It’s oft said – not least of all by me – that it’s important to learn the rules before breaking them. Otherwise, it’s not subversion, but plain ignorance. On reading the sonnet sequence that occupies the first half of Leo Schulz’ Allegorical Beasts, it’s clearly apparent that the author knows his way around a sonnet.
That Schulz has actually produced a sonnet sequence is in itself extremely telling: in vogue briefly during the Elizabethan period, it’s hardly the verse form of choice for contemporary poets. Not that the forty-five poems that comprise ‘Sonnets of the Sea’ contain any half-arsed doggerel, sixth-form scribblings self-consciously imitating the Petrarchan or Shakespearean form: this is sonneteering 21st century style, which dispenses with the fussy rhyme scheme and the restrictive metrical dictates of old convention to produce a series of poems that pack some real punch. Schulz certainly doesn’t dress things up in draperies of poetic euphemism. Yet at the same time, ‘Sonnets of the Sea’ does follow the principles of thematic unity, and fills the lines with magnificent imagery, some contemporary, some timeless, and succeeds in doing so without being overtly self-conscious or revelling in the author’s own cleverness, a feat also achieved in the three-part ‘Imitation of Dante.’
If ‘The Devil Writes to a Woman Who Loves Him,’ the first of the three prose pieces, seems a little weak despite its twisted psychology and cunningly-devised scenario, it’s only because it’s overshadowed by the final story, ‘Love: A Confession’. The direct, first-person narrative drags the reader through the emotional wringer as the speaker (who I would hate to align with the author, although its raw intensity is so specific and detailed it makes it more than just a little tempting) picks over the scabs of a defunct relationship. Occasionally amusing, always observed and detailed with a stunning precision, the story is delivered with a vivid sense of tormented humanity, making t one of the most engaging short stories I’ve read in a while.
‘Allegorical Beasts’ is an intense and intelligently-written book that marks Schulz as a unique and remarkable literary voice.
Allegorical Beasts is out now on Königreich Böhmen and is available via Amazon.
And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk