Heavy metal has been around long enough to inspire creativity well past its own borders. Or, perhaps, long enough to redefine many creative arts in metal terms. The newly published poetry collection from Christopher Doda, Glutton for Punishment, might be either or both – poetry inspired by metal / poetry forged as metal.
The collection, as described in a media release from Mansfield Press:
“In Glutton for Punishment, Christopher Doda updates an ancient poetic form for the 21st century. The glosa is an old metrical form from the royal Spanish court system where a poet takes four lines from another poet and uses them to create a new forty-line poem (four ten-line stanzas where each of the four adopted lines are the last line of each stanza; lines six and nine must rhyme with line ten), allowing the poet to pay tribute to, converse or argue with the other poet. Doda’s variation on this classic form is to take all the source lines from hard rock and heavy metal lyrics, pushing the musicality of poems and the poetry of rock to its limits, while always forced to keep the beat. Timely and international in scope, as Doda has used lyrics from bands in Canada and the United States to Iraq to most of Europe and the United Kingdom; the poetry world is about to get rocked. This is a book with a playlist: by the time Doda is finished, the glosa won’t know what hit it.”
The description above explains the premise much better than I could. But as I dug deeper here I realized this wasn’t new to me. Christopher Doda was among the poets who read at an event called Wrecking Ball back in 2011, which I reviewed for Hellbound. At the time, Doda was already working on his metal glosa project, and the poems he shared with us that night are included in Glutton for Punishment (though I can’t attest to how much or little they are changed).
The lyrics providing the framework for each poem come from a range of bands, eras and subgenres, all heavy in their way, but varying greatly in tone, topic and degrees of abstraction. For the most part each glosa exists in a similar imaginative space, respecting the atmosphere of the song cited even when pushing it to its limits. Line length is one of the most obvious ways in which the poems speak back to and beyond their source lines, tending to deliberately replicate or contrast the verbal rhythms.
I read through Glutton for Punishment in one sitting. By the end I felt like I was experiencing each quoted line as if it had been stripped of all instrumentation, the missing sonic layers replaced by the lines above it. As if the glosa offered an alternate take on musical arrangement, and the poetry a broader take on what it is that metal can be.