Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'The Configuration Discordant' by John Baltisberger (2020)
I was told there would be Kaiju?
I don’t normally do poetry. Like your typical ‘cain wagger,’ I don’t get it, and I’m not sure I even want it. If you’re going to ryme or rap, fucking throw a beat behind it.
That being said, like your typical goth, I did dig Poe.
What can I say, not terribly original, but there’s a reason why people know who Poe is. The man could make you shiver with his words. He wrote a fucking poem where a man begs for his life while he’s bricked up alive. I didn’t need to get poetry to understand Poe. Which I guess means Poetry isn’t something you get, it’s something you feel, or some cliche garbage like that.
Let me just start by saying, I did enjoy The Configuration Discordant. While there were actually very few poems I enjoyed over all, the ones that I did, I fucking loved. And I’ll be honest, I don’t even know why. The most important part being, I actually HATE poetry. I find it boring, where in, almost nothing about it is entertaining. Even if it’s horror poetry. Most poems just make me roll my eyes in the first couple lines. I can’t take it seriously so I immediately move on. That means, if the author of these poems gets me to stop and actually read them, they’ve accomplished a feat that literally only two poets ever have in my life. That, in of itself, is an accomplishment they can ware like a fucking badge of honor.
And before you write off the words of a cynical poetry hater, let me explain why that’s important. If this book of poetry can get curmudgeonly laymen like me to even so much as chuckle, but importantly, KEEP READING, maybe that can help introduce poetry to a new generation who are still on the fence about it.
I do recommend The Configuration Discordant to my Horror Head fans and general audiences. If you're thinking about giving it a go, just click the link: The Configuration Discordant
So let me give a brief description of why I like each of the poems that I do.
Begging for me: This is just brutal. But importantly, there is a rhythm to it that makes it exciting. There’s a tension to this rhythm that builds in the narrator's thoughts and drives the poem beautifully.
My Form: I think I like it because I don’t think it’s poetry. It really seems like micro flash. But it’s a fun description of a wear lizard. This could easily be the start of an actual story. It excites the imagination and what more is poetry supposed to do.
The Laughter: Anything that can be described as the lunatic ravings of a mad person is okay in my book.
The Courtroom: I read this five times and still cocked my head like a terrier pup being told to sit. But here’s what’s significant about that... I read it five times. The court of nature’s cruelty is unbiased.
A Drop of Passage: I’m sure the imagery in this poem is going to cause me to have a fever dream at some point.
Six Little Campers: This was fucking cute. This could be a poem in a kids book.
Remember my Lovers: I really got a tickle for a lot of the poems at this point. I’ll admit, I might have been skipping those that were actually good and enjoying silly ones like this. But then again, I don’t know shit about poems.
The Family: Speak sweet nothings of cannibalism into my ear. This was actually clever. I could hear the tune of Be Our Guest in the background.
Imposter Syndrome: This is actually a very compelling read. I actually wish it was a bit longer. I feel like it had more to say. It’s as close to Poe as I’ve read in a long time.
Watasumi: I feel like this should have been a haiku. But a poem about a Japanese water dragon is still pretty awesome.
Jinsei-ei for a Mad Monk: Into what?!? SPIT IT OUT MAN!!!
No Head: A limerick about a dullahan. Fantastic.
The Thing in the Room: There was a childhood book of poems that I love very much. This poem is like those poems all grew up and started murdering children in their sleep...
The City Above Sheol: This could be the prelude to a story about a demonic underground city. It’s inspiringly dark.
Cadenza: Starts the theme of Kaiju based poetry off pretty strong. In my review of Coverfields, I brought up the problem with modern Kaiju losing its horror element. What it needed, and why Cloverfield was so brilliant, is a way to reconnect the audience with the sense of helplessness such a creature should inspire. These poem inspires that same connection of helplessness.
The Rest of the Kaiju Poetry: The poems pretty much stopped being separate things at this point and started becoming numbered movements about the rise of monsters. Devastating, unstoppable creatures with alien motivations. Are they intent on destroying us, or are we just in the way? I’d like to call back to H. G. Wells depictions of the invaders. They didn’t see us as enemies. More like weeds to be removed, or termites to be exterminated. They didn’t even consider us or our humanity. If anything, they looked at us as potential mulch.
The poem about Quetzalcoatl is a good example of that kind of terror. You would sooner explain why a tsunami wants to destroy everything in its path. That’s just what it does. And if you’re in the way, you're going to die.
These words are a part of what Kaiju has been missing. The audience, or the reader, can’t feel that helplessness in the macro. Only when staring up at the massive coils, preparing to pulverize the life out of your body, can you truly get the right perspective. All you can do is pick a direction to run, and hope it’s a different direction than the creature intends to step, or swing it’s massive tail. Maybe you’ll even pick the right direction and still manage to be crushed by a piece of debris that just happened to get hurled dozens of miles in your direction.
Because poetry is about what the reader feels, and Kaiju horror needs you to feel helpless to be executed properly, this combination in poems like Quetzalcoatl are actually quite devastating.
Each monster is a new and staggering depiction of an unstoppable force that you can only survive. Even if you're not a fan of poetry, I would highly suggest reading the last section of this book for the Kaiju alone. They're not unlike gods that simply need proper respect and your undivided attention if you want to survive them.
About The Author
John Baltisberger: The Mad Austin Poet, when not writing Kaiju Horror poetry, John can be found reading through the slush piles and submissions as the editor of Madness Heart Press. He spends his time squirreled away fervently working on the next book, only taking breaks to record episodes of Madness Heart Radio and Wandering Monster, or to eat, or to play with puppies. John lives with his patient and gorgeous wife Desiree, and maniacal and powerful daughter Aziza.