Where Thy Dark Eye Glances – Steve Berman, ed. (Lethe Press)

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Buy it direct from Lethe Press

Queering Edgar Allan Poe is such a wonderful idea I can’t
believe no one’s thought of it before, but at least Steve Berman is on the
ball. And, as wonderful as the idea itself is, the product is even better. Where
Thy Dark Eye Glances
is one of the most consistent and consistently
imaginative anthologies I’ve read in quite a while.

Before we get to the good stuff, however, comment needs to
be made about the entire package. Niki Smith’s cover is stunning, capturing not
only the essence of Poe, but a hint of queerness along with themes of
masquerade and “otherness” that pervade the stories and poems inside. Even the
typeface and the layout are all of a piece with its themes, and for that, kudos
must go out to the inimitable Alex Jeffers.

Inside? Oh, what wonders you will find inside. The first
section is “Poe the Man,” which has stories and poems featuring Poe himself,
including Seth Cadin’s atmospherically erotic “The City and the Stranger” about
Poe’s brief yet meaningful stay in New York City after he left West Point,
Daniel Nathan Terry’s poem, “Matthew Brady, the Gallery of Illustrious
Americans,” about Brady’s daguerreotype of Poe, and Steve Berman’s own pastiche
of Poe’s works, “Poetaster.”

The second section, “Poe’s Writings,” comprises the meat of
the book and contains some quite marvelous re-imaginings of Poe’s work as well
as some straight-ahead queering where the storyline is the same but some
genders are changed. One of my favorites in the latter category, Satyrus Phil
Bucato’s “The Lord’s Great Jest” recasts Trippetta in perhaps my favorite Poe
tale of all time, “Hop-Frog,” to stunning effect. However, it’s difficult to
resist Peter Dubé’s surreal (or hyper-real) “Corvidae,” Ray Cluley’s
magnificently rendered “The Man Who Was,” Clare London’s marvelous “Telltale,”
or Christopher Barzak’s take on William Wilson’s other half, “For the Applause
of Shadows.” Shorter, but no less powerful, are Tansy Rayner Roberts’s “The
Raven and Her Victory,” which sees a poet nicknamed the Raven enshrining her
one lost love over and over in her work, and L.A. Fields’s “The House of the
Resonate Heart,” which puts an even creepier layer over the already creepy “The
Fall of the House of Usher.”

“Reading Poe,” the last of the three parts, contains stories
and poems about Poe’s audience, with pieces both personal (Collin Kelley’s
heartfelt “The Demon and the Dove” and “fellow Virginian” Jeff Mann’s poem “The
Death of Beautiful Men”). The standouts for me here are Richard Bowes’s “Seven
Days of Poe,” which finds a young queer boy working in a library, coming to
terms with his sexuality as he reads Eddy, Alex Jeffers’s “A Portrait in India
Ink by Harry Clark,” about two boys, an illustrator, a migraine, and a first
sexual encounter, and John Mantooth’s outstanding “The Chicken Farmer and His
Boy,” a fascinating between-worlds glimpse of a boy’s coming out to his father.

But these are only my highlights of a volume I’m sure you
will enjoy if you have the slightest interest in Poe. Where Thy Dark Eye
Glances
is a delicious book to be savored and ruminated over, much like the
master himself.

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

 

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