New World Monsters by Chris Mcauley and Jeff Oliver
Hellbound Books (October 2022)
130 pages; $29.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Dr. Chris Mcauley is a writer of prose novels, magazine short stories, video and tabletop games and audio dramas. Chris has been given the Reggie Bannister award for excellence in Horror writing and is nominated for a similar award in science fiction. Jeff Oliver writes that he “began writing Dark Poetry at just 11 years old. Transferring darkness to paper at such a young age. There are thoughts about a troubled childhood, thoughts of love and imagination that never elude his pen. A poet by passion and a father of 8 beautiful children. Yes you read that right 8! His dedication to his family & his craft is second to none.” Their newest collaborative collection is New World Monsters, which is illustrated by Dan Verkys.
This book is broken into two sections. Jeff Oliver’s is first, titled “Dark Lovecraftian Poetry.” Reading this description, one would expect poetry dealing with themes of forbidden knowledge, fate, the decline of civilization, ancient and mythic religions, etc. and Oliver’s poems do not disappoint. From poems about people in the agonizing throes of becoming a monster themselves to people being buried alive, Oliver takes on the personas of the doomed and damned in this collection, attempting to capture the shuddering emotions that plague his speakers. For example, the poem “Universe” has lines like:
My tongue is bleeding where it was bitten.
My soul feels so hopeless as Demons lay me to rest.
I need the Universe to have mercy on me.
There is nothing left to see as I’m…
Screaming through the hollow trees.
This is the sort of poetry Oliver writes, each line a short sentence or thought, building and tumbling towards nightmarish completion at the end of the poem
The other section is titled “Dark Cosmic Poetry” by Chris Mcauley, which piggybacks nicely on Oliver’s Lovecraftian approaches. While it’s obvious that Mcauley is new to poetry, most of his poems reading like microstories or short narrative tales rather than poems, he should be applauded in his foray into this more challenging genre of writing. The poems work as narrative pieces, and Mcauley does his best to haunt his readers. For example, “Shrieking Fiend” begins:
No one can remember whence it came.
A multi-mouthed, giant of a creature.
Shrieking perpetually Satan’s name.
It towered over the western mountains and stood.
Crying out the name of its former master.
All we knew was the feeling of impending disaster
Mcauley is working with rhyme, a traditional choice in Weird poetry, and dealing with traditional cosmic themes — giant demons, impending doom, etc. — and his work provides a good accompaniment and counter voice to Oliver’s.
One cannot discuss this book without acknowledging Dan Verkys and his striking art. The figures in this book are gruesome and shocking, and pair well with the words of Mcauley and Oliver. While the art is primarily digital, 3D forms and photomanipulation, the final pieces appear to be rich oil paintings or a similar medium, and Verkys should be celebrated for his contribution to this collection.
This is a visually stunning book, but also a rich and dense read. Oliver and Mcauley are both prolific writers, and have filled these pages with their best dark poetry. Fans of horror poetry and art are sure to enjoy this collection.