On the Subject of Blackberries
by Stephanie M. Wytovich
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Pub Date 21 Sep 2023 | Archive Date Not set
RDS Publishing, Raw Dog Screaming Press
Welcome to the garden. Here we poison our fruits, pierce ourselves with thorns, and transform under the light of the full moon. Mad and unhinged, we fall through rabbit holes, walk willingly into fairy rings, and dance in the song of witchcraft, two snakes around our ankles, the juice of berries on our tongues.
Inspired by Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, these poems are meditations on female rage, postpartum depression, compulsion, and intrusive thoughts. They pull from periods of sleep deprivation, soul exhaustion, and nightmarish delusions, and each is left untitled, a nod to the stream-of-conscious mind of a new mother.
Using found poetry and under the influence of bibliomancy, Wytovich harnesses the occult power of her imagery and words and aligns it with a new, more vulnerable, darkness. These pieces are not only visions of the madwoman in the attic, but ghostly visitations that explore the raw mental torture women sometimes experience after giving birth.
This collection heals as much as it scars, and is an honest look at how trauma seeps into the soil of our bodies. Her poems are imagined horrors, fictional fears, and all the unspoken murmurs of a mind lost between reality and dream. What she leaves in her wake is nothing short of horror—the children lost, the garden dead, the women feral, ready to pounce.
“This is a collection that is wandering the halls in the night with a candle threatening to go out. Wytovich taps into the brutal and magical experience of motherhood with poems that are lush and barbed, connecting the maternal with the feral in ways that are unexpected and unforgettable.” —Patricia Grisafi, PhD, author of Breaking Down Plath and Animal
“What witchcraft is this? These poems are somehow delicate as lace yet razor sharp. Lovely yet venomous. Visceral and emotional, eerie and honest. This collection is essential and in perfect conversation with Shirley Jackson’s Blackwood Sisters.” —Rachel Harrison, national bestselling author of Cackle and Black Sheep
"Stephanie Wytovich’s On the Subject of Blackberries is an uncomfortable collection. Petal-pressed and pulsing with politeness, her poetry is unflinching in its honesty, each poem a bewitchingly beautiful slurp at the horror of motherhood. A devastating work." —Lee Murray, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, co-author of Tortured Willows
"On the Subject of Blackberries is a birth announcement, a lullaby, a eulogy. It is the beautiful, yet painful tangled parts of transformation. Wytovich conjures a sympathetic magic spell, and stands firm as one of the masters of speculative poetry." —Cynthia Pelayo, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Crime Scene
“The poems in this collection are as decadent and surprising as blackberries themselves: often succulent and sometimes tart, always potent enough to leave a stain. Stephanie Wytovich is synonymous with dark poetry.” –Lindy Ryan, Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor of Into the Forest and author of Bless Your Heart
"With sugar, shadow, and verses sharp as thorns, On the Subject of Blackberries will become a sacred text to everyone whose teen witch phase grew into an unapologetic lifestyle. Inspired by We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Wytovich channels Merricat with all her complex shapes & secrets, creating a collection that haunts you long after you set it down. Every poem left me breathless, and more deeply bewitched."—Jessica McHugh, 2x Bram Stoker Award® Nominated author, The Quiet Ways I Destroy You
“Wytovich uses symbols like poisoned fruit and burned houses to interpret her battle with postpartum depression, resurfaced trauma, and maternal terror over her newborn. This ten-chapter poem is full of potent imagery that I can only describe as horrible/beautiful. We get a terrifying glimpse of the violent and despairing movie that flickers behind the eyes of someone trying to hold onto or find a reason to continue. Devastatingly honest and terrifyingly pure, the prose exposes us to firestorms of rage, guilt, and shame that hide behind silent suffering. We feel the authentic struggle not to succumb to the shadow. Wytovich finds beauty in the wound as much as in the freshly healed scar, and it is that acceptance of the darkness which adjusts our focus and changes our perspective on emotional and physical trauma. Her brutal honesty makes this work engaging, provocative, and healing. That is some profound magic to put on the page.”—Scott Bradley, Podcaster, Owner Hellbent for Horror
"Dark, lovely, and brutal, these poems are a tribute to Shirley Jackson and a hymn for the inner Blackwood sister who resides in all of us. Fans of gothic horror will devour Wytovich’s stunning collection in one sitting."—Jessica Drake-Thomas, author of Burials and Bad Omens
“Wytovich discloses the festering secrets of her darkest thoughts with the inevitable doom of Emily Dickinson and the dread-infused paranoia of Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart.’ Recommended for lovers of the exquisitely macabre.”—Lee Allen Howard, author of The Covenant Sacrifice
“A haunting collection that blends urgency alongside the myth of pastoral, the supernatural, and the body. Stephanie Wytovich’s collection is a cacophony of seeking out darkness in light and light in darkness. Each line comes together in a dazzling cemetery of selves—past and present—seeking a rebirth into something truly extraordinary. If Wytovich’s words are a match, then this book is the flame.” —Stephanie Valente, author of Internet Girlfriend
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Average rating from 50 members
If there is any sort of divine influence then I am certain this book was meant to find me. This author is new to me, but we have some things in common. Birth trauma & having a baby during a pandemic, mental illness, therapy, occult interests, comfort in horror, writing. The comfort I found in horror after giving birth involved Shirley Jackson, though not We Have Always Lived In the Castle. It has been a wide range of horror, with my most read author being Stephen King. I have found it funny that going through these experiences I found comfort reading books by a man who was very much a product of his time (he has improved on this since the 80s - since his sobriety). When I read books written by men (including King) I often feel the need to cleanse my palette. This is the perfect little palette cleanser. Now I'm off to read Jackson & I will be looking for more of this author's work
"I laugh in red, the first
Symptom of violence."
~ On the Subject of Blackberries
"On the Subject of Blackberries" is a captivatingly grotesque collection of speculative poetry. The poems maintain a delicate balance between a gothic undertone and saccharine sentiments, revealing the intricacies of an emotional journey in a visceral manner. This anthology of poems is delivered with an unflinching honesty. The poems skilfully interweave of darkness and warmth , creating a symphony that vividly portrays the nuances of postpartum depression. Undoubtedly, the muse of this polite horror is a wounded beauty named motherhood. The verses strikingly conveys the raw, feral and bittersweet elements of this paradoxically beautiful and violent blessing. The collection manages to encapsulate both the gothic and rhapsodic essence of newfound motherhood, forming a cohesive landscape where these seemingly contrasting elements coexist harmoniously. Ultimately, these verses intricately weave a tapestry of emotions, providing a vivid and impactful exploration of the multifaceted nature of motherhood. This achievement stands as a remarkable, albeit haunting, testament to the power of poetic expression.
Thank you to the publisher NetGalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review!
I absolutely loved this collection of poetry. I admittedly do not read a lot of poetry, but I devoured all of these. I think a big part of that was that fact that the inspiration to Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle was very apparent. You could feel the raw emotion radiating off the page and I only wish there were more!
This was delectably dark, twisted, and full of gory metaphors. The author forced us to dive in and experience this ruinous carnage. It was super quick but most definitely stuck out! I’d love to read more in this form.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eACR in exchange for an honest review.
This is a beautiful and grotesque collection of poetry.
It's dark and feral, gothic and unhinged.
A short read, but some of those lines are going to stick with me. I really liked it.