Grim Series: Poems
By Kristine Ong Muslim
Published by Popcorn Press, 128 pages
Reviewed by Francesca Forrest
Kristine Ong Muslim’s grim series are six: Conrad (poems of a macabre family, especially the eponymous Conrad), Giger’s Tracts (in which tourists signal the cultural gulf between visitors and natives), Muir’s Horses (with similar themes of unequal interaction, fear, and xenophobia—but bonus beautiful horse imagery), Vengeful Villagers (village gossip and skeletons in the closet—dialed up to 11), Body Horror (pretty much what it says on the tin, but with themes of identity and loss mixed in), and my personal favorite, Strangers. Within each series, ideas, characters, and even phrasings recur, but at new angles and in new combinations, so we can explore them more fully.
The imagery is always breathtaking, startling, and the action usually violent, often gruesome. Consider “How Conrad Fell in Love,” in which Conrad’s family tries to dissuade him:
”Conrad, honey,” mother cooed. “Love is only for humans.
You are somwhere up there in the food chain.
And that girl’s hair has clogged our drain pipe.”
Conrad bowed his head, and I knew that he would think about her
tonight, how she had clawed at him when he lifted off his face
and how she had called him a “monster, monster, ugly beast.”
I would drag that girl into the kitchen tonight, keep her alive
for a while, make her understand what monster love was all about.
(The next poem is titled “Conrad and His Bride,” so we have an idea how successful Conrad’s family’s efforts were.) read more