Thirteen Nocturnes by Oliver Sheppard Book Tour and Giveaway :)

Thirteen Nocturnes
by Oliver Sheppard
Genre: Gothic, Dark Poetry

Combining lush Gothic lyricism with postmodern experimentation, Oliver Sheppard's second collection of verse, Thirteen Nocturnes, presents a nightmare vision of a world in the grip of apocalypse and shadow--a world where "a nighttime of years never-ending" becomes "a darkness severe and unbending," and where life is relentlessly "gathered up against the towering shadow of decay." Taking cues from the dark Romanticism of Poe, the decadent Symbolism of Baudelaire, and the apocalyptic tradition of William Blake--as well as the existential doominess of 20th century cosmic horror--Oliver Sheppard's Thirteen Nocturnes presents a verse vision of collapse, announcing a cold poetics of disintegration in the new dark age of the Anthropocene. 

"Reading Sheppard's poetry is a little like listening to a conversation between Nietzsche and William Blake during a showing of Peckinpah's Cross of Iron. Using a wide range of forms and cultural references, Sheppard illustrates the human condition in ways that take as much account of its absence as its presence... Given the chance, Sheppard will lead you down dark and unfamiliar paths, to moments of weird beauty." --from the foreword by John Foster

And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain

Darkness comes—the day does depart—
But darker still, the human heart.

Dark are night’s spaces,
Which we’ve peopled aptly:
Vampires, werewolves, witches, and ghouls.
In lightless places
The credulous raptly
Listen to fairy tales, trembling as fools.

So darkness deludes us; we’ve all played a part.
But darkest of all is the human heart.

Shadows of nation-state, shadows of blood—
Projections of fancy and causes of war.
Blaming the devil and his evil brood
Exonerates him who’s the war-machine’s whore.

Darkness finds power when daytime departs,
But darker environs are in human hearts.

Evil may be afoot on the earth—
And who is not guilty? Who stands apart?
Satan is blamed, for what it is worth;
Yet darkest of devils is the human heart.

Dark and cruel, the devil’s art—
Darker still, the human heart.

I am one of those people who loves gothic, horror, deep and dark places and anything surrounding it.  Always have been so this book spoke to me, I just loved the poetry and the way it made me feel.  Sometimes it's hard to understand what they are talking about - but as a student of literature, that is exactly what poetry is supposed to do - confuse you, make you think and come to your own conclusion.  It's always open to interpretation.  One of my favorite quotes from this book is "the starry rose-petaled demon ran his fingers along my skin, slicing me open to the world. Red carnations fell from my veins".  Now other people might see it differently, but to me that says that my inner demons got hold of me and they made me open up and all of the bad things inside me were falling out like blood - the red carnations were the blood.  But others may think of something totally different.  I am a very deep person, I am an empath and so for me that means that things get to me more than they would other people.  So you have to read this book to find your own interpretation, but that was mine.  

The book itself draws on all of the darkest pieces of existence, it quotes the greatest gothic authors ever, such as Dickinson, which is one that most people would think of as a canon poet, but not many people really know how gothic she could be.  My second quote I loved from this was "The shadow of Life is Death; and Death evinces his jealousy of Life through the phenomenon of disease."  So from the day we are born we are already dying, some disease will take us, even if it's just a natural death like old age.  And Death is always waiting for us, watching us, jealous that we are able to live longer than maybe Death wants us to.  So Death in turn gives us diseases to get us sooner than we should be dying.  Make sense?  Maybe not, but I think if you read this you will start to get it and you will reach your own conclusions about the book and how it can relate to your own life.  I know that each of us has a dark part to our life, sometimes facing that darkness is cleansing for our souls.  

Over and above all of that, the book is a great read - it's short, and it does have some wonderful poetry quotations, it reminded me somewhat of Poe's works.  Everything has a deeper meaning, and that deeper meaning is different for everyone.  Check this book out, it's wonderfully gothic!!!

