Thursday, November 06, 2014

Helen Marshall's "The Sex Lives of Monsters"

This year's winner of the Elgin Award in the Chapbook category was Helen Marshall's "The Sex Lives of Monsters" from Kelp Queen Press.

"The Sex Lives of Monsters," is comprised of four sections: "Blind," "Domestic Affairs," "Before We Were Lost," and the Rhysling-nominated cycle "The Collected Postcards of Billy the Kid."

Her poem "Beautiful Monster" is a visceral treat that previews her style. Some of the more immediately recognizable figures you'll meet include Bigfoot, gorgons, Bluebeard, Leda, Hansel and Gretel. What might we conclude of the sex lives of monsters? She ably challenges us to consider if they are really so different from those of humans, with all of their longing, yearning and loneliness. What is a human to do when faced with a monster's sense of passion and the mysteries of the erotic? Are they truly so alien, or are they, perhaps, too familiar for comfort. "The Collected Postcards of Billy the Kid" provides a stunning and fitting close to this compelling meditation.

Her collection is thorough without kitchen-sinking the premise, with many, many nice squishy bits to romp through and remember. Helen Marshall could easily have expanded this into a grand encyclopedic work, probing every shadowed corner and forbidden carnal cranny as she encourages us to wonder about the intimate moments of the world's mythic menaces.  But she masterfully kept it concise and reminds us the very best bits (and the scariest ones, too) are almost always what's been left for us to imagine.

Readers can find more of her work at The Chiaroscuro, Abyss & Apex, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Many more publications are surely yet to come. You can see her prose at work in Hair Side, Flesh Side (ChiZine Publications, 2012), which was short-listed for an Aurora Award, a British Fantasy Sydney J. Bounds Award, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. Helen Marshall's official website is 

You can get your copy of "The Sex Lives of Monsters" from

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