Pensive Prowler #26: Angel Frankenstein

Pensive Prowler #26 by Dmetri Kakmi

Angel Frankenstein

When George Mouratidis asked me to launch his first collection of poetry, Angel Frankenstein, I decided to talk about the cover, rather than the work contained therein.

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The jacket speaks volumes. It tells us everything we need to know about the poetry and about the poet. It is a rare instances where a proper study of the cover is essential to an understanding of the work.

Let’s begin with the image. A carnation stuck in a fly-screen door.

Ironic? Kitsch? Nostalgic? Funny?

It’s probably all these things in equal measure.

It’s definitely woggy*. And it’s most certainly recognisable for any Greek who grew up in Melbourne in the 1970s and ‘80s. I look at that image and a part of me smiles, while another part shudders. It brings back memories, some happy, some not so happy. It’s everything I grew up with in Melbourne and everything I wanted to get away from at a young age. I know that’s how George feels as well.

Objectively speaking, the image represents a time and place, frozen in a moment. It evokes a ritual and way of life that is pretty much dead. This is what first-generation Greeks did when they dropped in on friends and relatives—as they did invariably unannounced—and found no one home. They left a flower in the grille of the fly-screen door to signal a visit.

Greek morse code for I came, I saw, you weren’t there.

It wasn’t important to know who left the flower. It was only important to know someone had dropped in for a kafedaki. People did that in those days. Now they text or phone; and this rather sinister love token, as I saw it, has gone the way of the dodo.

So straight away George announces his intentions. He is looking back to his ‘Thommo years’, as he calls his upbringing in Melbourne’s north-west suburbs. But not in a sappy, sentimental way. This is sober, knowing reflection on a working-class Greek-Australian upbringing, its joys, aches and pains.

The image, like the poems, evokes complex subterranean emotions. George isn’t slinging off in a knowing, ironic sort of way. That’s easy to do. Harder still to infuse those times with affection and see them for what they truly were. Much as he chaffed at the bit to get away from Thomastown, George knows this is where he was formed—as a poet and as a human being. He owes a debt to the endless stretch of bland, bleached suburbs. It’s the wellspring of his poetry. Without it he wouldn’t exist. Or he would be someone else, not the George we know.

It’s worth noting that a fly-screen door doesn’t just keep out flies. Locked, it keeps out people as well. You can look but you can’t enter. A locked door says I am barred against you and you can come in by invitation only, like a vampire.

The next best thing to do is draw close and peer through the grille’s intricate, even Byzantine, curlicues into the beyond. This is the heart of Stygian matter.

Like a vampire, a poet may stand at the door, looking in, but he can’t enter. It’s best if he occupies a liminal space—all the better to observe, hoverand critique. The door offers resistanceagainst his invasive, often unwelcome, scrutiny. On the other side is a mysterious realm, familiar yet alien. Threatening and welcoming. Like the title above the image, a dichotomy.

And so we come to the extraordinary title. Angel Frankenstein.

What a powerful play on two seemingly contradictory words. Angel and Frankenstein. Light and dark. Placed above the door. Come in. Herein lie monsters and beings of light. Invitation and menace.

An angel is, by definition, good. But the devil is not. He is a fallen angel. Which means an angel can be bad, given the right circumstances. Just as a devil can be good, as Lucifer once was. Or the devil can stray as he tests boundaries and quests for knowledge. To paraphrase Monty Python, he is not really bad; he is just a naughty boy. He doesn’t accept the status quo and therefore falls from grace.

Doctor Victor Frankenstein, as opposed to the monster he creates, is a fallen angel. He was a good man until he cruelly abandons his creation and becomes more monstrous than the benighted man-monster he forms from bits and pieces of cadavers. If anything, by the end of this sorry story, the monstrous creation is more human than the creator.  The hell-spawn freak is elevated through forbearance and suffering, while the creator follows a downward spiral through hubris and vanity. Oppositional journeys beginning from the same core. Elevation and descent, cut through with the limbo of a middle-ground.

The point is, nothing is cut and dried. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Life is varied, complex, contradictory and filled with ambiguities and unexpected byways. It takes a questioning and questing mind to see that. As we see with the poems, George has these qualities in spades.

