USEREVIEW 053 (Capsule): The Man with the Spider Scar
Michael e. Casteels
The Man with the Spider Scar (Puddles of Sky Press, 2021)
ISBN 978-1592913343 | 68 pp, 4.25 x 5.5 in | $20 CAD | BUY Here
A long-form collage poem that takes the reader on a first-person gunslinging journey, The Man with the Spider Scar offers a tale about a horse thief, split into fifty minimalist poem fragments. It’s a text that’s easy to traverse in a single sitting, galloping on horseback “across the wide open” from birth all the way to inevitable death “while the ground falls away / into a valley of horseflesh”. By my count, this is Michael e. Casteels’ third literary ride out into cowboy territory: his preoccupation with deconstructing the mechanics of the genre was last revealed in Lazing West No. 1, a collection of comics sequences sampling and altering frames from public domain ‘golden age’ comic books — poems that completely sidestepped narrative, focusing instead on shape, sequence and repetition, playing to the gridded rhythms of each page’s panels. This time, for The Man with the Spider Scar, Casteels has built a more traditional long poem in three parts, using collage techniques to assemble a new work from snippets hijacked from Killoe (1962) and The Lonesome Gods (1983), two pocket Westerns penned by prolific frontier storyteller Louis L’Amour — who, throughout his life, wrote 105 novels and short story collections with combined sales totalling more than 200,000,000 copies. From the mainstream of popular fiction into the buzzard-spun desert that is CanLit poetry, Casteels’ small, self-published microtome (lovingly packaged in a professionally printed, perfect-bound volume) fashions spare and occasionally surreal vignettes that propel the reader through the violence of a world where “all guns are loaded, / and everyone’s a gun”, carefully scratching out the lines that define each scene with both constraint and fury. Unhappy trails!
No better place to start than at the beginning …