$19.65; 76 pages; June, 2005
When I first opened Totems and Taboos, I met a piece of art titled, “Release.” Drawn to the deep red background, contrasted against the dancing, soft pink outlines of the female form, I stayed on this page for a few minutes, thinking, analyzing. The piece vibrated with sexual energy, yet there was a subtle violence to it that screamed—and screamed louder—the longer I looked at it. Colors began to blend and images contorted on the page, and visuals that I didn’t initially notice showed up and questioned me to go further. To dig deeper.
And that’s what Brock’s collection is about.
Going deeper, and not being afraid of what you find when you get to the bottom.
Brock brings the horror genre to a new light as he tackles stereotypes, social conventions, physical and psychological break—whether through love or hate—and fashions them together to bring out a product that is charged with an honest brutality. Yet, I use that word as an noun o f extremes because in some cases, it’s love that consumes the art, taking over the body of prose and engulfing it metaphor by metaphor such as in his piece, “Papillion.” But then again, in a piece like “Victim,”—a personal favorite of mine—readers see a nightmare come to life as the narrator states, “Anger is a gift: use it” (Brock 47).
The collection balances the lover and the fighter and asks what it means to hide in plain sight. It shows how society sees too much and responds too little. There’s death and rebirth, resurrection and murder, and Brock ties it up and presents it in a way that makes readers stop, and not only reread, or take another look at what he’s written or created, but start to ask questions as well. How do we, as people, as consumers, as artists, live, love, respond and die? And why does it matter? Mind you, he won’t give you the answers, but he’ll lead you down the path to find them; he’ll take your hand and show you the tragedies and the beauties that the world has to offer.
Totems and Taboos is a striking collaboration of art and poetry, and the two work together as they create and form intellectual battles of the brain and the heart. I know I’ve read something beautiful—something meaningful—when it makes me question the way I look at something, whether it is a political or social issue, or even a dream that I’d dismissed the night before. Good art—good literature—takes you to places that you might not want to go, and in the places that you do, shows you the sublime, the uncanny realities of what you missed at first glance.
So I implore you, take a walk through the wild, the esoteric. Look at the stars and read their messages. See the world, live in it and take chances. Look at the good, see the bad, and then understand how and why you feel the way you do.
And then—and maybe most importantly—react, respond.
Stephanie M. Wytovich
Brock, Jason V. Totems and Taboos. Cycatrix Press, 2005. Print