"I’m gonna sing the Doom song now!"

Full disclosure*: Natalie Zina Walschots is a very good friend of mine. I actually made a sort-of rule never to write about my friends’ books, and at this point in my life, I know a lot of people with books. I consider it a real privilege to know them, and I will always buy your book, I will always come to your launch (if I’m not in Paris, sorry Dani!!). But to write about your book, when I know you? Too hard. Too responsible. Too nit-picky. But this started as a Goodreads review that got away from me. So here, friends, is what I think of Doom: Love Poems for Supervillains.  

Doom is a loving taxonomy, geography, and pathology of villainy. The way Natalie places her words creates texture and sensation, and twice I lost my breath reading (“Beef” and “Purgatory”). The language of Doom is sexual and scientific both. Tricky territories each; often writers who delve into them veer to shock value in the first and wild error in the second. Natalie does neither. Rather, she communicates to the recipient of each love poem (and to the reader) that beauty is only skin deep. These opponents to all that is Good are often violently marked, superficially ugly (“forget naked”, “a face only a geneticist could love” – “Doombot“). The parts, then, become the sum: dendrites and keloids, loving like “gamete and spore” “longing for polyploidy lethal multiplicity” (“Fusion”).

In “Beef,” a poem written not to a character, but a disease, the host swoons into

a           mind         full   of   prion   ic    ho   le      s

It takes a lot of balls to write a love poem to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.  The poems in Doom must, as their inspirations demand, disturb. The back-stories of super-villains are rarely cute. “Clayface” is just that, something having gone wrong in an operating room: “their graft left you semipermiable / wet membrane.” That is a sticky image that hurts my cheeks. In “Mr. Freeze” “my core hoards warmth/ for romantic debridement”. Any time I hear or read that word, “debridement” (warning, the picture on that link is really gory, and kind of speaks to my terror), I have an instant horror scenario play out in my head. So it’s stunning to me someone could conjoin it with “romantic.” And yet, there are deeply sensual poems, like “Green Goblin”

my tongue to Lycra
                your ear fricative
                as liquid latex

                your every cleft a stretch
                my every thrust
a rubber gumball

or the poem spoken by the personified “Stryker’s Island”:

my fault lines oozing magama
you ease my tectonic plates apart

you finger each steaming caldera
kiss each metamorphic plane

And “General Zod” is everything you’d expect a poem about a mean guy in black leather to be.

I was trepidatious about reading Doom, as it is necessarily inter-textual; the characters all exist in previous works. My frame of reference is totally lacking and so I thought my understanding would be impaired. Now I realise that not knowing who these mythical and comic/graphic-novel baddies are might be a really interesting way to approach them. If all you have is Natalie’s word on the subject, you’re going to believe her; the poems in Doom are just that confident.  

Scarecrow 
you branded my amygdala 
laser inscribed on my hippocampus 
your drunken boxing 
     batters my limbic system 
     a vicious chemical imbalance 
you shake and secrete 
my chemically ravaged decoy 
mawkish flayer 
my jointless scare-all 
my trigger 
Doom, (36)

*Fuller disclosure: This is also the first time I’ve been in an acknowledgement section, and if anyone had walked by my office when I saw that, they would have seen a teary sniffly person! 
**I’ve tried to recreate the spacing that is so integral to poetry, but it’s sometimes a bit tough to do in HTML, and “compose” boxes. I suggest you go buy the book for the full effect. I also tend to fuck up transcription so any spelling errors are solely my own.

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