“Much of what gets published as ‘horror poetry’ is, alas, neither horrific nor poetic–but Rich Ristow’s Wood Life stands as a darkly triumphant exception. In this astonishing long poem Ristow takes us into the mind of ‘Danny Boy,’ a prolific serial killer. We get to know, in often graphic detail, of his obsessions and his crimes; but we also see the bewildered, tormented human being behind them, as Danny Boy reflects on his ‘congress of the killed’ and finds himself haunted by the ‘ghost hatred’ of his victims. Here is a poem of tremendous cumulative impact, with a main character as memorable as Robert Bloch’s Norman Bates or the psychopathic Quentin of Joyce Carol Oates’s Zombie. But make no mistake–Ristow is a true poet, and Wood Life is not only frightening, but frighteningly well written, with language and imagery that will haunt you long after you’ve closed the book. Ristow’s Wood Life is the real thing. I stand in awe.”

Christopher Conlon, author of Starkweather Dreams and Midnight on Mourn Street

In some dreams, Vanessa

stares

through all the windows

(simultaneously)

at grandma’s house – as if

she had ten identical twin sisters.

Each with black gums, each

mouthing

Oh, Danny Boy-

These lyrical and horrific lines by Rich Ristow, from his book-length poem “Wood Life,” hint broadly and with elegance at the poem’s major concerns–compulsion, death, and visitations and re-visitations by the graceful and the graceless victims of our first-person narrator, a man who can’t help himself, he must kill, Goddammit, though he can’t say why. I have never before read a poem, of any length, so elegantly horrific and lyrical and, at the same time, so accessible. This poem about a serial killer is a wonderful gift to dark poetry by a writer who’s rapidly becoming one of the genre’s major poets. I guarantee you won’t be able to put this volume down before you read its last horrific, lyrical, and elegant lines.

T.M. Wright–Author of the upcoming “Bone Soup” and the recently published “Blue Canoe”

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