Fanged Dandelion: Eric LaRocca
Review/Interview By Ben Walker
If you haven’t read Eric LaRocca before, go and check out Starving Ghosts in Every Thread and look out for his upcoming releases too. He’s a rising star in the horror world and this latest book, a short collection of 20 poems, further cements him as a fantastic writer of the macabre and beautiful, just as the title suggests.
I always feel like poetry is best consumed in small doses, but there’s something of a thread to follow here, so it’s a good idea to set aside some time and work your way through all these poems in one sitting. This isn’t necessarily a book where you’ll dog-ear a corner to re-read a specific poem, because some rely on each other, either sharing moods or accentuating what came before & after. Dancing around the corners of hatred, love and renewal, each offering spills into the next with a flow that’s both engrossing and horrifying, sometimes dreamlike in the way that ideas tumble out, many other times nightmarish.
Reading the verses aloud bring them to life even more vividly, their rhythms dripping from your mouth like violent, lusty prayers. When the narrative reaches its most brutal point I found my voice dropping off to a whisper, and then I was silent, bound to the page, not wanting to repeat out loud the horrors as they revealed themselves. It’s awesome stuff, tipping further into nightmare territory the longer you go on, surrealistic visions interrupting real life until you’re back to reading aloud again, breathlessly, ideas and imagery flooding your mind.
It’s inspiring stuff, the kind of poetry which makes you want to be better at writing yourself, every turn of the page is a whisper in your skull, urging you to pick up a pen and create. For that alone, it’s worth picking this up immediately. Beyond that, it’s an intimate look at love, life and death that speaks to your soul in the way that good poetry should. An essential purchase.
The Kendall Reviews Interview
Eric LaRocca Talks To Ben Walker
Ben Walker: How did the idea for this collection come about?
Eric LaRocca: The concept for this collection came to me when the world essentially shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I found myself burdened with worry and entertaining very distressing thoughts. For me, writing has always been a coping mechanism – a way to come to terms with trauma and grief from my past. I knew I had to write something, but I was so uncertain and so filled with self-doubt. My partner suggested I start writing down my thoughts as poems and that’s essentially when the seed was planted. I began writing down my thoughts each day and soon discovered I was shaping a body of work.
BW: The title itself is both evocative and bizarre, did your inspiration for that visual come from anything specific?
ELR: The title for the collection came to me very organically. I’ve always been distrustful of my mind. On one hand, I’m grateful because I’m able to be creative and vulnerable with readers. Yet on the other hand, my mind can invent such wild atrocities and abominations – things I know I shouldn’t entertain and yet I do. I began considering my mind to be like a flower, but with petals in the shape of fangs. The human mind is a beautifully intricate thing; however, it can also be dangerous.
BW: I loved the way the poems connected together, was that always the plan when writing Fanged Dandelion?
ELR: Absolutely! I knew I wanted to tell a story with this collection even if I wasn’t writing my usual prose. As I began writing these poems, I realized that they were interconnected in a very intimate way – each poem deals with intrusive thoughts in some form or another. Writing Fanged Dandelion was an attempt to purge myself of these thoughts and release them so that I could be free.
BW: There are some starkly intimate moments in the collection, was this a cathartic book to write?
ELR: This was perhaps one of the most cathartic pieces I’ve written, next to my debut novella Starving Ghosts in Every Thread. Part of the reason the collection is so deeply intimate is because I never anticipated sharing these poems with anyone. I would send text messages of the poems to my partner for him to read, but I scarcely expected to ever have these pieces published. I was too embarrassed. I was worried what people might think of me – if they might think I was a monster for thinking such hideous things. The response to this collection has been nothing short of astounding. Having my friend, Sara Tantlinger, write the Foreword for the book was quite literally a dream come true. I’m such a dedicated fan of her work. Publishing this book with Dean at Demain has been such a rewarding journey as well. The experience has proven to me that readers are clamoring for honesty and truth in written work. I’ve realized that no matter how distressing, no matter how upsetting, there is always an appetite for the truth.
BW: Is poetry something we’ll be seeing more of from you in the future?
ELR: I’m not quite sure actually. Writing Fanged Dandelion was such a cathartic experience for me, but it was also soul-draining, if that makes sense. Achieving that level of vulnerability on the page left me quite raw and exposed. As of now, I don’t have any concrete plans to begin another poetry collection. I have a full-length novel I’m in the very early stages of pursuing, as well as other novellas and short stories. However, that’s not to say that I’m completely opposed to pursuing another poetry collection in the future. Exploring my voice in poetry has been supremely rewarding and has shown me aspects of my identity I hadn’t even considered before. To those interested in dabbling in poetry, I wholeheartedly encourage them. Poetry has the power to disturb, to enchant, to condemn, and to comfort. Moreover, sometimes it can set you free.
A dark and deeply wounding portrait of a young queer man on the verge of splintering apart, ‘Fanged Dandelion’ is a nightmarish odyssey that delves into the bowels of the human mind – a frightening exploration of the caskets we build inside our heads…
(with a cover by Adrian Baldwin)
Eric LaRocca’s fiction has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies published in the US and abroad.
His debut novella, Starving Ghosts in Every Thread, was released in May 2020. His next release, A Bright Enchanted Suffering: Two Macabre Tales, will be published in March 2021.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.