"The Apocalyptic Mannequin" Book Review

Written by Gabino Iglesias

Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press

the apocalyptic mannequin stephanie m wytovich poster large

Written by Stephanie M. Wytovich
2019, 114 pages, Fiction
Released on September 26th, 2019


Stephanie Wytowich’s poetry comes to us from the future. She has seen what awaits us all, and it’s a world of gas masks, poison, mushroom clouds, radiated creatures, no breathable air, monsters, slashed throats, and burned cities. Her words are beautifully arranged, but they are poetic wounds. Post-apocalyptic poetry is a glimpse of what’s to come, and what Wytovich shows us in The Apocalyptic Mannequin, her latest collection, isn’t pleasant. However, we keep going back to it the way we’d go back to a gorgeous killer despite the possibility of getting hurt; the way we go back to all our vices despite knowing that road doesn’t lead to long-term happiness. Yeah, we go back because these poems pull us back with their dark visions and gorgeous form and the cinematic horror they present:

The television went to static, each channel
a group of wiggling maggots, their white bodies
gyrating on the screen in a parasitic orgy while
sirens screamed through the town, a dying banshee
raking her nails against our throats.

The type of poems Wytovich offers in this collection would probably turn repetitive in less capable hands. Furthermore, many poets would opt to focus on just a few of the most shocking elements presented here. Wytovich does no such thing. Yes, this is a collection rife with corpses, debris, desperation, pain, charred flesh, and polluted lungs. However, right below the surface, there is a lot of humanity. People want to go on living. There’s memory and sex, hunger and sounds reminiscent of music, magic and attempts to kill loneliness.

I understand a lot of readers say they don’t like poetry, but that’s usually because they’ve been exposed to boring poetry. This is totally different. These poems are tiny narratives contained in one or two pages. They are tales of death, destruction, and survival, and all of them can be devoured incredibly quickly. To give you an idea of how good this is, I ended up reading a poem from it out loud in the work room at my day gig. I’ll also share it with you here. Here’s “Ground Zero”:

Beneath the soil of radioactive craters,
there’s a whispering, a shudder of air
still warm from the blast, its breath
a death note, an incurable disease
begging to be inhaled.

Fear its body: the way it stands tall,
invisible, a mirage that wields
your DNA like a serrated knife
against a calf ’s throat.

Is it inside you yet?

Because it will call to you first,
taunt you with its glow, a neon wink
against a desert rose, this taste an oasis
buried in the bodies of disfigured corpses,
their tongues, a burnt family portrait,
their eyes, a dripping kitchen sink.

Walk carefully: each step
is a dusting with death, a chance
to lick the air that killed hundreds,
to taste the heat that brought them
screaming and begging to their knees.

Can you still hear them?

The children of mushroom clouds
are laughing, their voices like smoke,
like cancer and baby teeth, a clattering
of bone meal and unanswered prayers
left hanging in the wind.

Listen close: their obituaries float
overhead like misshapen torsos,
like deformed hands unable, but
determined, to grab.

Do they have you yet?

Dark, sure, but also brilliant and playful. And this combination is something that Wytovich does time and again in this amazing, dark collection. She can promise death in one poem and then break your heart a little in the next one as she shows you a man who uses a mannequin to combat loneliness.

While The Apocalyptic Mannequin can easily be read as entertaining poetry about what comes after the end, it can also be read as an invitation to prevent that end, a call to action, a polite, gruesome request to do something about the future while there’s still time. I think you should listen to it, and the only way to hear what it has to say is by reading it. Do it…before we run out of time.


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US
Buy from Amazon UK

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