Red came through the door and was surprised to see two figures, but it was just Gail Thornton and Claret in the Coffee Shoppe. Claret poured rich espresso for the two of us and set out some chocolate crullers. Red pulled up a chair and took a sip. I couldn’t wait to ask her all about her new book of poetry, Mantra’s Book of Shadows.
GT: Mantra’s Book of Shadows is quite a turn for readers of her other poetic fare. To whom is she reaching out?
Red: MBS is a stark departure even from the poems considered raw in MFM. Mantra’s Book of Shadows is dedicated to those who walk in the shadows. In fact, everyone has walked in a shadow at one time, be it the shadow of lost love, time, fear or regret. It will touch all who read it.
GT: Please let your readers know how Mantra informs you. When does she visit, and how do you feel when she sings to you?
Red: Mantra sings. While her normal recital time is at bedtime when the rest of the world is quiet, these poems are a departure. They arrived at all hours of the day and night. The feeling of listening is quite numb for me. I inscribe the words, but do not feel their import until I read the final result.
Rarely, I will be cognizant of the emotion having been swept into the verse in the middle. If I get distracted before I finish, I will have to read the beginning. This can make them difficult to finish.
GT: This book has a subtitle, “dark poetry”. What makes them dark?
Red: It speaks candidly of many subjects poetry eschews in any concentration: vanity, greed, bondage, war, abuse, silence, willful blindness, the food chain, murder, criminal justice… Some of it is done with humor, some sarcasm, others disdain. The metaphors include images society often attributes to darkness: wolves, demons, natural disasters, death, thorns, poison.
The reader will come away with not only the dark images but also the attitude to conquer such things.
GT: Why did you write this book?
Red: I am a frequenter of many poetic places. I see an inordinate amount of poetry which revolves around love/unrequited love/lost love. There is a plethora of Christian and inspirational poetry. I darken a few doors which include poetry in the horror and erotica genres. Where I have discovered a dearth is the arena of real world experience delivered with either meter or rhyme.
I do not think rants and socially conscious soliloquies need to be acerbic vitriol to be effective. In a delicate meter and complex rhyme pattern, they are just as effective. Sticking my tongue out at stupid people is just a bonus.
GT: Is the fairy’s characteristic humor present in these poems, and how?
Red: Yes, indubitably. The poem I’m Too Tired is a parody of a children’s nursery rhyme. In Head Game, she gives someone precisely what is asked, reminding us to be careful of our requests. Stone twists the boulder in the road into a speaker of the truth. She even posits the scenario of living in a box of crayons. I doubt there will ever be a complete segregation of tongue and cheek. Ever.
GT: Poets often delve into their own dark side in their work. How would you describe this period of writing for you?
Red: This was definitely a classical blue period. Most of it was written over the course of the last year. While I cannot characterize the time in my life as what most associate with failure and despondency because it was filled with many successes, it was a poignant time for me to savor the horrific ways those successes could have gone awry and have for many others.
There are many examples in stark contrast to my life which are far more aligned with the struggles of those around me who were in no position to take my offer of help. Those poems were very grounding in the realization I can only help the willing. It is a dark place to be rendered helpless by those you would move mountains to help.
Red: No. Although I have been unable in more than 30 years to write a poem which did not rhyme on some level, the prosaic nature of these is complimentary to the subjects. Stuffing tough concepts into the constraints of iambic pentameter would make me pull Mantra’s wings off. As an aside, if I ever write anything you can sing to The Yellow Rose of Texas, I may pull Mantra’s wings off.
GT: What words would you use to describe Mantra’s voice in these poems?
Red: Realistic. As odd as that may seem for a muse identified as a fairy who writes about mythological entities and personifies body parts, the verse is definitive of life struggles we may overlook when they do not occur in our own lives. The realism offers the opportunity to be grateful for the struggles we have been spared and the testimony to know survival is both viable and likely.
Red: Identifying with situations which would otherwise never transpire in their lives. Few have the recollection of what a return to a battle zone is for a war veteran. Few know the thought processes before suicide. From the frustration of discrimination to bone weariness of insomnia, MBS lets you into the heads and hearts of others or lets you know others can identify with you… or both.
GT: What do you have coming up?
Red: In April, I will release Charitable Darkness, the sequel to Darkness Introduced. The Darkness Series is a collection of erotic novels. Also in April is the release of the third Flash in the Pan flash fiction anthology. You are in that one as well!
I am in the concept stage of a sequel to Killing Us Softly. It will be another self-help book for anyone who has lost a Mate to terminal illness.
There are three storyboards I am currently working for books I hope to debut late this year and early next year.
GT: Where can we buy your newest collection of poetry?
Red: At RedmundPro. The book is available individually and as a set with Mantra for a Muse. Autographed copies are also available of all of my books.
Take a few moments to go see what Mantra has been up to by reading the reviews for MBS. Mantra’s Book of Shadows is on sale (as in discounted) this month for its debut.
Thank you to Gail for asking the questions and to you for reading. Be sure to visit Gail Thornton’s World.