Choking Back the Devil by Donna Lynch is a collection of horror poems taking a look at demons, witches, and pain. In the same way that Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, or Freddy Kruger chase the teenagers through the house creating a rush of adrenaline for the audience, I could position these poems to mirror that kind of fright. But, like any good piece of art, Lynch has compiled these poems to go deeper. We can certainly watch The Shining as a movie about ghost leading a man down a path of madness, but isn’t it scarier to think the ghosts are figments of his imagination, and his madness’ provenance is in the anger he ignores and represses?
The most terrifying thing
is when you come to understand
that you are not haunted
there is no demon in you
and monsters are not real
There is no catastrophic storm inside your heart
no ancient war being fought with your bones
There is no curse upon your bloodline
no debt that must be paid
no Devil’s trick
But that you are only you
and you alone are responsible
for the damages incurred.
The poem above puts the intention front and center, and while the other poems aren’t as obvious, they’re equally effective. The reason this collection is successful is because Lynch not only includes classic horror motifs, but also turns the lens back on us as complex human. The exterior fears included act more as stepping stones to getting to the truer horror of being ourselves. And I can’t think of anything scarier than that.