You wouldn’t think to marry Angel and Frankenstein unless you understand nothing in the world is diametrically opposed. There are only parallels, interconnections and corresponding points.

This new creation—the Angel Frankenstein—is ultimately the electrifying synthesis of disparate parts that form a cohesive whole, a shared communal, even pluralistic, space. That’s why the dedication reads ‘for my tribe’.

*a foreigner or an immigrant, especially one from southern Europe.


Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.


Episode 345: Chip Kidd!

Episode 345 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share a conversation I had with author, editor, comic book fan, and book designer Chip Kidd, from about 40 feet away from Biscayne Bay. We spoke about the DC/Marvel divide, the sublime art of Alex Ross, how art springs from our need to see the work we want to enjoy the most, and how so many areas of the book business intersect, if you are paying attention.

Chip Kidd



The Cheese Monkeys

The LearnersBatmangaDeath by Design

Episode 345 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #253: A Royal Christmas

The Curator of Schlock #253 by Jeff Shuster

Hallmark’s A Royal Christmas 

One of these things is just like the other.

Earlier this year, I partook in the pop cultural sensation known as Crazy Rich Asians from director Jon M. Chu, a story about a commoner from the United States who falls in love with a supremely handsome and charming young man from another country who turns out to be a veritable prince and heir to a vast family fortune. I recently watched 2014’s A Royal Christmas from director Alex Zamm, a story about a commoner from the United States who falls in love with a supremely handsome and charming young man from another country who turns out to be a literal prince and heir to a vast family fortune. Yes, these two movies have the same plot, but one is about Christmas so that’s what we’re covering this week.


This is the second Lacey Chabert Christmas movie I’ve seen where Folger’s coffee could be prominently seen. I don’t want accuse the greeting card company that produced this of shameless product placement, but the first time we see the romantic lead, he’s holding a rather large Wal~Mart bag. Lacey Chabert plays Emily Taylor, the daughter of the town tailor who has dreams of becoming a fashion designer one day. I’m just going to point out that this is the second Hallmark Christmas movie where Lacey Chabert plays a struggling fashion designer.


Emily is seeing the dreamy Leo James (Stephen Hagan), a man who likes to eat pancakes and BLTs, but Mr. Leo James has a secret he’s been keeping from Emily. Mr. Leo James is actually Prince Leopold of Cordinia.

Now many of you may wonder why you’ve never heard of a country named Cordinia. I can answer that for you. Cordinia doesn’t exist. They made up a fake European country for the purposes of the plot. There’s nothing wrong with that. Granted, Crazy Rich Asians treated its audience to the wonders of opulent Singapore, a real country, but we shouldn’t fret over little details like whether or not a country actually exists or not. Leo reveals that he’s a prince to Emily and invites her to spend the holidays with him back home.

It’s in Cordinia that Emily meets Queen Isadora, played by none other than Jane Seymour.


We remember Jane Seymour. She was in that one Battlestar Galactica movie, Battlestar Galactica: The Movie. She was a Bond girl in Live and Let Die. She was also on season four of Smallville, the one where Lana Lang was possessed by the ghost of a dead witch. Ugh. What were they thinking? Clark Kent fights space aliens not witch covens. That season would have been a complete waste if not for the introduction of Erica Durance as Lois Lane, the greatest of all Lois Lanes. I’m talking about Smallville again, aren’t I?


Naturally, Queen Isadora doesn’t approve of her son’s choice in girlfriends. If only Prince Leopold could find another royal to marry instead of tailor’s daughter. She taunts Emily by serving a Cordinian favorite dish of jellied eels, but Emily eats them right up. The palace servants like Emily because she’s a commoner just like them and even Queen Isadora will change her ways and learn the true spirit of Christmas and allow her son to marry Emily. Blah. Blah. Blah. I think Torso is streaming on prime. Smell you later!

Jeffrey Shuster 3Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 344: Loose Lips December 2018!

Episode 344 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share a recording of Loose Lips, the monthly current events literary thing run by Burrow Press, who selected Katherine J. Parker to curate and host this installment.

