Ann DeVilbiss' Reading & Music Recommendations:
Poetry is one of the few things that makes sense to me during this rough, tumultuous year, and my recent favorite is Joy Priest’s Horsepower. Her gorgeous debut traces through her experiences growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, where I live now. She incisively interrogates how this place is haunted by its histories, both personal ones and communal ones. And her deft examination of racism feels especially important given the events of this past year, during which our community has grappled with the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor and the ways in which racism is deeply entrenched in every aspect of this city, including our famous Kentucky Derby.
I’ve been having trouble reading fiction this year, but last week I found myself fully engrossed in Victor LaValle’s novella The Ballad of Black Tom. It retells H. P. Lovecraft’s story “The Horror at Red Hook” in the context of 1920s New York City and from the viewpoint of a Black man. The novella does an excellent job of grappling with the racism present in Lovecraft’s work as well as illuminating the ways in which that racism is far worse than any imagined eldritch horrors. I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Lovecraft Country (a show that had moments of brilliance even when it sometimes missed the mark for me).
And as a lover of horror, my favorite thing about the December season is revisiting Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. There’s a magic to those hauntings that I keep returning to; every year I listen to it on Librivox, an online resource of public domain works read by volunteers. My favorite reader of the tale is Glen Hallstrom, and you can find his version here: https://librivox.org/a-christmas-carol-by-charles-dickens-2/. If you like a bit of haunting during this season, I also recommend Lonesome Holiday, a Christmas album new this year from the band Murder By Death. It’s a lovely sonic meditation on the season that is free of the usual cloying elements of Christmas music, and it’s a perfect listen for December 2021.
Ann DeVilbiss has had work in BOAAT Journal, Gertrude, The Maine Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in PANK Magazine. Her chapbook, When the Wolves Stay Quiet, is available from dancing girl press, and she lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky. Find more of her at anndevilbiss.com. Don't forget to look for Ann's poem Gut Feeling in the upcoming Autumn issue of The Fiddlehead!