ARC Review: Skeleton Parade

Lock Your Doors and Windows – Tonight the Bones are on Parade

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Mela Blust’s debut chapbook Skeleton Parade is a well fabricated, cohesive assemblage of dark things: sexual violence, self harm and horrific secrets. The readers are introduced to the collection through the point of view of a young girl who is victimized in horrible fashions.

Her readers will feel their heartbeat rise as a the urge to protect vibrates through them when they recite lines from the poem, “priorities”:

and the deathbed of her hymen was a place
where flowers bloomed;
if only to be plucked again and again
by men on their way
somewhere else.

Yet, as Blust’s poetry continues, the persona of the work transforms into something else entirely. A transformation of lightening and nightshade takes place. No longer is the poetry demure, passive. There is something living in the verses which is now less delicate and has no desire for well intended protection.

Many of the pieces then hiss at the readers as if they were the wriggling familiars of a witch or the incantations of a sorceress of the dark arts. There is a vicious anger snapping its teeth with each victorious cackle, claws where fingers should be.

now i take the pain
and turn it into something
i can chew
you will learn
the salt of ache.

The visual formatting of the poetry is certainly indicative of snapped bones, even sharpened teeth. The poems are all hard, pointed constructions which can toe the line of becoming repetitive in nature. Blust will on occasion use an alternating rhyme scheme, but it this usage seems to happen on a whim. Primarily free verse, the themes of the work are anything but free.

There are many references to alcohol and drug abuse as if the persona from the first few poems still exists inside this new creation and she is attempting to mix these poisons into a formula to use as an escape. Perhaps she thinks killing this new version of herself will let her backtrack to who she once was.

In “fairy tales,” there is new dimension, hopelessness, which reaches the surface. The speaker cries, “does the king of birds / always love a girl made of glass?” But as all readers of fairy tales know, everything that is light must have its dark side. And happy endings are hard to come by.

For a debut chapbook, this is quite impressive. As mentioned earlier, this is dark poetry. Blust is not gentle in her approach and certainly not in her delivery. Uncomfortable and ghostly, Skeleton Parade is a perfect collection for Halloween.


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