The title of Darren C. Demaree’s newest poetry collection, Unfinished Murder Ballads, beautifully sets the haunting tone of his work long before you can turn its first page. A murder ballad, as the name suggests, tells the story of a violent death; what does it mean to leave such ballads unfinished? All at once, the collection’s title blends death, stories that are passed down as folklore, and an overarching sense of loss. These persist through the entire work, which is made up of moments that build up into a portrait of isolation, violence, intimacy, and perhaps above all, humanity.
What is the literary canon? When I hear the word ‘canon,’ two things come to mind. First, I think of the true events in a book or TV show—and not part of a fanfiction—this one is left over from my Tumblr phase. The other definition conjures up an image of High School English classes, where we had to read outdated, boring books written by white men, that were usually racist and misogynistic. However, the canon as we know it has been getting some fresh new titles as time has gone on, as the demand for a more diverse set of voices rises.
The hot medium of flames smacks
upward, whacks sheer eyes
with a stencil of blue and green.
There is a foreigner
on this shore.
From foreign lands, with
Knocking at my door.
4 pm sunlight carves golden frames on cream walls
a city, blue glass and white birds,
Have you seen the lions on the library ceiling? They’re pawing at the edges of ontology, where flowers bow like gentlemen with Sinatra-style fedora hats. Everyone is lithe, lither than pigeons bopping on the curb and squirrels scrambling at a crumb of bread, and yet the lions lie in stubborn stone. Nothing to do but dance.