Beautiful lines, harsh realities, absolute truths, and precise images combine in the poems offered in After the Witch Hunt by Megan Falley to create a book that sings in an authentic voice. This is Falley’s first book, yet the originality of the poet shows experience and craft beyond her years. I found myself getting lost in the text, each time I tried to read the book with a critical eye, my mind was drawn in by the artistic beauty of poems such as “Pendulum.”
“Pendulum” is a stark and sad poem, that deals with the suicide of a friend’s sibling, after a night of partying. The poem is formulated almost as a list of the previous night’s activities, common everyday teenage associations (music, dancing, and drinking games). Could have been anywhere, anyone. The first half of the poem gives the reader the sense of normalcy; the tome of the poem turns with the most beautiful passage delivering the truth of the situation, an indescribable horror, with a child like splendor.
“In the morning he thought he could resurrect/ the simplicity of childhood by turning/ himself into a tire swing.”
So impactful is the beauty of the image portrayed that the rest of the poem is an echo of its emotion until the final line- a question posed by the poet that leaves the reader searching for the answer to why someone feels such loneliness.
“When he turned himself into a pendulum, / what became of time?”
The inventive beauty of Falley’s images creates poems that stir deep emotional impacts for the reader and allows for a playfulness of the poet. She not only plays with the ideal of innocence, she juxtaposes that youthful naivety against harsh situations that would cause most girls to break. Megan Falley never breaks in these poems. She carves herself a place in the world of notable young poets with lines such as this from the poem, “Family”:
“True he marked his height where / his lashings whittled your spine?”
Her ability to contrast stringent lines of how girls are inundated with ideas of sex and beauty in this culture against the harsh realities of being a woman creates a book containing a social voice, which is relevant and precise. As the book unfolds, the impact of these lessons take a deeper root within the reader. The poem “Penelope Pussycat Finally Speaks” is a persona piece written from the voice of the female cat who Pepe Le pew harassed throughout those classic Warner Brothers cartoons.
“a moniker borrowed from a girl corkscrewed / around a pole, dollar bills for panties.”
This line describes the origins of her name, an origin that speaks to how the dismissed complexity of animated propaganda perpetuates sexism.
“I slinked under a freshly painted ladder / and a white stripe burned into my fur like a scarlet A. / meant I was asking for it. That I always wanted to be watched / through binoculars, fancied the trail of drooling kisses / from my paw to collar laid on thick”
Every line of the poem is rich and visceral. The emjambed lines finds continuity against the better-balanced verse, the pulse of the poem is controlled by how the images flow in and out of one another. She paints the animation of the short films fused into our memories in a new hue. The cartoon life of American children is revealed to contain complex themes and suggestions that a good majority of us men would not admit to exercising today. Ms. Falley uses the beauty that she can mend out of ugliness to create a work that not only sings of artistic creation but also social consciousness.
“it wasn’t because of his stench that I inched off / those cliffs- but how he pretended my refusal was foreplay.”
After the Witch Hunt is a wonderful accomplishment for this first time author. Teachers of poetry and the language arts should use this text in the classroom setting for not only the originality of the poems, but also more importantly, the critical message of the text. Ms. Falley has created the best book I have read from Write Bloody in the last few years. She has revealed herself at the forefront of poets who are pushing the boundaries of written and oral publications.
Jason Carney is a four-time national poetry slam finalist, HBO def poet, and winner of the Bergman and Norris Church Mailer scholarships.