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Katherine J. Parker by Jared Silvia.


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Joshua Begley by by Jared Silvia.

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Whitney Paige Hamrick by Jared Silvia.

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John King by Jared Silvia.

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Karen Price by Jared Silvia.

Dec 2018 Loose Lips 5

Tom Lucas by Jared Silvia.


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Check out John’s previous appearances on Loose Lips:

Episode 344 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #252: A Wish for Christmas!

The Curator of Schlock #252

A Wish for Christmas

Be my most tasty little dish!

Thus begins week 2 of our Hallmark Christmas Movie Yuletide Extravaganza. I love these movies. They’re like the cozy sweater vest of American cinema. If only they would have a marathon of them in an IMAX theater. I want that full immersion experience in 3D, 4K, and Smell-O-Vision. I want it all! But for now, I have to settle for a 1K, no 3D, and no smells.

Tonight’s Hallmark movie is 2016’s A Wish For Christmasfrom director Christie Will Wolf. This is not to be confused with Hallmark’s A Christmas Wish from 2011. Totally different movie. That one starred Kristy Swanson and was directed by Craig Clyde. We will not be getting to that one this year because we’re only covering the Hallmark Christmas movies featuring Lacey Chabert. That’s right. We’ve got two more weeks of Lacey Chabert so brace yourself.


In A Wish For Christmas, Lacey Chabert plays Sara Thomas, a web designer for an advertising firm out in Chicago, IL. Sara’s Achilles’ heel is that she is a bit on the wishy-washy side. By wishy-washy, I mean she lets everyone at the firm walk all over her. At the company Christmas party, her manager takes all the credit for her Christmas 365 ad campaign, a campaign centered on feeling the Christmas spirit everyday of the year. His name is Dirk, and he’s a bit of a jerk. The head of the company, Peter Williams (Paul Greene), is very impressed by Dirk’s idea which is too bad because Peter is very handsome and Sara has a bit of a crush on him. If only Peter knew it was Sara’s idea.

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Sara decides to leave the party, but runs into a man dressed like Santa Claus in the lobby. He asks her what her Christmas wish would be. Sara says she wishes she had the courage to stand up for herself. Santa says he and the elves might have some difficulty with that. Wouldn’t she rather have a million dollars? Nope. Sara insists on getting courage for Christmas. Personally, I would have picked the million dollars. Then I could just hire some guys to beat up Dirk. Anyway, the wish works because Sara tells off Dirk in front of everyone at the party, saying how he stole her ideas. For shame!


Sara almost quits the firm altogether when dreamy Peter Williams gives her a promotion and wants her to travel with to Seattle to pitch her idea to some big wig named Wilson. Upon arriving in Seattle, they learn that Wilson cancelled their meeting because he decided to go with another firm’s ad campaign. Sara is having none of that, insisting that Wilson hear their pitch since they flew all that way. Wilson’s secretary manages to reschedule the pitch for the next morning, but Sara and Peter will have to journey to a small town in northern Washington to meet Wilson. In a bit of a twist, this small town just happens to be Peter’s hometown.


Let’s see. What else? Peter hates Christmas because he had a falling out with his dad one Christmas years ago when he decided not to follow in his dad’s footsteps and become a lawyer. Sara manages to use her newfound courage super power to coax Peter to visit his family, decorate some Christmas cookies, and patch things up with his dad. But will Sara’s newfound courage power get her to sell the Christmas 365 pitch to Wilson and save Peter’s company? Or will Sara find that she had the courage deep inside her all along? Is anyone still reading this?

Pray for me.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #82: Flavor

Buzzed Books #82 by Drew Barth

Joseph Keatinge and Wook Jin Clark’s Flavor Vol. 1 (Collects Issues 1-6)

“Culinary consultant” may be my favorite thing I’ve seen in a comic credits page in a while. Seeing a culinary consultant, specifically Ali Bouzari, on a credits page in a comic that is about food in all its forms shows the reader from the beginning what kind of series they’re about to begin. Flavor isn’t using food as set dressing or as a background element while the rest of the story goes on—food is the heart and soul of the series from the first page. Keatinge and Clark have struck a balance with Flavor that isn’t often seen in books that are engrossed in a specific hook. Food is indeed at the heart of this series, but this is still the story of Xoo and how food shapes nearly every aspect of who she is as a character.


