Savage Menace and Other Poems of Horror
Richard L. Tierney
P’rea Press (Email: [email protected])
Hardcover, 132 pages, $32.50
Review by Sheila Merritt
Poetry: Succinct expression of thought; an economy of emotion; a distillation of narrative. Horror has a grand tradition in the form, and it is carried on in a fine collection of Richard L. Tierney’s works: Savage Menace and Other Poems of Horror. The volume spans almost fifty years of Tierney’s writing; embracing the influences of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robert W. Chambers. With taut and precise verbiage, the reader is wooed into the realm of the uncanny; at once romantic and repellent.
Consider the seductive quality of the haunted house. In “The House on the Cliff,” there is a stanza that reminds of such an edifice’s pull:
It crouches there, that house of fears,
Upon the dark and wooded rise;
Its gables, gaunt against gray skies,
Just like a great cat’s listening ears.
A haunting is the theme of “Autumn Chill,” in which a guilt ridden brother reflects about Ned, his dead sibling. In this excerpt, an unburdening becomes an unburying of history; as recall of Ned’s sorcery turns into repugnance:
After he’d studied them old books awhile
The folks he didn’t like took sick and died,
Like cousin Henry and old Auntie Liz,
And when he started looking dark at me
I took to sleeping with an ax at hand.
Tierney references H.P. Lovecraft in several poems, including “Turn on the Heat;” an ode to the famed horror writer’s story “Cool Air.” Dr. Muñoz, the focus of the tale, is evoked in a few fanciful, rhythmical lines. Lovecraft also gets a send up in the playful epigram, Miskatonic Magic:
Was really great
At mixing witches’ brew.
She got her degree
At Miskatonic U.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is also inspiration for Tierney’s verbal dexterity. Shelob describes the Spider-Queen of the venerated author’s The Two Towers. In the following fragment, her menacing movement and arachnid attributes are eerily conveyed:
And ever and anon, as is her wont,
She hunches forth on scuttling multipods
On moonless nights to stalk her hapless prey.
Savage Menace is an excellent poetry collection. Arranged and edited by Charles Lovecraft, the volume features splendid illustrations by Andrew McKiernan, and an astute preface by S.T. Joshi. Tierney’s talent for well modulated phrasing is summed up in a stanza from the poem “All Hallow’s Eve:”
The sun’s last glow, like vanished hope,
Below the earth’s rim lies hid,
And fleshless fingers stir and grope
Against the coffin’s lid.
Like Edgar Allan Poe, and other esteemed writers who relate horror in this literary form, Richard L. Tierney expertly conveys genre themes in a meticulously metered manner.