in some interview I read years ago said that Little was one of his favourite horror authors.

Like King Little’s writing style is conversational, rarely high-flown, or peppered with pseudo-scientific jargon. He plays on myth, legends & even reaches into American history – a ghost train constructed of & by the bones of the Chinese who built the railway – but always starts in the common place & makes the eerier & foreboding.

I have read dozens of Little’s books. I became, as I ma wont to do, a bit obsessed with hunting them all down, scouring 2nd hand bookstores for old ones & watching for new releases. The books are high on suspense, thrills & horror. He finds horror in ordinary things – that new box box store has sales that are to die for – literally.

I’ve kept two, so far, of them on my shelf: The Policy and His Father’s Son. In Son our hero discovers a society of letter-to-the-editor writers whose letters lead to change. It is one of the few novels about writers writing that catches the power of the word, what it means to the writer & then sends that concept into an amazing direction.

 

All the novels are highly cinematic but so far none aha been made into films. I suspect Little has resisted that thanks to what has happened to King film adaptations that have watered down the story to make it more commercial appealing. Bentley can be gory, funny & always scary. He catches human fears & paranoia & makes them into realities; what if the gates to your gated community are the gates to hell?  If you aren’t a fan, yet, I’d recommend The Policy as an excellent starter for this addictive writer.

Dead or Alive

one is already dead

one we don’t know

who knows this child

does anyone recognize 

his running shoes his hands his face

 

is he dead is he alive

we warned you 

not to go near the lake

late at night

first Brad now Jeff

each off on an adventure

 

is he dead

is he alive

what would have possessed him

we told him about the Denizen

we made sure

none of the boys

would go near the smoke shed

they never listen

they never listen

if only they were

content with the pancakes

flap jacks

waffles

maple syrup

we can’t seem to keep them 

sated in food stupors

they have to slip off

looking for adventure

don’t say boys will be boys

 

is he dead is he alive

Jeff Jeff speak to us

wake up 

the grey cold damp

isn’t holding you that strong

spit the cold grey lake water

out of your lungs

tell us did you find Brad

have you seen Olaf

which of you

went to the smoke shed

who stole the sausages

who wasn’t heeding 

the warning we posted

the tales we told

to keep you alive

 

is he dead is he alive

is he Jeff

feel for a pulse

feel for breath

is there a sign

anything

no this isn’t Jeff

it’s some other boy 

another lured to Pinebow Lake

another taken from us

 

if this isn’t Jeff

where is Jeff

where is Brad

where is little Olaf

all the good boys

the brightest and best

have taken their leave

or are they just hiding

peaking around the trees

to giggle and smirk

in some game of hide and seek

where the finders

stay with the hiders

till there is only one looker left

and that will be me

because I won’t go near the lake

late at night

I won’t slip out of my bunk

to look for sausages

I’d rather be hungry and found

 

we must continue our search

beat the bushes

leave no stone unturned

we must look till we find

we must discover

why boys will be boys

we must see if there are foot prints

we have to follow the scent

the deep decay 

of blackened tree stumps

 

something floats 

to the surface of the lake

a glistening slick

like oil red blood

it is moving to follow the moon

it is time for us to light the fires

to gather around

to be told again the warning signs

the things to do

to make sure we all remain here

 

who has seen Tim

he was here a moment ago

he had the matches for the fire

who has seen Garth

he had the marshmallows

come out come out

this game has gone to far

 

is he the next warning sign

the fourth sign

of what is to come

the gradual shift

that takes us each from the camp

to home

 

yes that must be it

the others have gone home

run back to their mommies

scared of the lake

scared of the dark

and never go to get their fill

of the good cook’s works

we can end the search

except to find out

who this boy is 

spewed upon the shore

who

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Damsel Not In Distress

 

