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Resonance Dark & Light
Bruce Boston
Eldritch chapbook $9.95

review by Steven Hampton

This quite sparsely illustrated collection is the latest chapbook from an SF Poetry Association Grandmaster. The 52 poems here are of various lengths, from haiku brevity to mini-epic storytelling. Most of them are one or two pages. Not all of the poems gathered here can rightly be considered as genre works but, even when he is writing for the mainstream, Bruce Boston manages to generate a sense of wonder because of his perspective and incisive commentary on everyday themes.

His puns are cleverer, and his phrasing and wordplay constructions are more literate than most of his rivals in genre poetry. There are stranger metaphors and some very amusing witticisms that really do resonate between daytime bright humour and night fears. We might have to learn to read nocturnalese (a language of the night people), to best appreciate many of the nuances and allusions. It's well worth the extra effort. A visual pun on the distorted image of a piano keyboard on the cover art can be found in Surreal Staircase - which "moves through dimensions/ that stretch the joists/ and tendons of perception".

However, let's start again, properly, with The Music Of The Devil - as "the Gehenna Philharmonic begins to play: blanketing the airwaves in octaves so base/ that they roil the currents of the River Styx". Avoiding the obvious clichés about blood music, this deathly poem nevertheless charts highly with a suffocating mood of doom and gloom: "Drowning out birdsong and nursery rhymes,/ snuffing both lullabies and sweet madrigals" and effectively crushing positive human impulses with abject negativity that's overwhelmingly satanic.

This collection continues its music-related themes with The Music Of Werewolves ("rife with a raucous chorus/ of howls and blasphemes"), The Music Of Vampires ("ethereal and damned,/ it captivates the heart"), and The Music Of Skeletons (thankfully, that famous spiritual song Dem Bones is never mentioned). In contrast to such dark-side icons, there is also The Music Of Robots ("a liquid shimmer of oil/ clinging to each note"), The Music Of Particle Physics ("absolutely relative,/ precise and differential" of course!), The Music Of Shapeshifters ("giving birth to visions/ inconstant and random,/ harrowing and molecular"), and The Music Of Deep Spacers ("a vast and haunting refrain/ that echoes... / the solitude of ceaseless travel"). Each piece is a celebration of the sonic accompaniment for its chosen topic, without any need for compiling lists of evocative soundtrack suggestions.

What is most impressive about Bruce Boston's work is not simply that his writings range across the genre spectrum of SF, fantasy, horror, and mystery - it's the way his marvellous application of words pull together and weave the disparate elements of genre shadings into a cohesive whole. It's a surprisingly affective unity that chills and thrills, replete with grisly details, bittersweet pathos, and a lightness of touch mixing reason and logic with delightfully comedic punch-lines. These poems are packed with an ideas-per-page ratio that frequently exceeds even the best work of Rudy Rucker and Steve Aylett.

Boston complements his existing back-catalogue of poems about 'Accursed Wives' with Curse Of The Banshee's Husband (constantly bemoaning "the inevitable horrors/ of human existence"), while this collection adds further weirdness to his poetry concerning exotic species found only the mythology of a mutant rainforest. Consumed By The Sentience Of The Mutant Rainforest expresses in short punchy stanzas the 'inescapable horror' of absorption into a hive mind of planetary scale. This is followed by the inevitable fusion of Boston's musical and mutation themes in The Music Of The Mutant Rainforest - "a constant refrain,/ whispering yet insistent/ in its seductive complexity." It's a tuning-up process of "random oscillations/ and savage insinuations" that never begins or ends.

A couple of Boston's brightest notions that are bursting with potential are his Surreal Shopping List - "the autobiography of a trellis/ ... hallucinogenic cutlet with flies/ ... 3lbs stonehenge", and Surreal Bucket List #7 - which seems ripe for an endless series of wild imaginings. Although his work sometimes hinges upon obscure references, I found there is never any feeling that Boston is being pretentious. On the contrary, his poems often crackle with throwaway jokes, and here's a classic example of that pithy aspect (with a message for all!) in full:

Marie Antoinette, 2125

"Your Majesty, the people
have no access to the Net."

"Then let them read books."

Resonance Dark and Light by Bruce Boston

copyright © 2001 - Pigasus Press