In his landmark Surrealist novel Nadja, Andre Breton said, “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.” This sentence perfectly conveys our involuntary attraction to both the Romantic and the macabre. It speaks to the love that exists in all things, whether it’s our treatment of life or the subject of death.
It is impossible to write anything of merit that does not acknowledge, in one way or another, the inevitability of decay. Humans, like all other species, are built for obsolescence. Still, this is a fact which is difficult for modern writers to confront and even rarer for readers to embrace.
This explains why older characters have become a bit of an endangered species in contemporary fiction. It also explains why everyone should pay attention to the new anthology from Bob McNeil and Gordon P. Bois.
In Lyrics of Mature Hearts, an independently-published collection of poetry, McNeil and his authors candidly deal with the issue of adulthood in various poetic variations.
The genesis of the project demonstrates the unpredictable paths that life takes us on as the sand passes through the hourglass. About a year ago, McNeil was approached by a talented Chicana poet on Facebook. She proposed a collaboration in which the pair would use Elizabeth and Robert Browning as sources of inspiration.
Although initially intrigued by the offer, McNeil ultimately thought it odd to express adoration for someone he wasn’t intimately familiar with. After giving the idea some more thought, he proposed they work on an anthology on life and love by older people.
The poet agreed, but eventually quit after the project became too difficult. McNeil was, by now, so committed to the project that he carried on without her. Soon, he and his colleagues had filled nearly 70 pages with lyrical works about the growth and growing pains of getting old as well as the prevailing love many of us carry, for life and for each other.
If all of this sounds somewhat maudlin consider this: Bob McNeil has penned some of the smartest short horror fiction of the 21st century; his work has appeared in several print anthologies from Deadman’s Tome, among others. Lyrics of Mature Hearts is more than just poems about the aging because McNeil is more than just another Poe wannabe.
Check out the book here.