Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods
illustrations by Sarah Suits, Clayton Jannusch, Levi Baird
graphic design by Sarah Suits
hand-sewn saddle-stictch binding
"Sanders' poetry is a dark and beautiful take on nostalgic themes reminiscent of stories and videogames that shaped my adolescence. Fantastical yet easily relatable, Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods topped my list of graphic novells to be excited about." Robert Edens, Native Construct.
Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods, by Dylan Sanders. (Decatur, IL.): Bronze Man Books, 2016, 36 pages, 6.5 x 9, hand-sewn saddle-stitch binding. ISBN 978-09-9099-2172.
Synopsis & Sample Opening
Bronze Man Books is pleased to announce the publication of Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods, by Dylan Sander. This collection of prose poems is gathered and published as a graphic novella. This chapbook was produced in-house with hand sewing for saddle-stitch binding.
“We both know that never happened and I lie awake imagining what might have transpired had it taken place.”
Dylan Sanders knows how much lying awake and imagining we all do, the extent to which we are all storytellers in memory, fictionalists in altering the truth as it happened to the truth we want or need to know or a truth that both terrifies and tempts us. Sanders begins his wonderfully irreal Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods reliving the possibilities, living the imagined, and wondering whether it happened that way or happened at all.
At the center of Skull Kids is the urge to explore the stories we tell ourselves and why.
The book in this way is simultaneously deeply mythic and deeply meta. By meta, I mean mindful of and curious about its own myth-making process, about story-telling itself, our own tendencies as tellers.
But the gut punch of Sanders’ sequence lands with the 2nd person in section 20—all along it was you. And why wouldn’t it be? Go back and check again—you were there the whole time. This book takes you by the hand to dark places where you find yourself.
Sanders’ sequence deftly threads together two parallel worlds: one lived, the other the fantasy world of Legend of Zelda with its Skull Kids: children lost in the mythic wood who never made it out.
The sequence does more than appropriate youth pop culture; it identifies a touchstone for an entire generation of young people, a world that gives contrast and literal relief from the immediate one. Sections in the sequence move back and forth between memory/experience and the allegory of Zelda/Skull Kids. And then, almost without notice, the two become indistinguishable.
So, the Legend of Zelda creates a parallel world of high and harrowing circumstances and reveals the level of import, the sense of urgency in identifying with this danger. The stakes are high in life as well as in the imaginary. The Zelda world has manifest consequences (children turned into Skull Kids). The world of literal experience has consequences harder to see and know, but long-lasting, haunting.
“Youth, like the people we love, disappears so fast.” Those harrowing events in the woods have high stakes, supernatural consequences.
This sequence is for all of us, whether we grew up with Zelda or not. Sanders is too smart to lean on exclusive audience or play with simple binaries: he sees us with one foot in and one foot out of all variety of lives. We all hybridize—like the sequence itself—an altered reality.
“Now that’s a real story,” he insists at the outset of this fantastical sequence. Blurring together and blurring apart: real and irreal. Real story indeed; story about the real. Story about experience so convincingly altered that you have to step in once in a while to make note of what is and what isn’t. The apple falls from which world, rolls down the slope and into which other?
Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods has the feel of other collagist, altered realities, and sequences of Bolaño and Ballard. It is informed and accessible, unlike Eliot even when Sanders is echoing Eliot from The Waste Land. Like all our great literature of youth and childhood, Skull Kids is fantastic, terrifying, irresistible, wise and fun. In the months leading up to its release, Skull Kids has won the praise of writers and rock stars reading it in manuscript and heralded the launch of this smart and wonderful book. Dylan Sanders is here, picking up that apple that rolled here from somewhere and throwing it back.
Dr. Stephen Frech
About the Author
Dylan Sanders graduated from Millikin University in December 2014 with a degree in creative writing.
He has written articles for nerdglow.com, is a contributor for Thecirclepit.com and has had poetry published in Jenny Magazine, Poet’s Haven, and The Gambler
. He enjoys being lost in modern internet culture and metal music, believes in the synthwave revival and finds tragedy to hold the greatest potential for comedy.
He can be contacted on Facebook and Twitter.
Illustrators Clayton Jannusch and Levi Baird created the original sketches and drawings. Sarah Suits also created original drawings and reworked all drawings into a consistent illustration style. Sarah also designed the final edition ready for print.