Review: Witches by Donna Lynch and Steven Archer

Witches by Donna Lynch and Steven Archer
Raw Dog Screaming Press (March 2018)

66 pages, $23.06 paperback
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

I never read Daughters of Lilith, the previous literary/artistic collaboration between Donna Lynch and Steven Archer. Why have I never read it? Seriously, because Witches is a wonderful, odd bit of joy in the world.

Let’s start with the obvious: $25 is a bit intimidating when looking at a book of poetry, especially one this short. But, as much as it feels weird saying these words in this specific order, this is more than just a book of poetry. It is also more than just a book of art. It’s the combination of the two and how they mesh and interact to create something that, to beg forgiveness for the cliché, is much more than the sum of its parts.

Witches is an exploration of the monsters we create, of those we demonize even as we use them up. There are stories of hate and destruction, to be sure, but there are also stories of love and curiosity and self-sacrifice. They are the stories of the forgotten told in lithe, light rhythms and rhymes and brings colors that singe the eyes.

Donna shows a deft touch with a tight rein on her words. Most of the poems here use less than 100 words, but she uses those words with grim purpose and grace. The styles and approaches used differ greatly, from rigid rhyme schemes to more free approaches to rhythm. In every case, though, her use of the space is masterful. The visual organization of the words is tied integrally to the intended impact.

Meanwhile, Steven’s trademark combo of comic-bright colors and texture-rich brushstrokes and heavily stylized cut-and-paste aesthetic adds a marvelously tactile sense to the endeavor, especially when layered over text, as was chosen here. The images aren’t direct translation. Instead, they are more a distillation of the emotional tone that adds its own context. They are just as superficially spare as the words they accompany and filled with just as much subtext and depth.

So, yeah. The price is a bit hefty. The result, though, is a solidly original and powerful book that’s unlike almost anything else out there. I can’t recommend it enough.

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