With Halloween only days away and an unfortunate excess of literary deaths already experienced in 2013, this feels like the perfect time to introduce a long-standing horror writer I’ve only recently had the pleasure of encountering.
I discovered the vivid, grotesque, sensuous writing of Poppy Z. Brite via a Penguin 60s picked up in my local Oxfam bookshop. This miniature book was too intriguing not to take home.
His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories comprises four extraordinary tales that are now seared into my brain. At once utterly insidiously delectable and hideously repulsive, they offer up visions in which rotten corpses rise from floodwater sodden graves, and statues of goddess lure you to enter “a gash in the universe” that is “rimmed in blood and ash.”
There’s so much beauty intertwined with the horror of these tales, so much opulence among the shit and gore, that you emerge entranced and disgusted, and disconcertingly hungry for more.
The four tales are taken from a larger work titled ‘Swamp Foetus’, and seems to me to encapsulate a Poppy Z. Brite-specific genre that should be given that name.
Reading these tales you may think you’re imbibing the words of one of the late great Victorian horror-istas, but in fact Poppy was only born in 1967, however, as she says herself: “I sold my first story at 18, so I did experience the six years of rejection that is said to be average for writers — I just started a lot earlier than most. That first sale was my story “Optional Music for Voice and Piano,” to The Horror Show, a semi-professional magazine based in California. At its largest, The Horror Show‘s circulation was only about 10,000, but it was widely read and respected by horror professionals — a good place to start.”
Poppy’s website is well worth a visit for a peek into an extraordinary writing mind – I especially like the section on Characters, the whole page dedicated to her pet cats, and the one titled Misc.Madness which includes dreams of visiting restaurants where kittens are on the menu. This page doesn’t seem to have been touched in several years, which is a shame, because the dreamscape of Poppy Z. Brite is certainly one I’d like to frequent.