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Mourning Jewelry Kindle Edition
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|Length: 123 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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During the Victorian era, people placed relics of the dead—often hair, teeth, and ashes—inside pieces of jewelry in order to keep their loved ones close. It is within the historical context of this macabre sentiment that Stephanie M. Wytovich’s new collection of poetry is set: “the concept of death photography, small portraitures of the deceased.” But as usual, this dark poetess traverses beyond the facets of the already grim backdrop of her theme and injects herself deeper: into the pain, the ash, the mourning itself—“the horror that breeds inside of the lockets”—into the very graves where the loved, and unloved, lie.
Not unlike the trend itself, and the ways in which people have come to cope with death and grief over time, Wytovich has evolved as a writer. Her voice strikes noirish notes in “A Match Made by the Devil,” and her use of line breaks in “Airless” to mimic the title belies her craft as a learned poet. She infuses morbid humor in pieces such as "Dare I Keep the Body."
Some of my favorite imagery appears in “Ballet of Knives,” where her voice comes across as unflinchingly confident—Wytovich often blurs the line between poetry and storytelling, and this story is told particularly well:
“The knives were her people now, those long, silver sticks of / metal that dove through the air and sliced failure like a practiced / balancoire.”
“Blackness” reads like the swan song of the collection, a perfect serenade to infinite, inescapable sadness—“I cringed at the minor-key / siren song it wailed in the / ink-spattered sky, poisoning / my eardrums with an inviting / brutality that blanketed / me in suffocation and / stabbed at my heart song”—but it was only the sixth poem of over a hundred, and since the collection is ordered alphabetically by title, its beautiful, haunting language and musings on the vast depths of grief seem to come too soon.
Wytovich slips easily between two guises throughout: in one, her voice is cold, calculated, evil—
"...I don't pretend
that I belong here—that I'm something other
than what I am—but I spread my wings
and stretch out my claws, the Devil's grin
on an angel's face...
...I don't pretend
that I belong here—that I'm something other
than what I am—but I eat men
and torture hearts until they break, wait until
they peel off their flesh to get away
from my touch.
And then I use their femurs like toothpicks,
crack open their pallor shells
and suck out the marrow like
—and in the other, soft, vulnerable, and often victimized.
"...I would walk journeys to calm the storm in your eyes...clear mountains and swim rivers to be with you...scale time, fight age, and battle death if you wanted me to ascend to love..." ("Falling, Rising into Love")
In between, she douses us in voodoo, vampires, widows feigning grief; self-cutting, witchcraft, murder, magic, madness, mayhem, and things that don’t have names. Personal favorites include "Fireflies Dance for the Souls of Heroes," "Free My Soul," "The Night's Lover," "The Primrose Path," "There are Voices in the Wind," and "Vines are in Her Wardrobe."
The title piece contains some undeniably memorable imagery; to say Wytovich is gifted is surely an understatement. Her muse is lavishly generous. If I had one critique, it would be to strip some of the longer prose pieces like "Corpse Flower” down and allow the striking visuals she creates with her poetry do the telling, as that’s where the real magic happens. Excellent collection—highly recommended.
**Read via Kindle Unlimited subscription