On: “Black Mass”

or Why I Write Dark Poetry

I just wrote a poem entitled “Black Mass” (read it here). And I know that one or two people might be slightly disturbed at the subject matter of said poem. After all, it is an evil ceremony, a wicked rite or a black mass. Some witches spatter blood on some animal corpses, demons come forth to eat those corpses and an angel is sacrificed. A sorceress works some magic and boom! something evil happens.

First of all, the idea came to me as I finished watching 300: Rise of an Empire, specifically the end credits when the soundtrack riffs on Black Sabbath’s song “War Pigs” (which you can read here). Specifically, the second line of the song which goes “just like witches at black masses” and I wondered: what would a witches’ black mass look like?

As is halfway usual, I got more of a feeling than a full formed poem. (The rest of the time I get a full formed poem). I didn’t want to exactly reproduce the words of the song, but I did want to reproduce the black mass. So I started playing, started finding rhyming words and built the poem. The three word lines kept it compact and punchy (I wanted this to be a visceral experience reading it); I didn’t want it to be melodic. I wanted the poem to be full of blackness and creepiness and all manner of unseemly elements. Then I got the idea that the animals are not the main sacrifice: that is an angel. I mean, what could be more evil than sacrificing an angel (besides like a baby or something).

The poem then ends with the rite as something is accomplished. What exactly that is I leave up to the audience*, the reader, but something is definitely manifested as a result of this black mass.

So that is the what. Now for the why. One, the song lyric is “witches at black masses”. The evil, occult setting is right there in the inspiring line. Cause: effect. Two, I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff show Angel. Both deal with the darker elements of occult mythology, i.e. vampires and demons and magic. I like that subject matter for the world it evokes: something primeval, something of prime evil.

I am not a Satan worshipper, I don’t even think Satan exists. I don’t love evil. I don’t condone sacrificing angels. But I do like the imagery and the metaphor of such things. What is so necessary that something luminous and bright must be sacrificed? What is a witch, in this context? What are the demons? What is “Satan” in this particular story? I don’t mean the accepted definitions of these things, but say what is brought forth is war, as the original song talks about. How then do we interpret the images, the metaphors? I am not saying war is the result of the black mass, but it certainly could be. The point is, whatever the result of the black mass, that informs how the rest of the poem is interpreted. I just use occult imagery as the vehicle to describe something that is occurring. So why occult and not puppies and sunshine? Well, puppies and sunshine tend to evoke happy, carefree, live for the moment types of things and I needed images that stood for dark, heavy, decidedly ambiguous (at best) types of things. That is really all there is to it.


*By the way, the ending: I hate to spoil the seeming grand design of it all, but originally I couldn’t think of something poignant enough to be the end result of the rite. At the exact same time, I thought “wouldn’t it be cool if this were a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of poem? Why not let the reader decide what is brought forth by the angel sacrifice?” so I ran with it and specifically engineered the poem to build to an abrupt end. Ultimately, you decide what it is about. Certainly the inspiring song is about the Vietnam War, and I have my own personal ideas what the poem is about, but your idea is just as valid. It might even be more so. What do you think it is about?

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I'm just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe. I write about what interests me.

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