If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse by Wrath James White REVIEW
A collection of poems about love, sex, misanthropy, and death from horror author Wrath James White
“Through violence and decadence,
I became what I am
In blood and sex and viscera
I emerged as a man”
Extreme horror author Wrath James White has written several novels and short stories but has also dabbled in poetry. If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse collects several of White’s previously published poems in addition to two short stories. This isn’t White’s first poetry collection, though the first one, Vicious Romantic, is out of print.
More than any other horror author I can think of, White is well suited to poetry. In his novels and stories, his greatest strength is his raw emotion. Even in his most flawed stories a deep sense of anger or despair still comes through. Further, White often uses specific poetic forms throughout the book, haiku and choka especially, and the structures help far more than they hamper the deep emotions that Wrath seeks to spill out.
The themes of many of the poems are love and eroticism. Kink is heavily woven into his erotic poems, often making explicit references to S&M and juxtaposing violent imagery with sex. The poem from which the title of the book is take, simply called “Untitled #2,” is about admiring a lover’s body to the point of wanting to become one with them using violent metaphors. Several poems use similar imagery such as “The End of It All” and “Facial,” both of which are about merging with the body of a lover in a violent manner.
Several of the poems are more literally about S&M. “At the Dinner Table on Christmas Day,” is a haiku about a lover showing her bruise as a reminder of their intimacy in the same way a wink or blowing a kiss would be to others. “Sometimes,” the poem that closes the collection, is about the pleasure a dominate finds in whipping his submissive.
The first of the stories, “Her Nightmare,” reads like a piece of BDSM erotica through most of it. The story ends on a dark twist, making into a dark piece of erotic horror. This is probably my least favorite piece in the book. While the intensity of the sex comes through in White’s prose, the twist ending is clumsy and hackneyed. The story also feels out of place, reading too much like a straightforward story to fit in a collection of poetry.
The other story, “Perpetual Motion,” is a better story and fits the book better. The narrative is more surreal, being about a man in type of dreamlike who keeps seeing his past lovers in bed with him, making it read more like a prose poem. Despite the many women the man has had as one night stands, girlfriends, and even wives, none have stayed with him very long. Every time he blinks, another of of his past loves appear in his bed next to him, forcing him to relive the pain of losing each one. His longing for a real, deep connection is so powerful, he decides to gouge his eyes out to stop them from disappearing.
Not every poem here is about love and sex, but they remain just as intense. “The Last Cabbage Patch Doll” is a narrative poem about a man who is murdered for taking the last of a popular doll from a department store on Black Friday. It’s a sad and despairing observation of stupid human cruelty. Other poems, such as “The Milk of Human Depravity” and “Our Sick Declining Years” continue this theme of disgust for the depths of which humanity will often sink.
One problem I have with the book is that arrangement of the poems and stories seems somewhat arbitrary. There are enough poems with similar themes to have divided the book based on them, but instead it just arranged them in no particular order. For example, I find no reason why the S&M poem “Sometimes” should end the collection when several of the poems right before it were on more general horror themes.
If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse is an intense, brutal, erotic, and often disturbing collection of poetry and prose. Fans of horror who don’t usually enjoy poetry will get a lot out it, especially those who already enjoy Wrath James White’s work. Others may find the graphic imagery too much to handle, but this book is more than rewarding for those who can.
Review copy provided