An Exorcism of Angels by Stephanie Wytovich
Raw Dog Screaming Press (May 2015)
163 pages, e-book $4.99, paperback $13.95
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
So that we are clear, An Exorcism of Angels is a book of poems about love, but they are a far cry from the images of roses and violets and fleas as sex metaphors. Stephanie Wytovich presents us with love born of need instead of desire. Love that is desperate, angry, bitter and spewing bile and that red, red kroovy all over the place. Love with no happily ever after, ending in padded rooms and jail cells with screams echoing outside and in.
Just look at what Stephanie does with “Canonize Him with Knives,” where the perfection our unnamed woman sees within her adored love can only, in her mind, be displayed for others by cutting him to pieces left in a box on the church steps. Or the bitter despondency and regret that pours through the forever unanswered “Questions for the Corpse.” These are cruel lessons learned by “The Girl who Slept with Monsters” and the deceptively simple “Thought Process,” the kind that snap minds and souls into twisted fragments.
However, I think “Mourning Season” best encompasses what Wytovich is doing here. Love, she makes clear within these lines, is not something that enriches existence. Instead, “It’s blank, encompassing, and it kills her from the inside out as if it were some parasite drinking her sadness until there was nothing left but to beg for death.” If this is a red, red rose, the color is coming from severed veins instead of pigment.
If you like your poetry more formal, you probably won’t like Wytovich’s style. Many of the poems are presented prose style, forcing the reader to find the rhythms and the flow of it on their own. On the other hand, people looking for direct, visceral and absolutely brutal poems that assault as much as they entrance will likely enjoy themselves.