Review: Monstrum Poetica by Jezzy Wolfe

cover of Monstrum Poetica by Jezzy WolfeMonstrum Poetica by Jezzy Wolfe
Raw Dog Screaming Press (September 2021)
130 pages; paperback $12.95; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Jezzy Wolfe is an author of dark fiction, with a predilection for absurdity. A lifelong native of Virginia Beach, Jezzy lives with her family and quite a few ferrets. Her poems and stories have appeared in various ezines and magazines. Her newest collection of poetry is Monstrum Poetica.

Monstrum Poetica is a collection of narrative poems focused on folklore and myth, as well as urban legends. Between these covers, hellhounds lurk next to jinn, vampires and werewolves haunt the shadows, and even Mothman sweeps across the night skies of West Virginia. Each creature is given two or three poems, as well as a brief introduction and history. As such, this is as much an educational text as it is a literary collection, and readers are immersed in the history and longevity of the creatures which Wolfe attempts to discuss in poetic form.

The poetry itself leaves much to be desired. Jezzy Wolfe is primarily a fiction writer, and this shows in her poems. The elements which one would expect in poetry, such as metaphor, juxtaposition, rhythm, meter, etc. are lacking, and the poems suffer for it. For example, the poem “The Road to Abilene,” opens with:

in the middle of Nowhere.
Texas forgotten…
Facades decayed and
This town isn’t home
to anyone
A population missing,
windows black
and full of faded memories
of gingham curtains
and hot fruit pies,
blue noon skies and
busy streets.

It isn’t until line 10 that the reader is given anything concrete to cling to, so the opening lines of the poem are abstract and vague. This is a technique that can work in prose, but in poetry, especially when the lines are so short and ragged, the reader is lost in the abstraction. This is a issue that’s endemic throughout the collection. Wolfe’s line breaks seem haphazard and random, adding little to the rhythm and energy of the pieces. For example, the poem “Dog Deadly” opens with:

It lurks
deep behind,
distantly beside
a corner creeper,
a clandestine
Its head
hung between
its backward feet,
its whiplash tail,
ears that clap

There seems to be an attempt at urgency here, and a rough attempt at a rolling dimeter, only the lines slip into monometer at odd times with no apparent reason beyond ending the sentence. 

Readers should explore Monstrum Poetica for its education and historical content. The research and information on various legends and tropes is very solid. For readers looking for a solid collection horror poetry, though, this book will surely disappoint. Jezzy Wolfe simply doesn’t apply the craft of poetry to her work to make for a successful book, and the poems suffer because of it.

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