Edition 28: Poetry Book Review: Sacrificial Nights by Bruce Boston and Alessandro Manzetti
Reviewed by Lee Murray
Disclaimer: Lee Murray appeared on a conference panel with Alessandro Manzetti and subsequently received a copy of his poetry collection as an ARC for honest review.
I’ll admit, I know very little about poetry—I struggle to string a line together myself—but I have recently discovered some new-to-me poets, who have prompted me to take up reading it again, beginning with the collection Sacrificial Nights co-authored by Bruce Boston and Alessandro Manzetti. I had the pleasure of meeting Alessandro Manzetti at the HWA StokerCon 2016, where he became the first Italian winner of a coveted Bram Stoker Award. Co-writer Boston is also a Bram Stoker winner, so in the manner of tried-and-true recipes, I already had an inkling that this collection would be good.
With the exception of four reprinted poems, the offerings in Sacrificial Nights are original, arranged as a poetry-novella, so intended to be read sequentially to tell a story. It’s a gritty crime-noir kaleidoscope of sex and squalor and desperation played out by pimps and prostitutes, detectives and thieves. Victims. Some of the names repeat: Rose, Eugene, Marinella, Jean-Paul. We, the readers, stalk them in the night. Their journeys are depicted in the shadows and yet the imagery is as vivid as any Sharpie: I can see the “old posters of Gaugin”, detect the “scents of mango and pomegranate”, the smell of “gasoline and burning”, hear the “howling of the bulldozers”, and taste the “fresh, tasty freedom of the night”. The story’s narrators might change with each new poem, but in terms of the writing, I’m not always sure where Boston leaves off and Manzetti steps in, their poetry seamless in its connectivity.
Overall, it’s a ballad of a city’s underbelly and the characters who inhabit it like some “macabre theatre of a scene repeated endlessly, a grand Guignol of weary madness”.
I know, I know, this is cheating, using the poets’ own words to describe the collection, but if I do it myself it’s like trying to define water and only coming up with the word water. The thing is, Boston and Manzetti are economical, sparse, employing exactly the right words—and the perfect arrangement of words—to reveal the sordidness of an all too recognisable cityscape. So, I persist in stealing their phrases, because at the end of the day, the poets themselves say it best: Sacrificial Nights is a collection in which each of the poems “wants to be remembered” as it “struggles free from the tendrils of a dream” to “flow all together into/ another/ world and a different creation”. Highly recommended.
Interspecies (ed. Ally Bishop)