Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi: Breathe. Breathe.
Reviewed by Steve Stred
Breathe. Breathe. By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is my first go around with Erin’s written word. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Erin a little bit through various social media platforms. I have seen the numerous editing projects and marketing projects she has on the go, so when I discovered she had a fiction collection out, I was intrigued.
Now – to get this right out front – I typically don’t read a ton of poetry. I write a little bit of poetry and in high school and college I took a number of poetry and creative writing classes, but at some point, and this is on me, I started to find poetry too pretentious. I know, I know, bit of a high brow response, but I did. After reading this collection, I would like to publicly apologize for my snobbishness.
This fantastically dark collection is broken into three acts. Act 1 features some grim poetry that all tell dark stories. These are all set in fanastical settings – murderous spouses, the search for immortality and serial killers. This is visceral, frightening stuff. Being an amateur poetry reader, I can tell you one thing I know; a great poet tells you a story in very few words. This is exactly what Erin does. I have read poetry before where I wished it was actually a short story, but not with a single entry here or in Act 2. In Act 2 the poetry becomes much more introspective/grounded in present day reality. Harrowing tales of domestic abuse, sickness and acts of desperation leading to violence. The poetry collected here all start off by rubbing a little bit of sand paper on the skin before pouring an unending stream of acid into the wound. You will find your heart pounding hard and your emotions thrown all over the place.
For Act 3, Erin shows that she isn’t a one trick poetry pony. The short stories in here follow a similar path to the poetry. Dark, decayed and unexpected. I personally loved the story of a man driven crazy by a woodpecker. The tale of Anuket based in Egypt reminded me of something Lovecraft would have written. Just really well written stories.
Overall this collection does such a great job of bringing you in quick before stabbing a vital organ, and for that I am truly thankful. I can’t wait to see what’s on tap for her next releases and can easily see Erin following this up with another collection or a great long read.
If the idea of reading a collection of poetry is what is preventing you from checking this out, give your head a shake. If it’s the lack of corpses and skulls on the cover, have a friend smack you silly. This is dark, dark stuff and it should be mandatory reading by everyone in the horror community.
Star Rating (out of 5): 5*
Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.
In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.
In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.
In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.
Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.
With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick.
Steve also has a number of works on the go and enjoys all this horror, occult, supernatural and paranormal.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog Oj.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s blog here