Desperate houses with counterfeit chimneys: “The Dark Man” by Stephen King

i have ridden rails
and passed the smuggery
of desperate houses with counterfeit chimneys

The Dark Man by Stephen King
Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne

88 pages; Cemetery Dance Publications; July 2013
Illustrated poem

I know, right? ILLUSTRATED POEM, you guys. By KING, no less.

I’ve wanted to get my hands on this bad boy since it was released, but I’m cheap. (Sorry to shock you.) And my library didn’t have it. Until BAM, I randomly did one of my obsessive King-checks that I do every now and then and my library DID have it. Got it in December. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!

I kind of avoided reading too much about this when it came out because I knew how brief it was, and I wanted to experience it as unspoiled as I could. Now, if anyone knows me from real life (or from previous reviews, I suppose) you know I’m a Stephen King fan. And as I wrote a whole book of poetry (and somewhat foolishly) majored in it in college, I’m ALSO a poetry fan.

I know what you’re thinking. “Amy’s going to hate this! Because she’s a poetry snob! King can’t write poetry!”

Ha! Little do you know, he’s published some poetry. And I liked it. I was pretty sure going into this I’d like it. (Here’s my favorite I’ve read of his, if you’re interested. It’s the “steal it, steal it, and wear it for my own” that gets me.)

This is a poem he wrote in 1969 before Randall Flagg became Randall Flagg. Randall Flagg was just The Dark Man, then: a man who walked, and walked, and walked, and you knew, without even knowing why, really, to cross the street when he was coming. Something about the eyes. Something about the smile. Something just a little too hungry, maybe.

Did I like it?

Yes. Very much.

It’s got a Prufrock feel to it; it even starts with a Prufrock quote. And why not? Prufrock and The Dark Man are both outsiders, both looking in on something they can’t have. Difference is, Prufrock doesn’t get angry and take it because he thinks he deserves it.

Chadbourne’s illustrations are unsettling. But rightfully so, for this poem. Because the poem itself is unsettling. It’s short, but it gets inside and it worries you. Because this man could be anyone, and he could be right outside, right now. And a locked door probably wouldn’t stop him. Not if he really wanted to get in. Not if he decided where you were was where he wanted to be.

It really is a gorgeous little book. And I’m all for doing things like this; anything that makes poetry more accessible and – well, dare I say it? – COOL. Completely alright with me. I might be a bit of a King completist, I’ll admit that, but this is something that even the non-King fan could enjoy. A poetry fan, a graphic novel fan, a horror fan. There’s room for everyone on the road with The Dark Man, if you can keep up.

If you want to keep up, that is. I don’t know that you do. You might find your soul slipping away with every step.

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2 comments

    • lucysfootball

      It wasn’t a huge release, but I totally stalk the internet for such things…and I really did! It was a great way to start out the year! (Working on a blog about the other book I started the year with, but that one’s going to be a long one…she says mysteriously!)

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