Lesley LeRoux reviews Grimoire Series 1, from Sad Spell Press

IMG_3005.jpegGood things come in pairs. I know that’s not the actual saying, but it certainly holds true of the beautiful bundle that is the Grimoire Series 1 from Sad Spell Press, Witch Craft Magazine’s publishing arm. The series includes grimoires, or chapbook-length poetry and prose from Jon-Michael Frank with Nostalgia Flower, and from Sarah Lyn Rogers with Inevitable What. Both are charming collections that are hand-bound, hardcover, and limited edition.

First off, a side note: I love that both authors have three names. There’s such symmetry in that, isn’t there? If only they were the same amount of syllables…

We’ll start with Frank’s Nostalgia Flower. In it, the author’s artwork sets the mood and lets us know, through black and white, what we’re in for: contrast.

Themes of life and death, love and loss, past and present and real versus surreal are touched on throughout, reminding us that when it comes down to it, we are all alone with ourselves in this world. Solitude is the filter through which all Frank’s poems flow, and the feeling this gives off is both desperate and affirming.

moments are beautiful
urinals slapped on the wall
a tree on its side
I think of the milky way less companionably
woods hang like a necklace off the strip club
people master their losses
mother each other’s decomposition
feelings are unanimous

In this excerpt, we see Frank play with imagery from one line to the next. Perhaps you’re conditioned to expect the opposite of urinals and a fallen tree on the subject of beauty. But there’s beauty in the quirks and the unexpected – the constellation that didn’t comfort you the way movies and television shows told you it would, people lying in the grass at night, calmed by its presence. While Frank speaks of the inherent aloneness of human beings throughout this collection, he also reminds us of the universality of feeling – we are together in being alone.

Rogers’ grimoire, by contrast, offers up color through the accompaniment of dreamy, watercolour-esque illustrations by Sirin Thada. It’s a beautiful collaboration that enhances the tone of Rogers’ work, which is at once to-the-point and curious, exploratory. In “Tacit,” juxtaposed with an illustration of a bold, open mouth, we find a poem that follows a pattern until it doesn’t, with a single “glitch,” as she describes the feeling of trying to find the right words to express something – a feeling, an opinion, an explanation – or, “the inevitable what stings.”

There’s a sense of longing to want to feel heard, to feel understood in Inevitable What. Rogers leaves barely any room between one thought and the next – leaves you feeling life’s contradictions and incongruities in the span of a few lines. In “Rat Race,” we find a narrator who feels out of place where she is, washing dishes alongside her housecat (“hands pruning / in Palmolive foam”), mulling over what it means to be “persons of reasonable means.” The new house with the fancy coat of paint doesn’t interest her – her wants and her life force don’t align with this domestic sphere she’s found herself in:

I ache
to make something of substance
goaded by the knowing glance of a sweet, primeval
creature in my kitchen
both of us domesticated; framed.

If there’s one thing to be said of these grimoires from Sad Spell Press, it’s that they provide a visual and textual experience that you couldn’t find anywhere else. This latest series, much like the previous Spellbooks, confirm that Witch Craft has a knack for finding poets and artists who will leave you feeling enchanted.

(Sad Spell Press, Poetry, Hardcover, May 2016)

You can keep up with Jon-Michael Frank (@jonmichaelfrank) and Sarah Lyn Rogers (@sarahlynwrites) on Twitter. For more on Sad Spell Press and Witch Craft Magazine, visit their website.

LESLEY LEROUX is a writer, editor and artist based in Canada’s capital (originally from Newfoundland). She graduated with a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Her fiction, nonfiction and photography have been published both in print and online, and she has occasionally dabbled in radio and television. She is a feminist, bibliophile and yogi who can be found tweeting about any of the above @LesleyLeRoux.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.