At the center of this whole story is something that Keatinge and Clark do so well and is something that is typically one of the trickiest moves to make in a new series: world building with purpose. I’m constantly astounded by the depth and breadth this team achieves in utilizing character motivations, background detail, and panel-to-panel beats to construct a fully realized world simply within the first issue. Am I jealous? Maybe. But for good reason. Even the name of this walled city, the Bowl, conjures up so much potential just with the imagery of food utilized throughout as well as what a bowl is used for, be it mixing or serving. Because, again going back to the first issue, the story sets up something world-breakingly massive on its final page that goes right back to that idea of a bowl used for serving.

As a comic, Flavor is lean with its story in all the right ways: it gives us just enough to go on to keep us invested at the end of each issue, but still leaves us with a pile of other questions to be answered in the next. And they’re always questions that link back to either the characters or the world of the Bowl. Will Xoo get the truffles she needs? How long can an unlicensed chef like her operate in the city? What the hell was that on the other side of the wall of the Bowl? I don’t know yet, and I love it.Flavor is doing what many of Image’s best series are doing and that’s setting up almost everything right from the start with a first volume. Even if this is a series that continues for fifteen or forty more issues, we have the plot points in front of us already and now we get to see just how they connect in the long run.

Flavor is absolutely a series that wears its influences on its sleeve and wears them well. From the Ghibli-esque world building to the feeling of mystery and adventure of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Flavor takes what has been done before and works a new path in its own way. Through its art and world building, Keatinge and Clark want to show us something we haven’t seen before, something inherently different, but still a bit familiar. Not only do they accomplish what they set out to do, they do it so exceptionally well that Flavoris one of my favorite new series to come out this year. Flavor is a story that wants you to read and enjoy and immerse yourself completely in and it is so easy to lose yourself in its wonder.

Drew Barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 343: A Very Italian Christmas!

Episode 343 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk with Vanessa Blakeslee about the new story anthology, A Very Italian Christmas, from New Vessel Press.

John Vanessa Italian Christmas

In our discussion, we manage to talk about yuletide loneliness, poverty, despair, prostitution, elk herds, Christmas, fascism, prostitution, friendship, Paul Auster’s screenplay for Smoke, and David Sedaris’s classic essay, “Dinah the Christmas Whore.”


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Check out Vanessa and I talking about A Very French Christmas from last year.

Check out my interview with Davis Sedaris back on episode 50.

Episode 343 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #251: A Christmas Melody

The Curator of Schlock #251 by Jeff Shuster

A Christmas Melody

All I want for Christmas is poo. 

I’m still reeling from last week’s column on Raw, a French/Belgium production about the trials and tribulations of two sisters who happen to be cannibals. Sometimes you gaze into the abyss and it gazes right back. Other times you gaze into the abyss and the abyss jumps down your throat, claws its way out of your stomach, and then feasts on your organs right in front of you as you bleed out. No more. The Museum of Schlock will only be featuring Hallmark Christmas movies for the foreseeable future.


Tonight’s movie is 2015’s A Christmas Melody, from director Mariah Carey. That’s right. This is singer Mariah Carey’s directorial debut, proving her not only the master of the stage, but of the screen as well. But she is not the star of this motion picture. Not that I’m saying Mariah Carey isn’t a star. Not that I’m saying anything negative about Mariah Carey in any way considering she’s worth 520 million and maybe she’ll read my humble blog and give me some money to pay the exterminator to deal with the cockroaches on the fifth floor.

A Christmas Melody begins with a saleswoman by the name of Kristen (Lacey Chabert) who recently got fired. A homeless man with a suspicious-looking long white beard asks her for money. She gives him the first five dollars she ever made which she framed for some inexplicable reason. You don’t frame money. You spend it. You can even spend it on pretty pictures to stick in that frame. Kristen is also a single mom. Her husband died when their daughter was only two years-old. Kristen had big dreams of becoming a fashion designer in Los Angeles, but now she and her daughter must move back to her hometown of Silver Falls to live with her Aunt Sarah (Kathy Najimy) who runs the town diner.

