His name is Angel Zapata. He doesn’t know I’m doing this. And I don’t know Angel at all. I only know him from a few pieces of writing I’ve seen online. And I think he’s doing really interesting work.
Angel Zapata strikes me as one of those guys who is writing for the love it. From my review of his website, I can tell that he has had an awful lot of success publishing as a poet on the dark side and in the realm of the short mystery, and he’s earned more than enough cred in my book to be dubbed a real “indie writer.” You can tell just from the blogroll on his website that lists all the places he’s published his crafty, often dark, thinkpieces. He’s widespread and placing little jewels of work in all sorts of little lit zines, so he might not be someone who is on your radar. But maybe that gives him even more cred, because he’s sort of a lone wolf, earning his own bread, bit-by-bit across the internet. He’s steering clear of bandwagons to pilot his own ship, and taking it wherever he wants it to go. But you can tell he’s well read, an aficionado of the genre, and a person who is professional in every way. And he has a great sense of humor.
And I think he’s someone who could use more attention. I like writers like Angel. He’s a writer earning his audience. Some one should pay this man more money for what he does, because he has a lot of talent. Since I am not a Wall Street broker, I can’t give him anything, beyond tossing him a few royalties when I buy the books he appears in. But I can give him a little spotlight by turning you on to his work. So that’s what I’m trying to do in this blog entry.
You see, writers often band together and promote each other, either because they’re affiliated by genre or have a shared publishing history. That’s one of the reasons we need publishers who offer up the pages in their journals and the space on their website to foment a community. Writers and editors and readers all come together at what Germans call the “treffpunkt” — the rendezvous point or gathering place — to traffic with the tribe.
I think that’s why journals like The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly — run by a very generous soul and smart editor/poet named Gerald So — are such cool places to publish and visit. The 5-2 is well-populated by great authors who are delivering the goods for anyone interested in mystery and crime stories. If you’re into the crime genre, you should be into the 5-2. It posts new material EVERY WEEK like clockwork. But it’s also a little bit off. Like any good outlaw, this weekly journal is doing something a little bit off the grid. It’s an indie journal doing indie things. To be more specific: it’s Mr. So’s treffpunkt off the grid for people who are interested in what happens when vice and villainy are put through that unique word grinder known as “poetry.”
Crime…poetry? Is that like gangsta rap? Not quite, but they are sibling subgenres in their own way.
So much of what constitutes the “crime” genre is defined by popular mystery novels, potboiler paperback thrillers, prime time cop shows, and, heck, maybe even the nightly news. But poetry? Believe it or not, poetry has something different to say, because by its very nature it has to say things differently. This frees the subject matter from the conventions of narrative to dance to its own beat. Poetry is an exploration. And I harbor the suspicion that criminals and detectives are explorers in their own right, too. So as a peculiar little subgenre, “crime poetry” is really interesting stuff, and from all I can tell, the 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly is THE treffpunkt for this business.
Angel belongs there, and I hope to encounter his work in the 5-2 or in a similar meeting place when our paths cross once again.
Back in November of 2012, Angel published a devious little poem on the 5-2, called “Housekeeper.” I should just shut my yapper and let you go read it on the site, but here’s the non-spoiler gist of the poem in a nutshell: the poem is about a man who is tricking his housekeeper into cleaning evidence of his crime up after him, in a very clever way.
I love this idea. It is a case study in the old “hidden in plain sight” trick that the great writers are able to pull off. But more than that, the poem — in just 20 brief lines — gives us a full blown picture of the criminal’s backstory, his psychological motive, and the perverse pleasure he takes in getting revenge. We get hit in the gut with a “perfect murder” scenario, followed by a punch square in the jaw with the poem’s final lines. I’m not sure whether to loather the killer or feel sorry for him, but it doesn’t matter at that point: it’s a knockout poem precisely because it pushes me off balance and resists an easy judgment about the killer’s guilt. Its also one of those poems that deserves to be re-read (my favorite kind), because you start to see more depth and dark irony to it the more you read it. You start to see hidden meanings in the passing mention of “cancer” and the comparison of a trash heap to “volcanic ash”. Though I’d love to keep performing an explication de texte to prove just how good it is, I won’t say anything more, because I want you to read it, study it, and see what makes it such a successful piece of crime poetry on your own.
But if you’re impatient, how about this: One of the (many) great things about the 5-2 is that the site is very active in social networking, tapping twitter, youtube blogging and e-books to broaden the audience for its outlaw poets. Along with every poem, Gerald So includes recitations of the poems via youtube broadcasts, and you can hear Dehant Paul read Angel’s “Housekeeper” here or in the embedded video below. But do go to the 5-2 and read the poem too, and I think you’ll understand why I admire its craftsmanship.
The 5-2 is not the only place I’ve encountered Angel Zapata’s work.
I recently judged the annual flash fiction contest for microhorror.com, which meant reading a bunch of anonymous horror stories having to do with the theme of “art” and picking my favorites. It turned out that Angel’s short story, “The Blood Worms” was one of my top picks and it placed as a winner in the contest. Here’s what I said in my review:
The Blood Worms?! How could anyone not be intrigued by a title like that? The concept of this one is pretty strong, but Zapata’s story really won me over with its chilling imagery — and the sheer insanity depicted here really transfers from the story into the reader’s mind. “Blood Worms” is written with a sure hand, driven to deliver the goods, and it succeeds in depicting an artist’s vision as a disturbed one. The last line stuck with me long after I read it, like an afterburn.
I won’t give anything away, but I know you’ll be hooked if I cite just one sentence from the story — a bit of dialogue uttered by a madman:
‘The worms eat us,’ he said. ‘Now I eat them.’
I love that line. Angel and I think alike.
So do most of the writers over at the 5-2. Head on over and meet me at the treffpunkt. You can read a piece I published there last year if you like, called “This is How I Murdered the Librarian.” Or simply join me in celebrating the 30 Days of the 5-2 for the rest of the month.
If you’re on twitter, you can also follow @poemsoncrime and use hashtag #30OfThe52 to help promote the site for National Poetry Month. Not into that? Then just remember the name ANGEL ZAPATA and seek out his work. And if you’re not into any of this? Well, then go your merry way and let the worms eat you.
— Mike Arnzen
p.s. In addition to this tribute to the 5-2, I am also celebrating April by posting a new horror poem every day throughout the month on my website at gorelets.com. Come back and read the new pieces as they’re posted. A new one — a poem constructed with The Fridge of the Damned magnetic poetry tiles —
will appear tonight! is now live, called “Zombie Milk”!