Where Decay Sleeps: Anna Cheung
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Reading horror poetry has rekindled my enjoyment of poems in general over the past few years, so I was excited to get into Anna Cheung’s collection of previously published and original pieces. And from the very first offering, I knew I was about to be hooked into something special.
The poems here are grouped into various categories befitting their themes, with a little wiggle room for readers to form their own interpretations, making for a rewarding experience. The first five poems, for example, deal with the subject of birth, from the pregnancy-as-horror narrative of the opening poem In Utero, to Concoction, which conjures the image of a person longing to bring another to life through various means. That one leaves a lot unsaid, letting your imagination fill in the gaps, so it’s a nice contrast to some of the others which are far more deliberate and obvious in terms of subject matter.
From there, all manner of topics are touched on: beauty, the psyche, loss, cravings, metamorphosis and more besides. Some of the poems have quite a melancholy vibe, touching on longing and regret, while others are more uplifting, and there’s a keen sense of humour at work too. A few pieces read like condensed horror movie scenes, whereas others liken modern times to encounters with monsters, especially classic ones, with more than a little love for icons like Dracula thrown in. This was one of my favourite parts of the collection, and it’s not often nowadays where you find yourself wanting more vampires in horror but here we are. I would gladly devour a whole book of vampiric poetry should the author ever choose to put one together.
Even when they’re not dealing directly with supernatural boogeymen, many pieces meld everyday situations with the fantastic in a masterful way, turning anything from trains to dating apps into weird or worrying new forms. Others drift into the past, plucking inspiration from Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio or Greek mythology. These are just as captivating as the source material, if not more so at times, with an especially nice spin on the Bluebeard legend.
Cheung has a wonderfully relatable style, which manages to elicit laughs, sadness and spine-chilling unease across the 30+ pieces collected here. Those pieces range greatly in length and format, whether it’s free verse, drawing your eyes across the page with words as fragmented as the subject’s mental state, to poems presented as newspaper snippets, menus, bills of sale and more. There’s even a shape poem about lycanthropy, and I know some people find that format cheesy, but that one had me grinning from start to finish. Whether you tear through this in one sitting like I did, or take your time and savour each piece (like I did the second time!), you’re never left wanting in terms of variety. It’s brilliant stuff and highly, highly recommended.
Where Decay Sleeps
Where Decay Sleeps lays 36 poems on the undertaker’s table, revealing to us the seven stages of decay: pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, livor mortis, putrefaction, decomposition and skeletonisation. Readers are summoned to walk the Gothic ruins of monsters, where death and decay lie sleeping.
Tread carefully through Satan’s garden. Feast your eyes on the Le Chateau Viande menu (before your eyes are feasted upon). Read the bios of monsters on Tinder. Discover the unpleasant side effects of a werewolf ’s medication.
Blending traditional Gothic imagery, modern technology and Chinese folklore, Where Decay Sleeps is the debut poetry collection from the haunted mind of Anna Cheung.
You can buy Where Decay Sleeps from Haunt Publishing
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.