Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a poetry snob. No, that’s not the right word, because I don’t look down on poetry. Ignoramus is a better description. You see, I want to like poetry. I really do. But for whatever reason its meaning routinely eludes me, at which point I get frustrated, throw up my arms, and vow I’m not going to bother anymore.

Thank goodness I gave HALLOWEEN: NEW POEMS a shot.

It doesn’t surprise me that I enjoyed the book. First and foremost, Al Sarrantonio has never edited a bad anthology. When his name’s on the book, you know you’re in for a treat. Coming in a close second is the jam-packed table of contents, featuring some of the genre’s very best writers. Add in the amazing cover by Alan M. Clark and the excellent interior pieces by Keith Minnion, and this book is a bona fide winner.

As alluded to by the title, HALLOWEEN: NEW POEMS focuses on all things Halloween. The book is separated into various sections, from “Trick or Treat” and “Pumpkins” to “Ghosties” and “Ghoulies”. Preceding each section is an illustration by Keith Minnion, offering a glimpse of what’s to come.

One of the book’s selling points was the publication of six poems by Joe R. Lansdale, marking the first time he’s had poetry in print. So how did he do? Pretty damned good. Lansdale’s characteristic style and humor are still very much on display. But for my money, Beth Massie stole the show. She only has two poems in the anthology – “Spider’s Night Out” and “My Treat” – but they are both rock solid and perfectly captured the feel of the season.

Other favorites include all three poems by James A. Moore, “The Midnight People” and “Under the Halloween Tree” by Brian Freeman, the excellent “House with Broken Windows” by David Niall Wilson, “The Value of an October Kiss” by Tom Piccirilli, the frenetic “Halloween High” by Neal Barrett, Jr., all of the poems by Al Sarrantonio, “On Hallows Eve” by Peter Crowther, and the lengthy “Cap’n Hook” by Bradley Denton (which might be the most darkly humorous of the bunch).

While the price tag is fairly high for this slim volume of poetry (roughly 100 oversized pages), I have no problem recommending it to everyone. This is one of those special books you can take down off the shelf year after year, reading and rereading the works, finding something new each time. I look forward to curling up with it later this Autumn as the leaves are falling from the trees and the weather turns crisp, waiting for the trick-or-treaters to ring the doorbell…

HALLOWEEN: NEW POEMS was published by Cemetery Dance Publications in two different formats – a $40 unsigned hardcover, and a $175 lettered edition signed by Al Sarrantonio.

(9 out of 10)

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