A review of poetry zine Heavy Creatures by Milo Gallagher & Emma Post

creaturesHeavy Creatures, a new poetry zine from Milo Gallagher and Emma Post, takes popular mythology, horror tropes, and even cryptozoology legends and turns them on their heads, employing them as metaphors and lens through which to exam human frailty. In the collection’s opening piece“Boy Seagull,” the poet sits in the dunes and watches the titular being wheel through the air, “A boy who hatched in blue half-light, // out of the seeming nowhere, from an egg as round and perfect / as every night that doesn’t leave you wanting.” The poem looks at the boy’s loneliness, the trash he thinks are gems, the pain of feathers breaking through the skin and “the new cracks in his gull-cry.” Throughout the collection we are given this mashup of monstrous imagery with the insecurities and fears of human adolescence (and adulthood, which is not so different).

Even when the character at the center of a poem is dangerous and threatening, we still see their wounded heart behind the fangs and warts. A giant plans to eat two greedy girls, and their distant sister wonders about how easy it would be to join him. Uneasiness about a mother who isn’t like the other, perfectly-coiffed mothers uses the El Chupacabra myth as a way to create a sort of alternate origin story. Hansel and Gretel become a prism through which to examine gender and its constraints, and the witches who threaten them become a symbol of freedom and self-confidence:

“at midnight her coven drops by,
dressed the way you and i dress in our dreams,
draped in jewels and fox-fur,
their cackles loud and unafraid

they are not confused at all
they know exactly what they are”

One of the most poignant poems of the collection is the second to last, “Paleontology.” This prose poem looks back at childhood, at pretending to dig for dinosaur bones in the winter snow. The entire tone of the poem is haunting in its perverse blend of melancholy and nostalgia.

“Another ice-colored winter. Me and Agam go digging for dinosaur bones. It’s cold in the Fertile Crescent this time of year, and slow going because we both have gloves on. He frowns and mutters. We toothbrush away the dirt, arrange sharp black shark’s teeth into galaxies. Flat rocks we stack in a pile to pray to later.”

The two adventurers walk back to their neighboring houses, say goodnight, and go inside. “Dreams happen…I am box of bones. I am a box of light.” In their separate rooms, these two are a security to each other, keeping each other anchored to the world, keeping each other seen and found, when outside the frame of the poem one imagines there are forces that would erase them, blur them. It’s a fantastic poem, in that it generates a strong emotional reaction for anyone whose childhood was stained with both dreams and melancholy, but also in that it’s impossible to precisely pinpoint how it does this. There is no magic line or summary. It’s just damn good poetry.

If you have the opportunity, pick up Heavy Creatures. It’s a poetry zine of uncommon quality and maturity.

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