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Out of despair, Kristen makes a Christmas wish to Santa Claus that she and her daughter Emily (Fina Strazza) will find happiness or something to that effect.

What else happens? I think I nodded off at some point. Must have been due to all those turkey leftovers, not this zany romp of a holiday movie. Mariah Carey plays Melissa, the head of the PTA and Kristen’s old high school rival.


She won’t let Kristen’s daughter audition for the Christmas pageant, and she won’t let Kristen design the costumes for the pageant despite Kristen’s fashion expertise. Melissa is a bit of a diva. I’m just saying.


Romance is also in the air. A music teacher by the name of Danny (Brennan Elliott) likes Kristen and by like, I mean he really likes her as in he’s had a crush on her since high school. Danny is super nice. By super nice, I mean really bland and really inoffensive, the sort of guy women in Hallmark World really go for. There’s also a school janitor with a suspiciously long white beard that looks just like the homeless guy Kristen ran into earlier. I’d say more, but I’m past my 500-word minimum and Weird Science is streaming on Prime right now. Why are they wearing bras on their heads?

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #81: Alyson Hagy’s Scribe

Buzzed Books #81 by Drew Barth

Alyson Hagy’s Scribe

Let’s talk about magic realism. Magic realism is kind of odd and nebulous in how it behaves, but a reader always knows it when they see it. Magic realism gives off a feeling of being immersed,  being familiar and yet not. These senses all come together with Alyson Hagy’s Scribe, a novel that centers around an unnamed woman renowned for her ability to write letters. She’s asked by a man named Hendricks to write and deliver a letter for him, but this request, throughout the course of the story, is made more difficult by the machinations of horrible people around them. Scribe is a novel centered on wants and needs—of what can be given and taken by individuals before consequences rain down like angry locusts.


Hagy does something spectacular when she draws on an Appalachian loneliness to drive Scribe forward. Abandoned homesteads, dried riverbeds, old homes built by hand, and a constant sense of unease that permeates our main character’s soul. The loneliness and unease here are unique to their location. Myths and legends of the area, as well as the two sisters themselves, have already taken root and this informs the sheer believability and depth of Hagy’s world building. This is a world after some kind of civil war. Which one? Don’t worry about it. The war happened and this is the aftereffect. And this is a part of the beauty of the story as well: it’s very much rooted in a specific time, but feels timeless all the same. Hagy completely immerses us in the world she’s created, one that is foreign and absolutely familiar. And this goes back to the Appalachian loneliness, this unique blend of hearth fire smells and disquiet about what’s beyond the trees just out of sight.

This sense of unease that the setting reinforces only bolsters the sense of magic that permeates Hagy’s words. She’s built legends, yes, but legends exist in the past. She likewise mythologizes the present, letting the unnamed woman and Hendricks experience aspects of the world that are unbelievable but accepted. Trumpet horns from nothing, speaking in her dead sister’s voice, the presence of a group known only as the Uninvited. The world is informed by magic and myth; shaped by a chisel of realism. The story lets its magic flow freely, showing us with a lyrical eye the jarring and the beautiful in equal measure. The magic doesn’t save or delight. It is a magic that informs and heralds desolation as it rolls down our main characters.

Scribe is a novel of wonder and desperation. The story gives us a landscape painted in language both beautiful and uncanny while populating it with the kind of people who would murder for their debts. It’s a world that exists in a way only Hagy’s lyricism can show. Every page is a song sung by a blind man with a guitar in an empty train station. The words are raw, coarse in a way that is almost grating, but still billows with a beautiful sense of wonderment throughout.

Drew Barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode #342: Linda Buckmaster!

Episode 342 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to poet and memoirist Linda Buckmaster about how our subjects sometimes choose us, the wondrous weirdness of Florida, and how the find form in the flux of composition.

Linda Buckmaster


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Episode 342 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.