Book review: The Dark Poet by Kathryn Gossow
If you would like to know more about this special October author promotion, tune in to my Facebook event on Saturday 26 October (my day of being the featured author). I'll be talking about the promo as well as sharing news, articles, and posts from the Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference. I may even attempt a live feed.
On with the review...
The Dark Poet is a collection of short stories by Australian author, Kathryn Gossow and published by Odyssey Books (2019). I ordered my copy through Harry Hartogs Books at Miranda.
Some people are so broken they can only cut us.
With poetic dexterity, Aurealis Award finalist Kathryn Gossow interweaves eight short stories of longing and alienation featuring outcasts and the misunderstood. From a homeless storyteller to a gardening soothsayer, to a copy editor who owns a pair of stubborn chickens, readers will come face to face with the humanity of people easily judged by a rigid society.
At the heart of these stories is the Dark Poet, a charismatic and broken man leaving a trail of debris as he drifts in and out of people's lives.
Kathryn Gossow has a lovely writing style that draws you into the story with poetic dexterity. Her treatment of mental health themes, homelessness, the damaged and broken people among us is unassuming. We can see, almost experience, the connections for ourselves without even realising the path Gossow is leading us along. She is truly a clever storyteller.
The Dark Poet Stories collection starts Memory Games and the recollection of Stevie, his death, the potential causes, and the poisoned affection of their mutual friend, Paul. The narrator feels guilt but is not sure why, other than she was present, as was Paul, on the night that Stevie died. The collection then goes back to to Elisha, Stevie, and Paul through the eyes of Cassandra. Cassandra is the main character in Gossow’s novel of the same name. She appears in this collection some years after the incidents that embroiled her childhood, wary, damaged, but still with the gift to predict the future. Through the following stories readers watch as Cassandra’s predictions for the three young people come true and the story of the Dark Poet unfurls.
I don’t want to give everything away. Gossow so carefully lays it all out for us. I want you to read it for yourself. The Dark Poet's story is not just his, but also the people who came into contact with him, some close (like Elisha and Stevie) others more distant. Connections aren’t always clear. Sometimes they’re tenuous. And that too is part of the story, for the characters, and for the readers.
There are nine short stories in all. You need not read Cassandra (the novel) first, but it will help to understand some references to her life in the second story, Next Door. Besides that, it’s a superb novel and I highly recommend it (read my review of Cassandra). You need to read The Dark Poet stories in order though and then keep it handy so you can refer back to it as little realisations pop into your head when you’ve finished. You might even like to read it more than once just so you can nod your head knowingly, as if you can see into the future to predict how lives will turn out.