I haven’t quite figured out my purpose in this life, but I’ve been exploring it long enough to know it has something to do with vulnerability. And it seems like embodiment also plays a part in that. Two topics in which I’ve found the greatest depth of opportunity to explore vulnerability and embodiment are love and death. Naturally, I’m very attracted to ventures that bring the two together.
Don’t get me wrong, there can be a lot of shallow thinking at this crossroads: a romanticized distraction away from the gnarly and miraculous aspects that we tend to be afraid of. But there is also very much that is genuine and enduring. Art that explores the latter is what really gets me. It’s what I strive to make. It’s the light I hold onto when so much seems too difficult, too cruel, too absurd. It keeps me grounded while simultaneously lifting me into some of the most pleasurable reaches of human experience.
In this post I’d like to share five things that have really captured this enduring reverie of love-meets-death in art.
Songs of Death and Love by Martyn Roper
I found this musician on Instagram because of the graveyard blues =aesthetic= (which… if you’re into that, just go to his Instagram right now).
But I soon discovered it wasn’t just the look of the graveyard blues but the sound… Just climbed into my soul. I felt it in my bones.
Truly this is the perfect soundtrack for my writing about love and death (such as the title of the album might have indicated).
The album is not dreary. Most of the songs are faster paced, toe tapping tunes. Some with lighter tones and others with darker tones. Some are surprisingly sweet, like “White Flowers in a Picture Frame.” In an album about death I first assumed such a title would be terribly sad, but my assumption was incorrect.
Now, some of the songs are sad. “Mothers Gone Away” is sad. THAT title matches what I thought it would be about. And “I Will Always Go Home” made me ugly cry… but I had to get it out.
The ending track “Tread Lightly as You Leave” sounds the most contemporary/”pop” to me and also sort of makes me want to cry. But I can turn it up really loud and transcend that initial feeling. There’s an aura of beauty and hope in even the painful songs.
My favorite track is the first one “Dark Spirits.” It’s not toe tapping. It’s heel stomping. And a guttural experience that I’ve had on repeat for about a week. I won’t delve too deep, but I’m getting some stuff out with that as well.
LGBTQIA+ Historical Romance Novels with Ghosts
One of my favorite genres of fiction is historical paranormal, which is hard enough to find. But add romance to that to get my favorite genre of fiction (Yes, historical paranormal romance) is even more difficult. And when you toss in the fact that I love all the pairings in the world (F/M, M/M, F/F, M/M/F, F/F/M, ETC ETC BE STILL MY HEART) ….well. You can imagine.
So I absolutely love sharing this amazing resource: LGBTQIA Historical Romance Novels on Tumblr.
There are many book reviews, but also posted lists with themes and my favorite from this year is of course, this one:
Be sure to check out the archives for more content including book reviews, media, and book lists.
Titian: Love, Desire, Death from ZCZ Films
My first real exposure to this crossroads of love and death was in art history. I’m no good at producing much visual art but I am an absolute patron of the visual arts and endlessly fascinated and smitten by art history. I discovered Waldemar Januszczak’s art documentaries a few years ago and I absolutely adore them. They can be found on various streaming platforms as well as his website. Here is a short clip from his YouTube channel about Titian and of course all that other stuff I’m gushing over.
This is a photography book about erotic statues of women in cemeteries. And, yes, I find them very poetic and inspiring.
This book is older, with a publication of 1995. It has a small trim size unlike most coffee-table sized photography books but that does make it affordable and accessible. (I bought a used copy.) All the photos are black and white and aside from the philosophical introduction from Joyce Carol Oates (of which I found myself both agreeing with a bit and disagreeing with quite a lot) there is no text or information about the cemeteries or monuments. And before you get too bothered, the image on the cover is the most risqué of the entire collection. There are a few on par with the cover, sure, but many of them have clothes carved on as well.
This is not an informative book and most taphophiles who are interested in the monument, the person/family, or the cemeteries will be disappointed. But it’s worth a spot on your shelf if you’re particularly interested in the intersection of eroticism and death/mourning. Find it on Amazon here.
Romancing the Gatekeeper: love poems about death
Surprise, this one is mine and the book released today! This collection contains 46 poems in which I explore…lucky guess… love and death.
Some of the poems are whimsical and some are sad. I explore embodiment in the poems as well, so if a bit of an erotic edge isn’t your thing, please be cautioned to read within your comfort level. (Though, if you’re still reading after Saving Graces above, you’ll probably be fine.) This project has turned into something that I’m really proud of and that has been very important to me to make. I have recently started over as a writer and at first I didn’t know what direction I was going to take with Needle & Bow. But working on this collection really helped me compose the vision I have for my creative work and where I want to take it. It’s rather rare to settle into that Right Place as a writer and I can say I found that place in this project. It has turned into a steady standard to which I hope to craft my future work.
If you run a blog/IG/website/podcast etc about poetry, or graveyards, or eroticism, etc and are interested in receiving a review copy of the book, please email me: email@example.com
I’ll leave you with the opening poem. ‘Til next time, be sharp, be delicate.
romancing the gatekeeper
I don’t know who you are
But I love to imagine
A gunslinger, a Madame
A fighter—A lover
Someone who wears well
the sharp cut of a suit
or skirts that move
expertly from the waist
I long to know
what your different smiles mean,
if the toes of your shoes
are scuffed or polished,
and what we would feel like together
in so many ways
Will you keep your hand in your pocket
when all I want in the world
is for you to reach out to me
I know, I don’t stand much of a hope
but perhaps you will agree
Life isn’t worth living unless you give
even your most far flung fantasies a chance
So I’ll bring flowers, and love notes,
and only the brightest coins
I’ll write you a whole book of poetry
and tie a ribbon on the graveyard gate, tight and neat
Then I’ll meet you after dark
with a prayer pressed thin between my hands
We will gaze together
to the constellations above
and if the fates align for us
the stories and stars we are made of
will end, happily-ever-after