Review: Bleeding Rainbows and Other Broken Spectrums by Maxwell I. Gold

cover of Bleeding RainbowsBleeding Rainbows and Other Broken Spectrums by Maxwell I. Gold
Hex Publishers (June 2023)
174 pages; $39.99 hardcover; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Maxwell I. Gold is a multiple award-nominated author who writes prose poetry and short stories in weird and cosmic fiction. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines including Weirdbook Magazine, Space and Time Magazine, Startling Stories, Strange Horizons, Tales from OmniPark Anthology, Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas, and more. He’s the author of the Elgin-Award nominated prose poetry collection Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose from Crystal Lake Publishing. His newest collection, Bleeding Rainbows and Other Broken Spectrums, is a book of queer, cosmic-horror poetry.

This book reveals the queer experience through the vehicle of cosmic lust and uses these speculative tropes to both critique and celebrate gay love and society’s responses to it. This is not only a book of poetry, but an important and necessary voice in the speculative poetry community, and one that should be championed and read. Furthermore, the poems in this book echo Dante’s Paradiso in form, each poem ascending through successive triangles to the pinnacle of gay love and a world where “Rainbow Gods walked the Earth again,/And the closets buried forever.” Through metaphor, cosmic horror imagery, and allegory, Gold weaves a mythic journey that reads almost as one epic work, one hero’s journey through the horrors of a world that hates them towards a cosmic destination where they are loved.

Gold creates a universe in which gay lovers are Rainbow Gods to be both praised and held in awe. For example, one poem reads:

Possibilities were endless,
in the thick, purple night;
I had to have him,
Everything from stars to song
Exhausted with nameless ecstasy,
Nothing was enough
He wasn’t enough,
Beneath the bedsheets of stars

This is the sort of dense erotic poetry one should expect from Gold in this collection. The Gods are lovers, worthy of adulation, but also to be feared. Gold writes: “There were no words to describe the pain, cocooned by hallucinations of cosmic pleasure while wrapped in the bosom of Oblivion’s shapelessness.” Here, Oblivion itself is a lover consuming our speaker and completely enveloping them in ways both terrifying and pleasurable. The balance between homoeroticism and cosmic horror is one that Gold carefully treads, but handles well.

Elsewhere, Gold critiques the queer community, as well as the stereotypes that the CisHet community puts on the queer community. A poem like “Bro-Gods and Jock-Queens” begins: “Leather solaces and gutted dreams behind suits and jockstraps, the uniforms whereby heteronormativity tightly pulled o’er the mouths of a humbled, submissive yesterday with laughing closet-top-gods and barbell-demons.” Again, Gold dips into mythic abstraction and allegorical fantasy to create a cosmic battle between the Rainbow Gods and “self-proclaimed Bro-Gods/who languished in the funk and foulness.” When poetry is used not just to tell truths, but to use those truths to critique society’s ills for the betterment of humanity, it needs to be read and celebrated, and Gold does just that with this book. 

Bleeding Rainbows and Other Broken Spectrums is a bold collection of speculative poetry, one that champions homosexual sex, sexuality, and homoeroticism on a cosmic scale. It not only celebrates the Rainbow Gods that the speaker holds in both lust and awe at the same time, but it also uses allegory and myth to critique homophobia and stereotypes within and without the queer community. This is an incredible book of Cosmic Horror poetry that any horror reader needs to read immediately. 

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