Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem

Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem

by Harold Schechter
     
 

Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem is a spine-tingling collection of terrifically creepy poems about the deadly art of murder.

The villains and victims who populate these pages range from Cain and Abel and Bluebeard and his wives to Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper, and Mafia hit men. The literary forms they inhabit are just as varied, from the

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Overview

Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem is a spine-tingling collection of terrifically creepy poems about the deadly art of murder.

The villains and victims who populate these pages range from Cain and Abel and Bluebeard and his wives to Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper, and Mafia hit men. The literary forms they inhabit are just as varied, from the colorful melodramas of old Scottish ballads to the hard-boiled poetry of twentieth-century noir, from lighthearted comic riffs to profound poetic musings on murder. Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy, W. H. Auden, Stevie Smith, Mark Doty, Frank Bidart, Toi Derricotte, Lynn Emanuel, and Cornelius Eady are only a few of the many poets, old and new, whose work is captured in this heart-stopping—and criminally entertaining—collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307700933
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/06/2011
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
655,546
Product dimensions:
4.37(w) x 6.49(h) x 0.72(d)

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FOREWORD

Among the countless dazzling artifacts displayed at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are a trove of lethal weapons, ranging from ornately carved aboriginal war clubs to medieval crossbows decorated with engraved ivory panels to French flintlock rifles adorned with silver filigree. What’s most striking about these objects is not their beauty per se but how sheerly gratuitous that beauty is. After all, clubs, crossbows, and firearms kill just as efficiently without ivory inlays or Rococo silverwork. That the makers of these death-dealing implements devoted so much energy to their ornamentation reflects something vital about our species: our need to transmute our most savage instincts into art.

That paradoxical impulse is perfectly epitomized by the murder poem. Taking as its subject the very worst aspects of human nature – our propensity for crime, cruelty, and bloodshed – it shapes that disruptive material into order, wholeness, and meaning. There is, in fact, a wide range of aesthetic and emotional satisfactions to be derived from the selections in this volume. Some tell gripping stories of violence and retribution. Others offer insight into the workings of the psychopathic mind. Still others elicit pity and terror by putting us in the place of the victims. And some — by encouraging us to identify with the killers themselves — offer the vicarious thrill of the forbidden, reminding us of Plato’s dictum that ‘‘the virtuous man is content to dream what the wicked man actually does.’’ For all their variety, however, they share a need to confront and make sense of experiences, from serial murder to familicide, that defy rational comprehension. In doing so they perform the essential function of all true poetry, famously defined by Robert Frost as ‘‘a clarification of life . . . a momentary stay against confusion.’’

Harold Schechter
Kurt Brown

Meet the Author

Harold Schechter is a professor of American literature and culture at Queens College, CUNY, and the author of mystery novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe. He lives in New York City.

Kurt Brown is the author of four books of poetry and the editor of numerous anthologies. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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