A Bite of Gothic

"Sirin and Alkonost, the Birds of Joy and Sorrow" by Viktor Vasnetsov (1896)
“Sirin and Alkonost, the Birds of Joy and Sorrow” by Viktor Vasnetsov (1896)

So today I just wanted to have a little fun with the poem, since I felt like I’ve been much too

Snapshot of my gorgeous copy of Vítězslav Nezval's "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders", translated from the Czech and into English by David Short, and featuing Kamil Lhoták's amazing illustrations.
Snapshot of my gorgeous copy of Vítězslav Nezval’s “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders”, translated from the Czech and into English by David Short, and featuring Kamil Lhoták’s amazing illustrations.

serious these past few days. Of course, though, my definition of “fun” includes some grotesque imagery of nineteenth-century inspiration. In fact, my main source of inspiration for today’s poem was the brilliant novel that I’m currently reading, namely Czech author Vítězslav Nezval’s Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. In the foreword to his novel, Nezval writes:

I wrote this novel out of a love of the mystique in those ancient tales, superstitions and romances, printed in Gothic script, which used to flit before my eyes and declined to convey to me their content. […] If, with this book, I will have given [the readers] an evocation of the rare and tenuous sensations which compelled me to write a story that borders on the ridiculous and trite, I shall be satisfied.

Piggybacking on Nezval’s semi-humorous tribute to the Gothic genre, I thought I might write a poem using some of the tropes that seem to be an organic part of Gothic narratives – baroque descriptions, grotesqueries, eerily erotic images and so on. Not sure how well I did in the end, but you can tell me that. 🙂

(DAY 10)

A Gothic Interlude

It was not a dream.
The oval portraits hung loosely from the ceiling
and the virgin lay dead under the chandelier.
Even through the dense walls of darkness,
the Sirins could be heard bickering
in the tendriled belly of the labyrinth.
The Wolf must have dropped the veil, for
it was not a dream.

The moon had melted.
White light was trickling over the goblets
which the weedy half-sisters of Saint Agnes
had drunk from, mindless of their bleeding
feet. A musty smell of ancient spell books
came from the unspun hair of the virgin,
and a pair of golden claws scratched the effigy
of a rabid little dog at her feet, for
the moon had melted.

The missionary raised a floorboard and a hole appeared.
“Go on now, and fear nothing.” *

[*Just to avoid any misunderstandings, the final two lines are a direct quote from chapter six of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, which I thought worked wonderfully as an ending/epilogue to my poem.]

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