Damsel Not In Distress

there was danger

sure I could have died

but what away to go

at the hands of the creature

yes I value my life

but it is my life

who asked you to butt in

what compelled you

to rescue me

if I had been another man

then what would you have done

would you let the creature 

destroy him

rather than appear to be gay

because only a man who loves men

would go to all the trouble

or rescuing another man

 

so you rescued me 

from the jaws of excitement 

it’s not that I’m not grateful

but if you expect 

some sexual gratification

for your efforts then toss me back 

I didn’t ask to be rescued

 

all I really had to lose

are those cultural bonds

of weak women   strong men

no one can be released from

the tentacles of that monster

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The Monster

The Monster 

whose lips are these

did they kiss 

before they were grafted to my face

this attitude to the kiss

where did it come from

what cultural imperative 

was infused into my brain

to tell me the power of the kiss

 

I look down at this body

ruminate about this brain

all the things woven into 

my sense of self

that I don’t know were they originated

though I know they are controlled

by attitudes I can’t alter

 

the history of dominant needs

sutured to my ideologies 

as seamlessly as these lips

as these hands

which send ripples of fear

through the global villagers

 

a monster created in their minds

moving this world

asking them

are your lips yours

or have they too been grafted

seamlessly

as you groped with those hands

(your hands?)

into adulthood

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H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft is a master of both purple prose & terrifying visions. I remember reading him in my late teens & being drawn in totally to the out-of-kilter world he created (or was he merely describing an alternate reality that wasn’t fiction at all?) On my Kindle I now have his complete fiction: short stories, novels & even some poetry.

He took me to a disturbed Maine seaside long before Stephen King moved in 🙂 I was impressed by his writing style, though now I find it a bit florid, and was even more impressed by his decision to dispense with the happy ending. There is no escape from the tentacles in his Cthulhu Mythos.

His invented language, strange rituals & decaying churches enthralled me. One of my favourite short stories has the escapee struggle from captivity to find themselves in front of a mirror & being terrified by the monstrous creature they see. My other favourite is the room with weird angled corners that drives people mad. The Dunwich Horror is perfection (& the movie isn’t too bad either).

Re-reading many of these stories as an adult, on my Kindle, I am both transported & a little bored. How many decaying churches, or deep underground caverns full of malignant artifacts do I need to read about anyway. He has spawned an industry, though, of novels, short stories that are still being written to explore & expand his worlds. 

I was inspired by his use of language, his story telling and the ability to create & sustain a complex & compelling mythos so rich that some believe it is not fiction. I approach my Village Stories with some of this in mind – though I didn’t go for supernaturally scary but for a more emotionally culturally-scary mood.

Delete Delete Delete

I went for a walk

took my camera

to see the world as an observer

not a passer-by

I took shots of

stray shoes stray cats

a frozen smile

dirty gutters budding trees

windows that needed washing

people that needed washing

teens smoking

locked doors

cars too close to the curb

a small dribble of blood

bicycles that rotted all winter

posters pasted on closed shop windows

spray tags on mail boxes

an empty threat

cut flowers at a corner store

empty park benches

the distance between the aches

clumps of soggy newspaper

the mouth of a cave

hands holding empty air

three cellphones

a dog killing a rat

a birthday cake

a broken object that beeped faintly

green teeth

a missed opportunity

a wrong turn

a gathering of indifferent hoodies

an orange chain link fence

the last of the great ones

discarded bloody bandages

a farewell to arms

a Tim’s cup trapped in subway escalator

a dead fly in a camera shop window

a reason to go on

undergarments in a storm drain

an absent ache

dead batteries

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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John Fowles

One of first really ‘adult’ books that made an impression on me was John Fowles ‘The Magus.’ I still have by original paperback copy of it – somewhat better & held together with duct tape. I’ve read it frequently & have been drawn in each time. It is underlined & in the front are page numbers of particular passages I marked so I can reread them without rereading the whole book.

