cover image The Hatch

The Hatch

Joe Fletcher. Brooklyn Arts, $18 (114p) ISBN 978-1-936767-54-0

Fletcher conjures a dizzying array of fantastical and macabre imagery in his debut collection, which features lyric narratives and flash fictions that evoke the original versions of the Grimms’ fairy tales, Pagan rituals, and horror films. His speakers chronicle violently losing limbs, being buried alive, and receiving sustenance from “dripping forests/ of meat trees.” One speaker is summoned into a van by gray-faced strangers, while another witnesses the trial and execution of a cow for some unnamed and unpardonable crime. The title poem centers on a character, referred to as “The student,” finding a disembodied but animate human head in a pile of leaves. Fletcher deals in common horror tropes (“A red-haired clown slumped/ atop a wall beside the monastery”), but his vague suggestions (“Something danced through the windy forest”) are often the most unsettling. Structural variations keep the collection interesting, and Fletcher impresses with his sense of rhythm and use of alliteration: “Nightlong the sickly sea sludged/ against the sagging sea-wall.” A poem called “Hoopoe Balm” describes a mysterious plant in arresting and confounding detail, with leaves shimmering in the wind “like champagne at the feast of the Queen of Sheba” and a scent “like the spit of a tubercular child.” Fletcher’s inventive and technically proficient collection is as wicked as it is weird. [em](June) [/em]