“When it comes to razor sharp wit, unapologetic violence, and steamy, sensuous, sometimes breathtaking eroticism, Stephanie M. Wytovich is matchless.”
Stephanie M. Wytovich has been in the dark poetry business for quite some time now. With several previous collections under her belt, including the Bram Stoker Award nominated, An Exorcism of Angels, she has shown herself to be a prodigious and quite prolific young author with a flair for the dark and daring, taking on subjects that some consider taboo and that other poets might balk at. Her newest collection, Brothel, is filled end to end with subjects that other poets might balk at.
Stephanie M. Wytovich has a well of darkness inside her that is as deep and wide as Nietzsche’s abyss and as unfathomable as the cosmos. And while this might seem like a bad thing when described thusly, it’s actually just the opposite because the thing that Stephanie turns her darkness into is something poignant, beautiful, and lasting, both in your heart and in your mind. She brings a level of sophistication, intelligence, and pure, raw emotion that’s rare in a young author, but all the more refreshing for it. She also has an intriguing and unique approach to putting a collection of poetry together, working to a particular “theme” that she calls her muse. In her collection, Hysteria, that muse was insanity, and in Mourning Jewelry it was, to state the obvious, mourning jewelry. In her latest collection, her muse is Madam XXX. Here’s an introduction to the Madam from Stephanie’s author’s note:
“The Madam and I met a year ago under less than savory circumstances at a rest stop in Ohio. I was half-asleep in the back of my car, looking for a new muse, looking for something or someone to take me to places and put me in situations that I hadn’t experienced before, and when she showed up on the side of the road in a red dress with a knife in her hands, I knew we were in for an adventure. Together, we studied pleasure, mastered pain. She showed me what Heaven could be, and I showed her what Hell was. We were the perfect combination of sadism and masochism.”
In Brothel, Wytovich follows the Madam down a path of relationships and correlations between love and abuse, pleasure and pain, death and orgasm, taking us to places our minds might never have travelled on their own, painting painful, sometimes shocking, and always beautiful pictures in shades of blood scarlet, her language concise and straightforward, her imagery intensely vivid and starkly personal:
“I hated myself a little bit more every day, but I saw
no other way out of this; everything became too
much, and when it became too much, I broke, broke
harder and into more pieces than I ever had before.”
Excerpt from ‘Drink, Drank, Drunk’.
Wytovich looks at hard subjects and does so with the unflinching gaze of a master painter studying her model, taking in every detail and presenting it to us in all it’s sharp, bloody, and sometimes murderous glory, never veering from the blunt and the brutal as she follows the Madam through the hallways, rooms, and BDSM torture chambers of the Brothel. Almost gleefully, she addresses themes of abuse and humiliation and, sometimes—you can almost see her mischevous smile in these instances—revenge and redemption:
“I hated this weak, rag doll costume, despised
the way they’d come when I screamed, when I
flinched, when I bled, and so the next
time they hit me, I hit them back. And some of them
never got up.”
When it comes to razor sharp wit, unapologetic violence, and steamy, sensuous, sometimes breathtaking eroticism, Stephanie M. Wytovich is matchless. Her language is that of a master wordsmith with a sense of self-awareness that’s rare in even the most grizzled of veterans. She is a poet with a soul as old as the universe and all the tools she needs to describe her worlds to you and, in Brothel, as in all her collections she demonstrates an attribute that all great authors and poets have: the ability to constantly improve and impress with her authorial performances. Brothel is the best book she’s published so far, and that’s saying a lot considering the fact that everything she’s written is remarkable. If you’re a fan of dark poetry—or poetry of any kind, really—you can’t go wrong with the intensely beautiful, emotionally charged poetry of Stephanie M. Wytovich.
In closing, we’d like to share the following poem with you in its entirety. It’s a poem that’s exemplary of Stephanie’s unique style and of this entire collection.
I shoved my pride down my throat,
swallowed my past, shut my eyes;
it hurt to breathe with all that death in my lungs,
with all that cemented regret,
those unfelt feelings that I kept disregarding,
kept running past,
and the taste of him still sits on my tongue,
souring my memories
with murder and sex
and I wonder if I’ll digest it all soon,
if I’ll break down his heart with anger and acid,
let him dissolve inside my corpse,
Note: ‘Deep Throat’, as well as all the quotes used in this review, are copyrights of Stephanie M. Wytovich and have been reprinted here with the author’s permission.
SHANE DOUGLAS KEENE
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
Release Date: 19 May 2016
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