By Patrick R. McDonough
Stephanie M. Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.
It won’t come to a surprise for many of you that Stephanie M. Wytovich is a hypnotic poet. An artisan in painting bleak imagery with words. In her shadows lies a subtle beauty. A beauty that you can appreciate for a fleeting moment before something attacks, or kills while supplying a gruesome goodbye. Throughout the 90 poems we witness our own destruction, from advanced technology, to supernatural sisterhoods, creatures that impale, and half-organic, half-manufactured humanoids. Below is my short-list of poems that I felt perfectly embodied this collection. It’s not to say I wasn’t a fan of the others, because there isn’t a single one that falls short. Everyone just has their favorites. These are mine.
Behind the Genetic Reaping
This encapsulates the tone and eeriness of the original Twilight Zone series. It displays the terrifying reality that death is our playground…and “there’s a reaper in your head.”
Greetings from the New World
A short poem that throws you in the perspective of a survivor. Of what exactly, I think I know. But then again, “they” could really be anything.
It’s in the Rain
In one page, you see a world folding and crumbling. Sinking and drowning. Beyond the dreadful scenes depicted, awaits a killer last line. A line that is bigger than this poem and beautiful collection itself. It’s a line that is us. Each. And. Every one of us. It begs to ask the question: Who is really prepared for the end of days…and who will have the last laugh?
The story of a final moment. We don’t know the who or what, or by what or who, yet, that doesn’t really matter. It’ll send a tingling sensation through your guts. For each reader, we will share the same components of what is happening, but, like any great story, each individual will walk away with a different exterior of the creature in question.
Future Mannequins on Display
This. Is. AMAZING! It spoke to me, on so many levels.
The opening sets up the end for a beautiful sucker punch to the heart. It throws you in the point of view of a thing that none of us think about too often, yet, in this specific example, is absolutely fucking terrifying. It creates sympathy for an inanimate object. This poem is my favorite in the collection.
It’s my sincerest hope that one day an artist uses Wytovich’s haunting words to turn into an illustration, preferably an oil painting. To depict the stages of the poem. To show the power of its words in colors and brutal truth. A truth that Wytovich displays with the precision of a master chess player.
When we create something to look exactly like us and do terrible things to that creation, what does that really say about how we value ourselves? Is it a question we really want an answer to?
Want to feel what its like to be a survivor during the apocalypse? This poem will be more than happy to provide that insight.
The Manufacturing of Bodies
If anything, this one speaks to what we’ve all become. What we’ve created. Not just for ourselves but for future generations.
“Please hit copy…
At the Neon Circus
I’m a sucker for dark sci-fi. When it’s executed this well, I’m all yours…forever. I beg Wytovich to show me more of this world. It’s something I can foresee occurring in our lifetime. It’s also something I’d be dying to read in novel form.
Here are some of my favorite lines from several other poems. Lines that I believe will hook and reel you into this collection, if you aren’t already.
“A reminder that we are nothing but spoiled meat.”
“…like deformed hands unable, but determined to grab.”
“…we are the chosen, we are the coven.”
“…they plucked off my limbs like petals.”
“When I make my entrance, will they marvel at my wings or will they, like they did to so many others, tear them from my back and set my corpse on fire?”
“It only took hours before my skin started to slip. I peeled it like an orange, slowly at first.”
And a word that I have never encountered, a word that Wytovich, as far as I know, created: frankenwhore. That word makes me laugh, yet at the same time, I am cautiously intrigued to see what that may look like.
Bring this book on a camping trip to read a poem or two (or four, or more) around a fire, and enjoy the gore. Just you and a friend, to read the world’s end. Let those stories loop in your mind. They’ll do it regardless of tears or time. Dare you read, alone in your room? Under no stars, sun, or moon. Soon you’ll see, why I am a fan. Of Stephanie Wytovich, and her grand plan.
