Review: Many Restless Concerns by Gayle Brandeis

cover of Many Restless Concerns by Gayle BrandeisMany Restless Concerns by Gayle Brandeis
Black Lawrence Press (February 14, 2020)
160 pages; $17.95 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Most horror readers are familiar with Elizabeth Batharoy, one of history’s most famous murderers and the source of much vampire lore. Much less is known about her victims, which leads readers and historians to a lot of speculation as to who these young women were and what drew them towards Batharoy’s clutches. In her newest poetry collection, Many Restless Concerns, Gayle Brandeis uses hybrid text techniques to give voice to these victims, channeling the idea of a collective voice, or chorus, as the persona in this really dark and enticing collection.

Many Restless Concerns is not a typical poetry collection, nor is it meant to be. It uses techniques from some very post-modern schools of poetry to create the voice, which makes complete sense when one realizes that Brandeis is channeling up to 650 victims at once and using their collective voice. One will see hints of Projective Verse here, as well as hybrid text techniques, prose poetry, and so on. There are also some sections that are deliberately fragmented and disjointed, but considering it’s hundreds of conflicting voices with individual stories all clamoring at once, that makes sense. What’s interesting is how Brandeis isn’t “experimental for experiment’s sake,” but actually uses the avantgarde techniques to replicate and advance the content of the poems.

Many readers will also key into the parallels between the victims in this collection and modern victims. Brandeis is clearly making a socio-political statement with this book, and giving voice to the voiceless and telling the stories of victims. The parallels are endless, as are the many cases where victims have been threatened or forced into silence. So a stanza like

Some of us can’t bear to share our own stories,
can’t bear to remember what we’ve lost.
And could you bear hundreds of our stories?
Would you have the patience? The fortitude?
Would you grow immune to our pain,
turn numb after hearing from girl upon girl
upon tortured, murdered girl?

while giving voice to the victims in Batharoy’s reign of terror also gives voice to modern victims as well. Anytime an author can use the horrific or fantastic to create consciousness in their readers and make them aware of modern horrors, readers will come away rewarded. Brandeis is very clearly calling readers to action lest history repeat itself, and this is a very powerful use of poetry and horror.

Many Restless Concerns is a unique book of horror. It takes a known historical person, and instead of sympathizing with them or giving their story, focuses on the unknown victims. Their stories are brutal and terrifying, and it’s very clear that Brandeis is drawing parallels to modern political movements with them, thus enhancing the horror in the reader. Through hybrid writing techniques, Gayle Brandeis is able to create a really powerful book of horror that fans of historical and psychological horror will thoroughly enjoy.

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