Cosmology of Heaven & Hell
by Michael Waterson
Scheduled Release Date: Sept 15, 2022
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The poems in Cosmology of Heaven & Hell were written over a span of four decades and set in locations from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to California and beyond. Subjects range the from the deeply personal to political and cultural figures and events employing both traditional forms, sonnets and villanelles, as well as free verse. Throughout the collection there exists an overarching theme that hell exists in different manifestations—all of which is tempered by the author’s deliciously dark humor. In the latter half of the twentieth century, celebrities like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe proved that in modern day America fame can be a hell. On the political front, President Richard Nixon’s Machiavellian Madman Theory flirted with a hell-on-earth scenario. Today wildfires and melting icecaps brought about by climate change present the prospect of a hellish future for the planet. Beyond public manifestations of perdition, the book explores the private hell of a dysfunctional family and failed relationships, our woeful ignorance about the nature of our existence, the darkness and tormenting doubts that lie below the surface of everyday living.
Cosmology of Heaven & Hell perfectly captures Waterson’s fiery chthonic leitmotif and dark humor, as does the brilliant, “Stooges Apotheosis,” a universe where brutal slap-/ stick chaos calls the tune,/ and laughter is the thunderclap/ of the gods applauding ruin. Reckoning with a steel-working, hard-drinking, domestically violent, Irish Catholic upbringing, he swaps a hell with the lid off Pittsburgh for hellish California wild fires, plumbing the hells we make for ourselves and the heaven we can have, if we agree to savor this breaker-breaking, cloud-scudding,/ sand-in-the-eye now.
—April Ossmann, author of Event Boundaries