I think I read ‘The Collector’ first though after the movie was released, I think. It is a more ‘conventional’ novel. I saw how an adaptation differs from the source. It, & the movie, were the basis for frequent sex fantasy of mine – only there would be two of us – me & another man – who were abducted & confined. After a time we would turn to each other for emotional, sexual comfort. Sometimes, in the fantasy, I would be the abductor too but the other man wouldn’t know this.

‘The Magus’ is quite different from ‘The Collector.’ More clearly philosophical & literate. The plot adds layers of mystery even as it is solved. In the end one is never really sure what motivates our protagonist or how he inveigles so many people to cooperate with the elaborate set up. Trust me it is a very elaborate maze that continues even when one is out of the maze. This is what inspires me about Fowles – his unwillingness to give the reader an explanation – a writer doesn’t have to solve things for the reader to leave them satisfied.

The movie is a disappointment. having seen it recently, thanks to TCM, it completely misses the mystic heart of the book.

I’ve also read ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman,’ ‘The Ebony Tower,’ & ‘Wormholes.’ ‘Woman’ was wordy 🙂 I didn’t get into the world he was creating & I it a job to read. I guess I wasn’t smart enough to appreciate him any more. ‘Tower’ is a collection of interconnected short stories & I did enjoy it more. The writer who sees the typed pages of the only copy of his latest opus destroyed by a burglar went to my heart. It was about this time I was tired of writers writing about writers – yeah I’ve heard write what you know about but please open a door to the world. So I lost interest in John Fowles as a writer but I still love ‘The Magus’ – when will Masterpiece Theatre do a production of it with Tom Hardy as Nicolas Urfe. Better yet: me & Tom Hardy held captive in some underground location.

Elbow

3

I stopped at telephone pole 

there were so many lost signs some days

I didn’t bother looking 

but a sign gabbed my eye 

larger than usual

the color quality was so commanding

I at first though it was for some movie

 

LOST

over a photo of a man’s arm hoisting a beer

brackets superimposed around the elbow

then under it –

REWARD

 

have you seen my elbow

last seen Saturday 

as I left Stoneman’s Pub

I’d had a few and passed out in my SUV

when I came to my elbow was gone

it had a good home

well treated never misused

never raised a fist in anger

never resisted hard work

enjoyed cradling my baby

her head now has no comforting strength to hold her

if you have seen my elbow 

or know of its where abouts

please please call me

 

then a fringe of phone numbers

the wind and damp had curled slightly

into a row of empty elbows

4

Jimmy and I jumped into the swimming pool at the same time for opposite sides. He swam like a seal and I was able to copy him. We darted around each other pretending to be pups. Our bodies slipping and sliding almost caressing. 

Jimmy was in two of my classes but we’d never spoken so I was surprized he’d be so friendly with me now.

The water became warmer. We lunged high then splashed down to wrap around each other like strands of spaghetti soft yielding then sticking to each other so easily. He was a giant tongue moving all over my body. 

He began to bite me along the arms. Small love bites. They tickled and I shuddered with the tingles they set off. He began to bite harder and harder. I couldn’t make him stop. He was no longer playful but a shark that ravaged my arm. He had me by the elbow to drag me off to feed his family.

I woke thrashing the air. I couldn’t feel my elbow. It was gone. I screamed

‘What’s wrong.’ My mother rushed into the room drying her hands on her apron. ‘What’s wrong.’

‘My … my elbow is gone.’ I held the stub of my arm up to her.

‘Don’t be so foolish.’ She pinched my arms. ‘Feel that?’

‘Ouch.”

‘If you can feel it, it might as well be there. Now, get a move on or you’ll be late for school.’

I couldn’t wait to get to school.

I couldn’t wait to get to school. Elbow or no elbow; today I’d finally say ‘Hi’ to Jimmy.

