Archive for Alfred Hitchcock

Suspense and Sestinas

I’m in the mood to review something that’s not comics today. In fact, I’m gonna go as far in the opposite direction as I can. Tremble, ye dudes and dudettes, as I review… a book of poetry!

A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Christopher Conlon

Yes, you read right — a book full of poems that have film director Alfred Hitchcock as their primary point of inspiration. How does that work? It works better than you might expect.

I’d actually had some trouble deciding whether I should review this here. On one hand, it’s a comic book blog, and Hitchcock didn’t have anything to do with comics. On the other hand, I also do plenty of writing about horror and associated genres, and some of Hitchcock’s best known films fit very easily into the horror genre. But what really put this decision over the top was this: it’s my freakin’ blog, and I can review any durn thing I want to, so there!

The book was published just last year and edited by Christopher Conlon. There are a pretty large number of poets who contributed poems to the volume — most probably unknown to you because, unfortunately, working as a poet these days is a good way to not get a lot of attention. Or payment, actually.

As you’d expect, the poems in this book cover a pretty wide range of topics, even if they’re all inspired by Hitch and his movies. There are quite a few that focus on Hitchcock’s life, particularly his less-than-happy childhood and his interests and obsessions as a filmmaker. You also get plenty that are all about the movies, with “Psycho” and “The Birds” probably getting the most attention, though “The 39 Steps” is quite close behind.

Of course, I’ve got plenty of favorites in this book. They include:

  • Steven Vernon’s “Leytonstone Lad,” which spotlights Hitchcock’s childhood;
  • Miles David Moore’s “Shadow of a Doubt: Charles Oakley’s Speech,” which takes a walk through the mind of the killer from one of Hitchcock’s best-loved films;
  • G.O. Clark’s “Alfred,” which pays tribute to Hitchcock’s film cameos;
  • Lyn Lifshin’s “Alma,” dedicated to the director’s long-suffering wife;
  • Lifshin’s “Think of a Woman Terrified by Birds, Caged,” a study of the trials Tippi Hedren endured on the “Birds” set;
  • Kathi Stafford’s “Double Feature at the Pecos Drive-In,” for anyone who remembers drive-in movies;
  • Richard A. Lupoff’s “At the Cosmic Saloon,” which gives Robert Bloch, Janet Leigh, and Anthony Perkins a chance to air their grievances;
  • Marge Simon’s “The Birds’ Lullaby,” a wonderful bit of nonsense verse that gives voice to a bunch of murderous birds;
  • Andrew J. Wilson’s “crop-duster,” almost more visual pun than poem, but the only work in the book to make me bust out with delighted, morbid laughter;
  • and Sydney Duncan’s “Sestina for Alfred Hitchcock” — mainly because I like reading people writing unusual structured poems like sestinas.

And of course, plenty of others besides. I feel like I’m shortchanging some really good poems by not talking about ’em here, but dangit, I can’t just list every poem in the book.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a really fun book, a nice, easy read, though you ought to take a few days to read it, ’cause that’s the best way to read poetry. I enjoyed some of these poems a lot more than the rest, but there really wasn’t a single bad poem in the book. That’s a pretty good average, folks.

You’ve got poems long and short, complex and simple, dark and… more dark. It’s a good collection. I think Hitchcock would’ve liked it.

Go pick it up.

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