by David Wasserman.
Picture Dorian Gray sulking aboard the ghost ship in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", then performing magic with Edgar Allan Poe in "The Prestige" and you have some idea of the feeling of Duckworth’s "Black Rose Immortal: A Horror in Verse". The unsettling, otherworldly premise is grounded by verse and a gritty setting—the combination works to pull the reader into the story and keep them there until the glass-shattering end.
Duckworth takes a risk creating such a long verse poem. With modern poetry painting most pages of newer lit mags, "Black Rose Immortal: A Horror in Verse" could feel out-of-place, stuffy and old. Thankfully, the poem is accessible and more along the lines of recent horror like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina than it is to Coleridge. For example, in this section Duckworth creates suspense and a clear plot without sacrificing his poetic language:
Trembling, he lifts a pewter cup of wine
To his lips. By yet another doorway
He stands. “What you shall see inside,” says he,
“No thing living should ever bear witness.”
He drains the cup & turns the key, the door
Creaks open & light into stale dark spills.
In the same way good, modern serial television shows develop characters and build upon narratives episode by episode, each line Duckworth writes invests the reader more, eventually leaving no choice but to binge the entire poem to find out what will happen next. The writing style has an antique feel, but not enough to distract or distance readers from the substance of the poem. The action always wins out over the form, as in this stanza:
By crude power, with iron bar the door
I bash, til oaken timbers bends & gives,
& through the breach light floods the secret store
A chamber obscure where Uncle’s sin lives -
This is perhaps Duckworth’s best achievement with the piece—that not far along into "Black Rose Immortal: A Horror in Verse" the reader stops noticing the rhythm and rhyme and keeps reading solely for the narrative. This is no small feat. Fans of gothic horror, poetic structure obsessives and those appreciative of good, solid stories will all be satisfied with "Black Rose Immortal: A Horror in Verse."