Earlier this year I had a very belated introduction to Marge Simon’s work with Satan’s Sweethearts. Like War (Simon’s newest, co-written with Alessandro Manzetti), Sweethearts (co-authored by Mary Turzillo) is a dense, rigorously researched collaboration in historical horror poetry. Maybe this comparison makes War and Sweethearts sound like extremely particular (even niche) sub-genre pieces, but they benefit equally from clearly defined senses of focus, cohesion and specificity.
War has provided me with another long-delayed introduction, this time to Alessandro Manzetti. Like Simon, Manzetti is an extraordinarily prolific and celebrated force in the contemporary genre field; and like Turzillo’s poetry in Sweethearts, Manzetti’s style in War meshes intuitively and powerfully with Simon’s.
This collection’s title implies a far-reaching, even macrocosmic thematic thread; but Simon and Manzetti wisely choose to lend attention to the tangible, the microcosmic, sometimes even the horrifically banal. Written as a series of free-form pieces (some collaborative, some solo), War is comprised mostly of brutal and uncompromising vignettes and tableaux. Both Simon and Manzetti demonstrate aptitude for calculated and disturbingly descriptive language, making use of poetry’s formal confines to hone exacting depictions of human cruelty.
This focus on the particular does not overshadow War’s considerable ambition: spanning time, place and point of view, this collection approaches its title topic from the terrifying angles of imperialism, post-traumatic stress disorder, misogyny, fear, racism and ignorance. Sometimes slipping into their speakers’ perspectives and sometimes writing with chilling omniscience, Manzetti and Simon offer no reprieves. This book delivers blunt-force impact to match its subject. Fitting for a contemporary world that feels more apocalyptic with every passing day, War demands attention and makes no compromises.