Songs in the Key of Death by JG Faherty
Lvp Publications (October 3, 2023)
148 pages; $16.99 hardcover; $9.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty is the author of 19 books and more than 85 short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (2x) and ITW Thriller Award. Songs in the Key of Death arrives ready to entertain horror poetry readers.
In his introduction, Faherty admits to not being a poet nor to focusing on writing poetry. This leads to a poetic style this is rich with prosaic description and narrative. For example, the poem “Groundhog Day in Hell” relates the narrative of people in Hell reliving the same life over and over. The poem begins:
In horror’s lair we found ourselves
Naked, lost, abandoned; memories erased
In darkness lying on the ground
Injured, cold, and bleeding; awareness gone
The adjectives are heavy here, and the imagery is more abstract in favor of the narrative and the overall tone of the piece. Faherty is clearly leaning into prose techniques and craft in his poetry, which many horror readers will find both scary and comfortable at the same time.
Furthermore, Faherty taps into some Imagism within other poems. If the idea of Imagism is that a direct treatment or description of an object or thing is enough to produce an emotion in the reader, then Faherty’s images and poems are aiming to use that to produce fear. Take, for example, the opening lines to “Jelly,”:
Lying on the sand
Clear blobs of jelly
Filled with death
So faint, so tiny
Filaments and canals
Tentacles like string
Nothing is happening in these lines. The jelly is simply being presented to us in the hopes of scaring us, and for many readers, that will absolutely be enough. This is a 20th century poetry technique that is very effective when used well, and Faherty is working to use it scare his readers.
Overall, Songs in the Key of Death is exactly what it sets out to be. This is a collection of poetry, most of which were written over a two year span, by a fiction writer dipping his pen into the ink of poetry to see what spills out. Many of the poems are rich with description and narrative, and horror readers looking for that style of poetry will not be disappointed. Faherty has had some success selling and publishing these poems online, and he is building off of that success into a full-length collection. Any horror readers who are fans of prosaic, descriptive, narrative poetry will thoroughly enjoy this collection and should absolutely snag it for their collection.