“I’m a witch, born out of
generations of god-fearing
who bent their heads and
I am a force of my own
As a poet and reader who has always been drawn to speculative poetry, I was eager to dive into “Bad Omens”, and have to say, Jessica Drake Thomas did not let me down. Grounded in the physical world and infused with a sense of ethereal intrigue, the poet takes the reader on a voyage across uncharted territory. The reader is transported into the heart of myth by Jessica’s uncanny ability to capture its essence, with such depth that it is both haunting and indelible.
The mysterious, the arcane, and the spiritual are all thoroughly explored in this amazing collection of poems. Insights into the nature of power, femininity, and the invisible forces that influence our lives are revealed as the poet deftly probes the depths of the human psyche. The poems are full of sharp descriptions of paranormal phenomena and encounters with demons and spirits, making it an unsettling collection that will appeal to anyone in the leash of curiosity.
As seen in “Russian Doll”, the choice of words used to convey the revelation behind each imagery contributes to the general tone and eeriness of this book. This is evident in the poet’s very words: “I’m opening up, you see: / I unzip my skin so another / version of me steps out / Each one worse than the one before”.
This collection is surprisingly colorful, emotive, and accessible, considering it deals with the difficulties of portraying the unearthly. It is highly commendable that the poet successfully escaped the trap of being excessively exclusive, cliché, or heavily reliant on worn-out tropes of horror, the occult, and other subjects associated with gothic writing. With the oddity of their ideas, intelligent diction, and method of evoking a sense of magic with each page turn, the poems provide something novel and engaging.
Each poem in this collection is a skillfully designed travel into a distinct reality, from the beauty and tragedy of Nordic lore, to the enigmatic mysteries of Celtic mythology and the riddles of Greek stories. The poet’s deft method of fusing several mythological strands to weave a rich tapestry of storytelling is quite admirable.
From one myth to the next, the collection elegantly transitions, highlighting the commonalities and archetypes among them. As a result, the body of work has a timeless, yet contemporary vibe, with each poem promising a wholly immersive experience.
The sense of ritual and incantation this book might inspire is one of its potential strengths. Through the skillful use of language that is understandable, and the vividness of the poet’s imagery, the reader will find themselves drawn into a heightened state of consciousness. This corpus is intertwined with themes of witchcraft, dark deities, tarot, and nature. The tarot is a recurrent motif that explores the deeper meaning and clues of its significance that underlie our lives, while also posing concerns about fate and destiny.
Nature is another major element in the collection, with poems like “Belladonna” reaching out of its petals to pull the reader into “a black hole” or its “gaping maw hidden in the guise of a beautiful flower”. Also, in “Untitled”, the poet opens our eyes to our environment in the words, “There is magic in simple things”. In order to further explore the topics of mysticism, this body of work consists of a number of poems that make use of imagery from the natural world, particularly plants and their symbolisms. The poet’s language is stunning and conjures up the haunting lushness and beauty of nature, making it easy for the reader to stray into more esoteric ideas that the poet adeptly simplified.
The relevance of these ideas to current issues such as gender, power, and spirituality is another potential strength. The poet offers a vision of feminine potency and agency through investigating the figure of the witch, which challenges conventional gender stereotypes. Committed to the empowerment of femininity, the poet roars, “men like their women silent, passive / Weak, soft as a kitten / They cannot stand a mad woman / who speaks in tongues, knows secrets”.
“Bad Omens” has a writing in plain sight that is both lyrical and visceral, creating a strong sense of unease and foreboding in the reader. The reader will finish this book with an appreciation of the allure and impact of masterful storytelling.