Review: Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich
Raw Dog Screaming Press (December 2017)

162 pages, $14.52 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and her newest collection, also nominated for the Stoker Award, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare.

The primary horror in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare comes from the situations the speaker places herself in. The poems read like Confessionalist works, but with a much darker, gory bent, almost like a cross between Anne Sexton and Chuck Palahniuk. Take, for example, these lines from her poem “After We Sleep It Off”:

After we sleep it off,
maybe we can learn how to love each other again and
remember the night we went to the basement of your old house,
threw beer bottles against the cinder block walls and laid down in the glass
letting it cut into our backs so we could be each other’s scars.

Or these lines from “Requiem for a Love Lost and a Love Gained”:

I’m choking on the wine in my throat
as I count the cigarette burns on my arms,
each infected circle a reminder of a night
I didn’t kill myself over the loss of my future,
now stolen away for a second time

Wytovich clearly treads into dark territory with her lyric poems. These works are raw, exposing all their viscera for readers.

However, Wytovich also works with clear horror tropes. Whereas in some poems, the horror is a metaphor for social or psychological issues, there are many in which the bodies are really bodies, dismembered and broken. Take, for example, these lines from “Quit the Night, Lick the Morning”:

Blackened by the soot of early morning weeping,
she eased out her eyes from their sockets
placed them in her mouth
tonguing at corneas,
licking her irises

There are poems with dead bodies in trunks, decapitated corpses, even children disfiguring themselves. The unnerving, the bloody, the gruesome — they’re all present in this collection, and Wytovich masterfully captures all these moments in her poems.

Overall, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare is a really powerful collection of poems. The horror is both metaphorical and, in the masterful hands of Wytovich, real and visceral. Any fan of horror poetry will enjoy this book.

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