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

November TBA: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Every Man Wants

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Every Man Wants

when I said

I’d had enough

I meant I needed no more

not wanting more

isn’t a sign 

that I don’t like what you offer

so don’t take it personally

no I’m not trying to lose weight

why

do you think I’m fat

or that I’m afraid of putting

the pounds on

I’m happy with the way I look

sure

like everyone I know

I’d like to loose five pounds

okay maybe ten

when I look in the mirror

I like what I see

I’m content with my body

yeah sure

I’d like a six pack

every man wants a bigger dick

but you know

what I have is what I have

no one has complained

so no

I don’t need any more

no matter how tempting 

I may want it

but no thanks

there are others more hungry 

who need another helping

all I need

is to enjoy the empty plate

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Grand Hotel

I enjoyed the Shaw production of Grand Hotel though the music itself is not very memorable. I didn’t leave the show haunted by any of the melodies but by the wonderful performances. Director Eda Holmes had her hands full with set of strong, compelling characters – at time it was more traffic cop with all the blocking needed to move everyone, sometimes all at once, on the stage. 

Based on the 1932 all-star film the plot moves with clockwork perfection. Multiple characters with different needs, motivations & secrets interact over 24 hours in a plush hotel. Staff is attentive but have their own stories tell as well. I loved the telephone operators. As ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya, Deborah Hay demonstrates some real ballet barre chops. Vanessa Sears as Flaemmchen gives ‘Girl In The Mirror’ real longing.

This is very much an ensemble piece. It’s almost as if the writers counted words to make sure each principle character had their fair share of lines. All were strong singers and dancers as well. Parker Esse’s choreography captured the energy of 1929 without it feeling like a museum piece. It was also clear that the cast loved what they were doing. The energy in ‘We’ll Take A Glass Together’ was palpable. Michael Therriault as Otto Kringelein shows amazing physicality in this number as well. The spinning bar was a delight.

The script handles multiple characters without becoming confusing or muddled. The layers of story telling were intricate &, for a change, logical. I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of the play though. My only negative comment is that the sound balance for the chorus scenes: multiple characters singing different view points with the chorus having their own songs – became rather muddy – as if the band felt it had to play louder to be heard – result: singers & lyrics drowned out.

1929 Berlin was simmering between the wars & there is little sense of what was to be, when people come to the Cabaret. A thoroughly entertaining production I’d recommend. 

Other recent reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”

https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/event/hot-damn-its-a-queer-slam-feat-janice-lee/

Emily Dickinson

My east-coast high-school English literature poetry focused almost entirely on dead white British men. The exceptions, that I remember, are E. Pauline Johnson & Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886.) I have no recollection of what Johnson poems I was forced to parse or whatever it was we were supposed to do with them – explain somehow in a way that lined up with the teacher’s understanding, as opposed to our actual feeling about the poetry.

The one of Dickinson’s I remember starts “Hope” is the thing with feathers – but it is her life that I remember even more clearly – a recluse for much of her life who refused to see people – who stored her poems in a drawer. That fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime.

 

She wrote unlike any poet of her time – short lines, short poems, random Capitals – the Use of the dash – other than the Random capitals – her verse had the appearance of modern verse. Her use of images was/is very contemporary. The ‘meanings’ were easy enough to figure out as well. Which made them perfect for the limited attention span of teenagers. I can’t say that I liked her then but she was more approachable on the age than Shelly or Wordsworth.

I was fascinated by her decision for solitude. There was also a sort of mystery about her life – only one known photo of her exists. I have the complete poetry unedited. As well as “My Wars Are Laid Away In Books” a biography by Alfred Habegger – which is well worth reading.

Looking at her now as an influence she showed me the power of the simple image, she used direct language as well – not the endlessly florid style of Byron. She didn’t rely on classical references or biblical contexts to convey her thoughts. Plus she clearly wrote for the joy of writing not for the acclaim of publication.

That perhaps has been what inspires me most about her. As much as I’d enjoy being published I’m also quite content to write without that as my sub or even sur text. Instead of tucking my writing away in a drawer I hide it here on my blog. 

