TITLE: Choking Back the Devil
AUTHOR: Donna Lynch
AGE RANGE: Adult
Choking Back the Devil by Donna Lynch is an invocation, an ancient invitation that summons the darkness within and channels those lonely spirits looking for a host. It’s a collection that lives in the realm of ghosts and family curses, witchcraft and urban legends, and if you’re brave enough to peek behind the veil, the hauntings that permeate these pages will break seals and open doorways, cut throats and shatter mirrors.
You see, these poems are small drownings, all those subtle suffocations that live in that place between our ribs that swells with panic, incubates fear. Lynch shows her readers that sometimes our shadow selves–our secrets–are our sharpest weapons, the knives that rip through flesh, suture pacts with demons, cut deals with entities looking for more than a homecoming, something better, more intimate than family.
It’s about the masks we wear and the reflections we choose not to look at, and what’s most terrifying about the spells is these incantations show that we are the possessed, that we are our greatest monster, and if we look out of the corner of our eyes, sometimes–if we’ve damned ourselves enough–we can catch a glimpse of our own burnings, what monstrosities and mockeries we’re to become.
So cross yourselves and say your prayers. Because in this world, you are the witch and the hunter, the girl and the wolf.
Demons come in many forms
Some with teeth and some with horns
But none so vicious as the hordes
That came to be when you were born.
Two of the literary genres I will never stop reaching for — in fact, they were the two genres I cut my teeth on as a young reader, so many years ago now — are horror and poetry. The two don’t intertwine nearly often enough, but when they do, I need it. I have to say, I think Donna Lynch may be my new favorite modern horror poet, because Choking Back the Devil was absolutely incredible.
You were just there
When the gnawing inside me turned into vicious biting
When the switch flipped and all my lights went out
When I had no choice but to seize the moment
A lot of horror poetry is dark without much bite to it, but that’s not the case here at all; if you find yourself easily frightened or squeamish, I wouldn’t even hand you a copy of this collection, because it offers up scenes that are downright unsettling. There’s body horror and gore coupled with ghost stories and possessions, but most of all, there are endless reminders of the scariest demons of all: the ones living inside our own heads.
You are your own Pandora’s Box.
Every ugly thing needs a home, and the space inside your head works nicely.
As someone who has fought my own inner demons for nearly my entire life, there was so much in this collection that both set me on edge and made me feel incredibly and utterly understood. Donna Lynch gets mental illness in a way most writers can’t express on page, for better and for worse — as the imagery in some of these poems made me close my eyes, take a deep breath, and steel myself for the next lines. If you’re someone who tends to be upset by mentions of self-harm, abuse, suicidal thoughts, or anything along these lines, please proceed with caution. That said, I cannot recommend Choking Back the Devil highly enough, and am already itching to read more of Donna Lynch’s incredible words.
Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this review copy in exchange for an honest review!
twitter | bookstagram | facebook | goodreads