“At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned and the Absinthe-Minded,” a slim volume of erotica, redemption, and exorcism (sometimes in the same line) by horror/noir author Maria Alexander, is perfect rainy day reading.
Alexander has led a fascinating writerly life, including mentorships from Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, to creating copy for certain beloved American family entertainment/theme park concerns, to writing horror fiction of her own. But her book of poems—which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award this year—tells its own story.
At times a very dirty story, but also a sad and tempestuous one.
I admire Alexander’s work because she’s not trying on the role of a Dark Lady, ready to cast it off when something else comes into fashion, or she grows out of it. She’s living in this skin and it suits her.
I talked with Alexander, who said the collected poems “were written over 12 years but not as many relationships.”
Gram: How much of what we’re reading in “At Louche Ends” constitutes a confession or a resume?
Maria Alexander: A lot. All of it? The poetry is where I don’t pull punches. I’m most honest there.
Gram: It’s like a poison love letter.
Alexander: It’s safe to say that this volume can be taken as one long drink of my sexuality.
Gram: You reserve some judgment for monstrous but otherwise engaging men—
Alexander: I was certainly attracting and attracted to those sorts of people for a while.
Gram: —all the time you cut them some slack for knowing not what they do. To you. “The behemoth who hardly knows…” who “carelessly cast” their attention…
Alexander: Each poem is about a particular person, but they do become a series of supernatural events. Relationships take on mythic proportions for me…so intensely spiritual and supernaturally synchronistic…I tended to see these people as mythic creatures.
Gram: That dovetails well with the BDSM elements in the book.
Alexander: It’s harder and harder to separate the sex from the spirituality, and I think that the “rules” of BDSM make that notion easier to take.
Gram: How are BDSM and spirituality two great tastes that taste great together?
Alexander: Well, the issues of power and surrender are essential to spirituality; of course, there are people who are very hedonistic and aren’t into the idea of ‘surrender’ and ignore how spiritual it is…
Gram: Does that mean they’re missing the point?
Alexander: Not necessarily, but I think there’s a lot of benefit to be had to considering the connection. And you also have to be thoughtful; you have to be careful to what you give yourself over to.
Gram: What I ike about your work is that you believe in the product. In the porn world, BDSM is just as often a commercial affectation that’s more about the uniforms than the ideology [which makes sense, I guess].
Alexander: People can be that way with religion, too. They go through these intense Cirques du Soleil. They’ll change their religion like people change socks. Except they’d keep on their socks.
Gram: So how do you escape the affectation? There really does seem to be a maturation of the speaker through the curse of the poems over a dozen years.
Alexander: I hope so. Still, all that “trying things on” I saw at fetish clubs was in my face! I admit I had some of it in my Mopey Goth Girl diary.
Gram: If poetry is you at your most honest, is this breakthrough paving the way for something else?
Alexander: Relief. Next up is a humorous paranormal memoir. But relief, mostly.
- Buy “At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned and the Absinthe-Minded” here