I pulled her out of my head
and snapped the doll strings, one by one. Her intestines slap-stung my knuckles like spiteful elastic
and I pulled and pulled them,
trying to hurt her back.
Then I tried to send her away,
but the doll strings coiled up
and tightened around my neck. She was out of my head
but I’d brought her to life,
and now I can’t forget her.
– Molly Andrew
It has been a tough choice to select an Editor’s Pick for the poetry section this time round because the quality of all of the published works was so good, but I am proud to be able to share Molly Andrew’s ‘Doll Strings’ with you. As it is a short poem, I have been able to share it in its entirety here rather than just an extract which is great.
Why does this piece stand out? Well, the metaphor of doll strings to explore the self and one’s psychology is an extremely Gothic and layered source of imagery. This is very striking and so succinctly done which demonstrates great poetic skill. Molly’s ability is also evident in the sonic beauty of phrases such as ‘intestines slap-stung’ which emphasise the sibilance which runs throughout the first stanza.
I am particularly intrigued by this idea of bringing a character within yourself to life which you then can’t get rid of. This animation of a doll speaks to the common trope within horror writing and also demonstrates the danger we pose to ourselves. Often the greatest horror is not the supernatural, but the psychological, not what the world can do to us, but what our minds can do to the world, what it can make us see or imagine. I love the fact that Molly has engaged with this horror tradition subtly and evoked this sense of psychological trauma through skilfully crafted imagery.
The careful ambiguity and non-specificity of Molly’s poem means that it is open to reader’s interpretations and invites a dialogue with its readership and their own experiences of the tortured mind or self, perhaps even split personality disorders. This makes Molly’s poem distinctly modern and enjoyable to read.
Everyone at Spellbinder wishes Molly every success in her continuing journey as a poet, and encourage other submissions which engage with psychological horror traditions as this poem does so well.
Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief