(version reviewed – Kindle ebook – sale price of 99p)
No Mercy by Alessandro Manzetti is a collection of dark poetry that takes you to, well, some dark places. And mercy? No! You’ll find none of that as you make your way through these eighteen beautiful, terrifying pieces.
The best horror poetry, for me, is like a memory of a movie. You know how you might watch a really effective film, and parts of the scenes stick around in your mind for weeks, months, years afterwards? Then you kind of fill in the blanks around it until you watch the movie again, and put all the pieces together? Maybe I’m alone in this, I don’t know, but a good poem scars my brain in the same way. Give me just enough to put myself into your world, and let my mind wander through it. Unlike a short story where you might be lead by the hand a little more, effective horror poems – like flash fiction too I guess, do a lot of work by saying just enough.
And Manzetti definitely knows what to put in and what to leave out. There’s a mix of long and short pieces here, most running to three pages, while one longer piece rounds out the collection. Each of them stabs at the heart with fierce efficiency, with not a line wasted and every sentence leading you deeper into various personal hells, across the world and through various time periods.
So let’s dig our forks into the meat of this fleshy anthology. Ahem. Sorry, I’m listening to a cooking show as I write this. But that eating metaphor is a good one, because some poetry collections, like Betjeman or Plath, make me want to guzzle down a few pieces in one go. No Mercy makes me want to take my time – sample one poem, then sit and digest it for a good long while. And digestion may be difficult in some cases, because more than a few of these poems will leave you nervous. Hopefully not constipated, but definitely worried in your gut. Okay, let’s drop that whole eating thing now.
Here are dark visions of overdoses in famous towns, Mexican death gods, witchcraft, dances with death, luckless vagrants, forgotten corpses and mythic snakes. The main themes here are music, drugs and death, and this is why you’re best to dip in and out of this collection rather than rushing through it.
Some of the shared themes and ideas don’t work quite so well if you try to tear through this like a story. My first read was slow, but when I went back over the poems in one afternoon for the purposes of this review, I found myself less impressed. Not that the poems don’t deserve a re-read, it’s more that they deserve respect. Patience. Enjoy them – and get spooked right the fuck out by them – at a leisurely pace. I was going to go through and pick out a few favourites, but honestly, there’s not a bad one in the bunch.
And that cover. Oooooh, that cover. Quite simply, it’s fucking lovely. It makes me want to go and buy a physical version so I can look at it better, and also because sometimes, poetry just reads better when it’s hands-on, don’t you think? Curled up with a few good verses in a dark room. That’s probably the best way to enjoy this collection, even though the ebook has all the same illustrations.
Thumbs, in case you were wondering, go all the way up for this story, Grab a copy in whatever format you like using the links in the description below. And why not take a peek at my video review, too?