Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare
Stephanie M. Wytovich
Raw Dog Screaming Press
December 15, 2017
reviewed by Brian James Lewis
It’s no secret that I dig dark poetry, so getting the chance to review this collection by Stephanie M. Wytovich was a nightmare come true! I’m sure you know what I mean with that phrase, but if you don’t, it will soon become apparent. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare published by Raw Dog Screaming Press is not your average poetry collection. If you foolishly think that all poetry is hearts, flowers, and things that rhyme, you better pick another book before you either have a meltdown or lock yourself in a closet. Wytovich is opening the door to her mind and daring us to look inside. Make no mistake, this is NOT a frivolous invitation. We’re allowed in with stern warnings about what we will find in those dark, blood-tinged recesses and to beware of Jolene.
Who’s Jolene? Isn’t this book of poems written by Stephanie? Well…Yes and No. Jolene is Wytovich’s muse, something that is different for every writer and artist. Some folks become very jolly when they are creating new work because their muse is a happy one. Blah Blah Blah! You can’t shut these smiley faced mofos up! Unless you bury an axe in their skull, but that’s kind of messy and the whole prison thing is a downer. Others of us like to work alone in quiet places. We need to hear the faint screams and think about how tricky a knife is to hold when covered in blood. Jolene arrives most often at these times to sing her songs and sink her teeth into the dead. She also protects Stephanie because without her host, Jolene will not exist.
To quote the back cover Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare was written “during a time when the road was her home.” And it shows. When reading Wytovich’s work you can feel the melancholy, fear, screaming frustration, and even the orgasms. You are lost on some highway with Stephanie and Jolene waiting for a fat, hairy truck driver to give you a ride. Will you give him a ride in return or jam an icepick into his neck and take all his money? Just another rube killed by a lot lizard. Yeah, this is THAT kind of poetry!
Come on, let’s get between the sheets…of paper that contain her powerful words. Wytovich’s use of imagery to make an ordinary item exceptionally creepy happens in 395 Miles to Memories. Check this:
“The steering wheel holds a toothless grin.
Black gums beneath rotting lips,
It laughs louder with each mile I drive;”
Feel that? This woman is driving away from something while her brain bashes her over the head with a metal folding chair. She thinks about what she’s left behind luridly, but as the distance increases so does the physical until it fades into a ghost. Haven’t you been in that spot at least once in your life? If not yet, you will be.
In On the Other Side of the Glass we are possibly dealing with a ghost. After committing suicide over being cruelly abandoned by her lover, the writer finds herself in a glass prison reminiscent of Alice in Through the Looking Glass. But instead of being in a place where everything is backwards and all the characters are full of whimsy, the woman in this poem is trapped in a frightening space full of other dead things frozen to immobility. Not the desired end result.
This is poetry and also a confessional for Wytovich. A sharing of the burdens held by so many of us who have been used and abused in exchange for unstable “safety” The world is not a kind place. No, it’s a bastard that wants us to fail. It will encourage us to stab ourselves in the eye, slit our wrists, and blow off our own heads with a shotgun.
If you fail to kill yourself, is that a good thing to celebrate or just another damn mistake you should be punished for? There are many people who will be most happy to punish you whether you need it or not. Even if you finally end yourself and achieve what you thought you desired, the quiet nirvana of death is easily shattered. In the poem “Under Take Her” a creepy embalmer gets his kicks with a woman he’s just prepared for viewing. No respect for the recently deceased here! Some people just don’t care where their orgasms come from. There shouldn’t be any children-but just imagine if there are. Demonic bloodless things seeking to share their gift of death-Jolene would be so proud!
I highly recommend Stephanie M. Wytovich’s book Sheet Music to my Acoustic Nightmare to everyone who enjoys poetry that is emotionally charged. Yes, it is dark, speculative work. But it is also a mirror of the human condition. Romances that collapse or cause partners to run away, the desire to kill anyone who’s tried to hurt you, sex that turned sour and deadly. This is as real as it gets, readers! Does anyone else hear music or see a shrouded figure coming their way? I’d tell you to run but, according to the author, it’s already too late.