I wish I discovered Wytovich sooner. It was truly a pleasure to read her latest collection. If poetry hasn’t been your cup of tea, then I would be willing to bet it will be after you’ve had a mere sip of her addictive writing style and voice.
And forgive me for my amateur poem. I am but a simple man, who needs to atone.
About The Apocalyptic Mannequin
Doomsday is here and the earth is suffering with each breath she takes. Whether it’s from the nuclear meltdown, the wrath of the Four Horsemen, a war with technology, or a consequence of our relationship with the planet, humanity is left buried and hiding, our bones exposed, our hearts beating somewhere in our freshly slit throats.
This is a collection that strips away civilization and throws readers into the lives of its survivors. The poems inside are undelivered letters, tear-soaked whispers, and unanswered prayers. They are every worry you’ve had when your electricity went out, and every pit that grew in your stomach watching the news at night. They are tragedy and trauma, but they are also grief and fear, fear of who—or what—lives inside us once everything is taken away.
These pages hold the teeth of monsters against the faded photographs of family and friends, and here, Wytovich is both plague doctor and midwife, both judge and jury, forever searching through severed limbs and exposed wires as she straddles the line evaluating what’s moral versus what’s necessary to survive.
What’s clear though, is that the world is burning and we don’t remember who we are.
So tell me: who will you become when it’s over?
What They’re Saying
“Like a doomsday clock fast-forwarding to its final self-destruction, Wytovich’s poetry will give you whiplash as you flip through page after page. The writing here is ugly yet beautiful. It reads like a disease greedily eating up vital organs. The apocalypse has arrived and it couldn’t be more intoxicating!”
—Max Booth III, author of Carnivorous Lunar Activities
“In this hauntingly sensuous new collection of poetry, you’ll long to savor every apocalyptic nightmare you have ever feared. Blooming in the beauty of destruction and the terror of delight, Stephanie M Wytovich’s poems remind us that we feel the world better, love the world better, when we recognize the ephemeral nature of everything achingly alive beyond our mannequin minds. Here, we are captive to our deepest velvet snarls, zombie songs, and radioactive wishes, at the mercy of a neon reaping. Reading this collection is like dancing through Doomsday, intoxicated by the destructive, decadent truth of desire in our very mortality. In these poems, you will find revelry in the ruins of everything you once held dear — and you will love it to the last as you watch the world unravel around you.”
—Saba Syed Razvi, author of Heliophobia and In the Crocodile Gardens
“Beautifully bleak, Stephanie M. Wytovich’s latest collection posits scenarios of the apocalypse and the horrors to come thereafter with language like fragrant hooks in your skin. Vivid, each word a weight on your tongue, these poems taste of metal and ash with a hint of spice, smoke. She reminds us the lucky ones die first, and those who remain must face the horrors of a world painted in blisters and fear. Leave it to Wytovich to show us there’s beauty in the end, just beneath all that peeling, irradiated skin.”
—Todd Keisling, author of Ugly Little Things and Devil’s Creek
“Set in a post-apocalyptic world that at times seems all too near, Wytovich’s poems conjure up frighteningly beautiful and uncomfortably prescient imagery. Populated by a cast of unsettling, compelling characters, this collection is one that stuck with me.”
—Claire C. Holland, author of I Am Not Your Final Girl
“A surreal journey through an apocalyptic wasteland, a world that is terrifyingly reminiscent of our own even as the blare of evacuation alarms drowns out the sizzle of acid rain, smiling mannequins bear witness to a hundred thousand deaths, and “the forest floor grows femurs in the light of a skeletal moon.” Stephanie M. Wytovich’s The Apocalyptic Mannequin is as unsettling as it is lovely, as grotesque as it is exquisite.”
—Christa Carmen, author of Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked
Follow Stephanie on social media:
Main Website: http://www.stephaniemwytovich.com
If you’d like to review or feature Stephanie, please contact her publicist Erin Al-Mehairi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find The Apocalyptic Mannequinand other of her work at rawdogscreaming.com.