On Dan Magers and Jim Wynorski

Dan Magers is a poet whose work I hope to read more of soon. He co-founded and edits Sink Review. His collection, “Party Knife” is on my spring reading list and I’m itching to savor it, to use that knife as gift, as inspiration. This evening I read his poem, “Frat House Massacre,” published in Spooky Boyfriend #4. Since the poem is relatively short and the link has been provided, I will present the poem to you here as it appears in Spooky Boyfriend:


The abandoned house they pack their buddies in
is perfect, being miles away from cops.
Outside, nothing moves that isn’t blown
by wind. The skinny blondes are represented.
Psychology class created cat fight goes:
“I ain’t talking to a professional,
I’m talking to a slut!” So speaketh Jean.
Inside nothing moves that isn’t blown….

Whoever’s left is in the woods, pursued
while Joey’s drowsy on the floor, last thoughts
about the wonderful times with Conor, Phil,
Ron Forty, Jeff Dog, on the balcony,
where we watched that idiot with the hair,
and kitschy, kitschy Kathy—make us laugh!

Having not read much of his other work, I cannot comment on this piece in the context of what he has already written, so with that in mind, I would like to open up the poem in a way that speaks only to my reading of this single poem.

By the title (the “hook” that drew me in) I conjure images or horror, B-movies, and exploitation films, the most famous being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, yet Magers does not speak of this “massacre” in gory detail or of any kind of traumatic event as it might be presented were this piece focused on a horror-event or meant to shock or frighten. I do not think this piece is meant to frighten. An event: Something does occur in the piece, some gathering or happening, which I can only speculate is the “massacre,” but our gaze as reader is not there–not slaughtered on the floor at the house in the woods. Our gaze moves inside to the aftermath of something (a party?), to how friendship bubbles slits of memories. Names of friends are listed, spoken by Joey who is currently relishing his “last thoughts,” the thoughts of others, perhaps others from the frat house, and laughter. Yes, this house in the woods is most likely the frat house as per the title.

A fragment of Jean’s speech is spoken, presented formally–antiquated: “So speaketh Jean.” And the others? Have they died? Were they massacred? Forgotten? Were this a traditional slasher, we would be given the details of the killer, but we are not. Not tonight. Not at this party.

The words, “nothing moves that isn’t blown” is repeated twice in the piece. Is Magers speaking of the wind in the second passage, too? Is he speaking of a sexual act of some sort? Is this some kind of drug reference that I don’t understand? Coupled with the “frat house” title and the exploitation genre (if this, indeed, does pay some homage to the genre in some way), I want to read this second line in multiple ways, but I want to feel the wind, be chopped by this wind. I want this all to be metaphor.

The voice shifts at the end of the poem from a third-person POV to a first-person memory as if to conjure the way friendships blur–this move into the interior gives strength to how this poem resonates within me. I feel a quick snapshot quality to the ending (but it is the most potent for me, too), a whimsical detachment, perhaps even in the face of death or, again, how friends change. Simultaneously, I feel something has vanished and it is this vanishing that is lingering within me after reading the poem and writing this piece. That, and the kitsch. That word, “kitsch,” reminds me of a film that also places friends in a house far away from police–Cheerleader Massacre directed by the great Jim Wynorski.

This last winter, steeped in research for an unfinished novella, I partook in a feast of B-movies by Wynorski. The Cheerleader Massacre–much different from Magers’s Frat House Massacre–is a fine piece of Wynorskian exploitation rife with debauchery, a broken down vehicle, a maniacal prowler on the loose, and, of course, cheerleaders. Now, in reflection, I can’t help but think of this poem by Magers up against that cheerleader gorefest, especially in the line, “The skinny blondes are represented.” Yes, they most certainly are. I realize these two pieces of art are worlds apart, but in bridging that gap between poetry and sleaze, I wonder what forms would emerge? I’m sure there are poems out there bridging this gap in more intricate ways than I am able.

Magers’s poem, in my opinion, is the kind of poem that calls for careful reflection, calls for questions. Of course, we can enjoy it quickly, perhaps, if we are competent enough, catch a glimmer of where he is pointing us (as demonstrated by my thought-trail here tonight), but I think this poem is one that could be thought in different ways and my interpretation is not the end all of how this poem is meaningful. I’m quite sure I’m missing something vital, something that would tie the piece together. Or, maybe he doesn’t want it to be tied. There is a beauty in that, too.