Reviewed by Robert Goodman.
By Joe Fletcher, Brooklyn Arts Press.
In an age of short attention spans, memes and emojis, comes the horror poem. This is not to suggest that the horror poem is a bad thing. In fact, done well, it is just the opposite of the fleeting or non-serious. Horror poetry seems to be the ability to take the shortest number of well chosen words to implant a disturbing image, concept or story. With this in mind comes Joe Fletcher’s The Hatch – a collection of horror poems and extremely short short stories.
The title story The Hatch is a short story in which a student finds “a human head shorn of hair buried up to its chin” under a patch of dead leaves. He does not find what he expects when he tries to dig up the buried man. “The Wake” is narrated by a body in a coffin being taken for burial, in “The Match” the narrator has to wrestle his father in a ring made by the family and “Ponce de Léon” follows the physical and mental disintegration of a Spanish expedition. The poem “Palmdale Area” takes this one step further, starting with series of disturbing, unconnected single images: “A toddler sleeps on the sticky floor among the popcorn buckets at the cineplex”. These are just a few examples of the fifty-odd poems in this collection.
The horror short story is having a revival with recent collections by China Miéville, Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman. In The Hatch Joe Fletcher treads this ground, but sets himself apart by distilling his ideas down to their essence. Many of the poems are often no more than a couple of pages. There does not seem to be a guiding theme or connection from one poem to the next, just a series of increasingly bizarre images and ideas. And while not all of these are successful, those that are have the power to leave an indelible mark in the mind.
This review first appeared in Aurealis #110, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, www.aurealis.com.au.