BOOK REVIEW: ‘Witch Hunt’ by Juliet Escoria

Witch Hunt book
Witch Hunt Cover art
Cover Provided by the Author

If you’re the kind of reader who likes nature poetry paralleling human turmoil or drawing our attention away from it, this isn’t the book for you.

If you’re fussy about meter and like to have easily caught rhymes in the line end, look elsewhere.

If, however, you’re up for an honest and evocative exploration of self harm, substance abuse and relationship breakdown, as well as geographical and cultural displacement, Juliet Escoria’s ‘Witch Hunt‘ from Lazy Fascist Press will be right up your street.

It would be easy for me to write a dismissive review from a ‘this might be good therapy for the author, but is it really poetry?’ template.  But that would disregard the breadth of techniques employed here – the visual and semi concrete techniques of ‘How to Talk to Ghosts’ and ‘Inner Monologue’; the sequence of pithy, sharp ‘Haiku for Horse Haters’ and the hard hitting prose poetry of ‘All I’m Asking for is Perfection’ and ‘Anxiety Attacks’, the closing sequence of the book.

It would also be a deep injustice to the breathtaking honesty offered here.  ‘Witch Hunt’ takes us from teenage fantasies of Axl Rose to post reading breakdowns in West Virginia.

Along the way, we meet eight ex-boyfriends, of rapidly deteriorating quality from a lowly starting point, who exhibit violence and hatred alongside addiction problems.  We meet two mid west brothers doomed to take their own lives.  Juliet leads us by the hand past suicide attempts, overdoses, mental hospitals and suspected date rapes.  During the reading of Witch Hunt, I have had to Google three separate drugs of varying intensity and legality.

In many ways, I hope a lot of the scenes in this collection are imagined.  But as a piece, truth screams from every line. I like that.  And there are nuggets of hope. It seems to me that along with the looking for love, the intoxication, the therapy and the traveling in this book the writing is a way for Escoria to find herself.  And it might just have worked.  Either way, she certainly found me.  And that is one experience I won’t forget in a hurry.

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