Lost Kiss

grief will become

a door you aren’t afraid to open

a shirt you can finally throw away

an aftershave you can’t stand on anyone else

a book you have no one to talk to about

a lawn you have to mow

a sunrise never seen before

an echo in someone else’s laugh

a song that is always him kissing you

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Honourable Women

Where to start with this so-so Stratford Festival production of Julius Caesar? This early play, not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better pieces, isn’t improved any by the casting of women in the lead roles. I was hoping there would be some layered resonance on the current discussion about gender & representation but if there is it was under too many layers. An arrogant & ambitious ruler meets a bad end. Assassins pay the price of their actions. 

Seana McKenna does not portray Caesar as being particularly arrogant or ambitious. She handles the role well but seems merely content to give the lines a well enunciated delivery. Michelle Giroux as Mark Antony invests the character with urgency & emotional connection. She handles the slyly manipulative “lend me your ears” speech very well. Now this a character with ambitions. Also good was Jonathan Goad as Marcus Brutus. 

Director Scott Wentworth does able work with the ‘rabble’ crowd scenes so they have good energy & theatricality – I really enjoy the opening of Act 2 with the rabble scattered throughout the theatre. Slow motion battle scenes & Gregorian chant didn’t work for me. I did like the hand washing nod to McBeth though.

When men play women, cross-dressing or doing drag, they are judged by how well they pass as women, so it is fair to do the same for when women play men. Seana is the most successful on surface appearance, Michelle is okay, Irene Poole as Cassius could pass as a teenage boy not as an adult male. Other women cast as men in the production are more androgynous than masculine. 

 

I was happy to see Julius Caesar and this is a solid production. I also appreciated the casting of women in men’s roles – this sort of gender play, only reversed, was the law in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it’s time for a really tradition production where men play all the roles. Scott Wentworth would make a brilliant Lady McBeth.

PS: No one says: “Great Caesar’s ghost.” Also, I could not get that classic Canadian comedy moment “Julie, don’t go!  Julie, don’t go!  But he wouldn’t listen!” out of my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h8CzRcI

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y 

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

Bricks to Banksy 

Somehow I lost the notes I took at the Hot Damn! Showcase as part of Unit2’s Bricks & Glitter queer festival 😦 https://www.facebook.com/bricksandglitter/ So what I may quote from the show come entirely from my memory. One thing burned in my memory from the night is the actual getting to the west-end location on Stirling Road. Google was helpful to a degree, it got me in the right direction 🙂 The heat was intense, which wasn’t helped by a text message from a FB wanting to play that night. 

I gave myself time to get lost, which I did but I quickly got back on the right track. I have never been in this area, near Lansdowne. It is a simmering art warehouse district. One was dedicated to a Banksy show, a parking lot was set up as a sit-down outdoor movie theatre. A Museum Of Contemporary Art is being built. The House of Anansi  is nestled beside a craft brewery.

I found Unit2 easily & stepped back into my Cape Breton past. In Sydney friends of mine had gotten a grant to set up a store front children’s theatre for the summer. They made puppets, did show there & in playgrounds. Unit2 had that feeling of repurposed space, not finished or polished, of people working together for change, as opposed to profits. I felt more at home than I expected. In some ways it was like being in a large rec room to watch friends perform.

The showcase was excellent. Charlie Petch opened, as they do the ‘real’ show, with acknowledging the stolen land we are on & then played the Damn! anthem, on the saw. First feature was D’Scribe: ‘I pretended my parents loved me.’ I’ve seen him perform many times now & each time I have been caught up in his vision & struggles.

Charlie did the second set in which they gave us samples of Mel Malarkey, & Daughter Of Geppetto. They also did an amazing grief piece with live multilayered vocals, sound fx that invited the audience in to experience their own feeling of personal grief & loss after the recent Danforth mass shooting. It was a performance that transcended language & took us into pure emotion.

Sadly it was getting too late for me so I left before seeing Truth Is … I wanted to be home by 11 & to bed by midnight. It was a fine show & makes me eager for the start of Hot Damn!’s season 5 this fall at Buddies in Bad Times.

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