by Brian Fanelli
Growing up, I had little in common with my dad. He was a hunter; I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years. I tried and eventually quit several sports, including baseball, basketball, and even, for a short stint, karate. My dad played baseball in high school, and his love of sports never waned. When I was a teenager, he spent Sunday afternoons wearing his favorite Packers shirt and watching the game, while I practiced guitar riffs in my bedroom. Yet, despite our differences, I credit my dad for one of my strongest passions: the love of the horror genre.
As a kid, when video stores still existed, I roamed the aisles of VHS tapes with my dad, and always, we drifted to the horror section. There, I was captivated by the sleeves and images— the dark eyes of Jason’s hockey mask, the thick scars on Freddy Kreuger’s face, the flesh-eating ghouls of George A. Romero’s zombie films. Though we rented newer horror releases, I credit him for watching the classics with me. He cited The Birds, Psycho, and Night of the Living Dead as some of his favorites, and because of him, I still have a deep affection for the second golden age of American horror. It makes sense that he was drawn to those films, considering he came of age during the 1960s and not only did those films reflect the shifting culture norms and turbulent times, but they were groundbreaking. He was part of a generation that got to witness the shower scene in Psycho and the groan of Romero’s staggering zombies on the big screen for the first time.
Our bonding experience wasn’t limited to just watching movies. Each October, he helped me turn our yard into a cemetery, complete with cardboard and styrofoam graves and hands rising from the ground. We propped up dummies and manikins on the front porch— Dracula in a cardboard coffin, Frankenstein next to the mailbox, a mad chef clenching a bloody butcher knife and gnawing on a plastic rat. On the railing, we used fishing wire to hang gigantic spiders and ghosts. Maybe it was all a little tacky, but at least my dad encouraged and supported my love for all things horror and Halloween.
My dad died from cancer in 2005. Cancer was the monster that couldn’t be defeated, that paled and thinned his body and hooked him up to feeding tubes, though that’s not how I remember him. Instead, I recall trips to the video store with him and those cool afternoons in autumn, when we transformed our home into a spook house. I wonder what he’d say about recent horror films like Hereditary, The Witch, or Get Out, films that have as much to say about this current moment as the movies that were metaphors for his generation. Over the years, I’ve written about my dad in several poems, but more recently, I’ve been revising a manuscript of poetry about the horror genre. There are pieces about Leatherface, Norman Bates, zombies, and The Exorcist. I think that he’d enjoy them. Initially, this project started as a reaction to broader social and political issues, an exploration of horror as a reflection of our deeper anxieties, but during the revision process, I’ve realized it’s also about my relationship to my dad and our mutual love of these films. Without him, I wouldn’t be writing these poems, writing about the genre in general, or lugging plastic bins of decorations from the basement every October. He showed me how to use a little fishing wire to keep those decorations in place and scare the neighbors.
About The Author
Brian Fanelli’s most recent book is Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Poetry Prize. He is also author of the chapbook Front Man (Big Table Publishing) and the collection All That Remains (Unbound Content), as well as the co-editor of Down the Dog Hole: 11 Poets on Northeast Pennsylvania (Nightshade Press). His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and “The Writer’s Almanac,” and his writing has been published in The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, The Paterson Literary Review, Main Street Rag, and elsewhere. He’s written essays and reviews on horror films for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and the website Horror Homeroom, and he blogs about the genre at www.brianfanelli.com. He is an assistant professor of English at Lackawanna College and holds an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from SUNY Binghamton University.
Thursday, April 11, 2019 6:30 p.m.
Big Dog Reading Series
Brian Fanelli will be reading with Daryl Sznyter.
Monty’s Assembly Room, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA
Saturday, April 13 2019 7-9 p.m.
The Writer’s Showcase Reading Series
Brian Fanelli will be reading with other faculty and students from Lackawanna College.
The Olde Brick Theater, 126 W. Market Street, Scranton, PA
Saturday, May 11 9:30 am-6 pm
Poetry Retreat at King's College
Brian Fanelli is teaching a workshop on incorporating pop culture into your writing.
Sheehy Farmer Campus Center, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA
This has a special registration requirement: Cost to attend is $25 and includes lunch, dinner, and coffee/tea service throughout the day. Registration forms can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for registration is Monday, April 29, 2019.