I’ve had the pleasure of both studying, and being mentored, by Michael A. Arnzen at Seton Hill University for almost 5 years now, first in my undergraduate studies as an English Literature major, and now in graduate school as a horror author in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. Arnzen’s taught me a lot about writing over the years, and now even though he’s not the one literally grading my progress, he’s still managing to teach me a lot through his own creative outlets. Case and point, The Gorelets Omnibus.
First things first. What exactly is a Gorelet? Arnzen describes them as “little gory things [he] sometimes write[s] that might otherwise be called short-short horror poems” (9). Now, when I first heard about the Gorelet project, I was really inspired as a poet because you don’t often see genre specific poetry being published. That’s one of the reasons that the Gorelets are so fun because not only are they disturbing and uncanny, but they push the boundaries of what’s classically accepted in the poetry market. The other reason is that they were originally designed to be “read upon the first handheld/mobile computers,” so they’re short, bloody, and well, to the point (9).
When I started the collection, it really opened my eyes to how effective a few, simple words can be. Often times as writers, we tend to flower up our prose and drag on and on about a particular image or scene, and here Arnzen shows us that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Choosing the right set of words in a poem is crucial, but when done right can evoke not only an image, but a feeling. Take for example, his poem “Alien Art”:
are worse than you thought-
they’re graffiti of the gods
tagging in a new gang war
In four lines, Arnzen gives us the subject, the characters, the conflict, and a whole mess of intergalactic tension. Now how many of you are conjuring up images from War of the Worlds right now? That’s what I thought. When you read this, you feel the way the sky stares at you when you’re outside, and at night, when you look at the stars, you can’t help but wonder whether or not you’re really alone. In just 18 words he gives us a beginning, a middle, and a end…and that my friends, is called a story.
But the Gorelets aren’t all about stuffing your feet into rabbit carcasses, or eating glass for breakfast. They’re also about Blitzen killing Santa Claus, and a Red Lobster meal gone wrong. What I’m trying to say is that what’s nice about Arnzen’s style as a horror writer, is that he knows how to incorporate comic relief. Don’t get me wrong, it’s DARK humor, but if you’re the kind of person that reads horror anyways, then you’ll find yourself chuckling along with pieces such as “Home Depot of the Dead,” and “Disco Inferno.”
So what have the Gorelets taught me as a student, and as a writer?
Well the main thing I learned is that you write the story you have to write no matter how bizarre, disgusting, or scary it might be. You just do it. Then, when you have a collection of writing and an idea to follow it… you stick to your guns, or your knife (whatever your weapon may be), and you go for it. And most importantly, you have fun doing it.
Great stuff, Mike.
You never cease to stop teaching and inspiring me.
Click here to buy The Gorelets Omnibus.
And as always, Pleasant Nightmares!
Arnzen, Michael A. The Gorelets Omnibus, Collected Poems, 201-2011. Bowie, MD: Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2012. Print.