Tony Trigilio’s book-length poem The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood) is the first book of a multi-volume experiment in autobiography. For this project, Trigilio is watching all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows, the gothic soap opera that ran on ABC from 1966-1971. He is composing one sentence for each episode and shaping the sentences into couplets. Book 1 covers 183 episodes. The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood) is both an autobiographical diary poem and an ode to lost television artifacts. As David Trinidad, author of Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera, writes of the book, “Trigilio manages to create a riveting two-fold narrative—personal and TV-screen ekphrastic—out of piecemeal sentences (one per episode) that honor the most unlikely of poetic subjects: a cheaply produced, blooper-ridden, gothic-horror soap opera.
Barnabas Collins, kitsch vampire but source of poet Tony Trigilio’s childhood nightmares, rises from his casket in the first sentence of this intrepid fever chart of a poem. Trigilio manages to create a riveting two-fold narrative—personal and TV-screen ekphrastic—out of piecemeal sentences (one per episode) that honor the most unlikely of poetic subjects: a cheaply produced, blooper-ridden, gothic-horror soap opera. This is just the first installment of what promises to be a classic American coffin-shaped (I hope) epic poem. —David Trinidad
Tony Trigilio has taken on an epic task in The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood). Here, in Book 1, Trigilio uses the episodes as touchstones for his earliest memories, including nightmares, brought on by TV’s dream factory. Watching Dark Shadows episodes on DVD almost fifty years later, alone or with friends, the speaker confesses, “each time I rewind, it’s something different.” He re-casts his past in terms of gruesome camp, excavation and repression. As I read through this poem I remember my outrage at Dark Shadows being preempted by Watergate coverage, the weird day the show went from black and white to color. But if Trigilio seems to be in the zeitgeist—Dark Shadows remade by Tim Burton, Dark Shadows as referenced in Mad Men—he is also solidly planted in the universal. A boy and his mother, his brother, his father. The spirit and death. Blood—as in relation. Blood as in sex and violence. Couplets (rhyming and not), anaphora, elegies, sonnets, and a ghazal beautifully frame personal and cultural anxiety. —Denise Duhamel
Long before Twilight or True Blood, there was Barnabas Collins haunting the national psyche—a vampire the poet Tony Trigilio met before he met language itself, through watching the Dark Shadows soap as a very young child with his mother. In this tour-de-force of a long poem, Trigilio reveals how our pop culture invades the very core of our imagination with irresistible magical images such as ghost girls, psychic boys, “sea tramps,” and “paranormal flowers” of all varieties. But what he also shows is that while (to paraphrase Wittgenstein) “our pictures hold us captive,” we can repossess them and ourselves through our creative acts. Anyone who wants to understand what’s behind our cultural obsession with vampires better get this book right away. —Jerome Sala
Tony Trigilio’s recent books are White Noise (Apostrophe Books) and Historic Diary (BlazeVOX [books]). He is editor of Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments, forthcoming in 2014 from Ahsahta Press. He directs the program in Creative Writing/Poetry at Columbia College Chicago and is a co-founder and co-editor of Court Green.