Oliver Sheppard was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and lives in Texas. Critical reviews of his poetry collections have been kind: "Like listening to a conversation between Nietzsche and William Blake while watching Peckinpah's 'Cross of Iron'," reviews of his first book, Destruction: Text I, claimed. Garnering accolades from academia and punk zines alike, Sheppard's work takes cues from the cosmic fatalism of Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti, and combines that with the lush, Gothic lyricism of the Dark Romanticist tradition.

"Sheppard's THIRTEEN NOCTURNES is gothic in every sense of the word; from the writing style, the themes, to Oliver's own influences. Without a doubt, this bountiful collection raises the bar for contemporary gothic poetry. It's rare in this day and age to find poetry written in a manner as sophisticated and profound as this. But here, Sheppard combines a down-to-earth modernism with older styles that make for a fanciful and unique experience for the reader."--Sar Blackthorn, CVLT Nation

by Oliver Sheppard

One of Edgar Allan Poe's most poignant poems is the brief (and probably unfinished) couplet that is usually reprinted under the title "Deep in Earth." It reads:

      Deep in Earth my love is lying
            And I must weep alone.

--And that, elegantly, is the poem's entirety.

Poe wrote "Deep in Earth" in 1847 while mourning the death of his young wife, Virginia Clemm. He scribbled the couplet in the margins of a manuscript for "Eulalie," which may have been one of Virginia's favorites of her newly widowed husband's works. Poe always insisted that poets should write with an eye to what he called "unity of effect"-- that is, that every poetic effort ought ultimately to leave a distinct and singular impression--a uniquely powerful effect--on the reader. Toward this end Poe felt that, despite what classicists might say, or despite what readers might think, longer poems were not necessarily more accomplished, more literary, or the most successful in their designs. Bigger was not always better. "Unity of effect" was usually achieved with fewer lines, with lines honed and sharpened to cut right to the reader's jugular.

But the emotional gut-punch of Poe's "Deep in Earth" might have less to do with the application of any high-minded literary theories than with the raw emotion that is evident behind its words. Yet the stark lines are a validation of Poe's "unity of effect" ideal nonetheless. Before I get to one of my own attempts at achieving such an effect in my new collection of verse, Thirteen Nocturnes, I'd like to offer another poem that I think achieves a forceful effect similar to that of Poe's "Deep in Earth" above.

This poem is by Sara Teasdale, from 1915:

by Sara Teasdale

When I am dead and over me bright April 
        Shakes out her rain-drenched hair, 
Tho' you should lean above me broken-hearted, 
        I shall not care. 
I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
        When rain bends down the bough,
And I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
        Than you are now. 

Eighteen years after this poem was published Sara Teasdale took an overdose of sleeping pills and ended her own life. An urban legend persists that Teasdale wrote "I Shall Not Care" as her suicide note.

Teasdale and Poe had issues with chronic major depression, something I and a great many other poets have also struggled with. There are a variety of influences that went into the composition of my book, Thirteen Nocturnes, and I hesitate even now to say that my struggles with depression have been an "influence" in the same way that, say, the poetry of Baudelaire or Giacomo Leopardi have been influences on me. But my own bouts of depression have added much of the color to my verse, or have provided the impetus for it, and have informed its tone, in some individual poems more than others. The original idea behind Thirteen Nocturnes was to write a slim chapbook of thirteen poems that were either meditations upon, or were odes to, or had in some way been inspired by, the night. The project snowballed and I confined the original thirteen poems to one section of a five section collection of poetry, but I decided to keep "Thirteen Nocturnes" as the title for the overall work.

Aiming for a kind of unity of effect described above, I took pen to paper and in one of the thirteen nocturnes I tried to describe my decades-long battle with the sort of depression that William Styron in Darkness Visible called "a storm indeed, but a storm of murk":

by Oliver Sheppard

Night was my vigil; I sat it alone,
A nighttime of years never-ending,
Years by myself where light was unknown,
The darkness severe and unbending.
I came upon means in my decades-long fight
To only but briefly relieve it,
And in certain moments I thought I'd found light

But I was a fool to believe it.
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