[For the previous Dark Carnival post, click here.]
“The Poems” (1945)
The poet David stumbles upon a strange ability to capture reality, a talent that extends far beyond the common conception of verisimilitude: “Somehow, David had caught up, netted, skeined, imbedded reality, substance, atoms–mounting them upon paper with a simple imprisonment of ink!” His poetry proves “too perfect”–it actually erases from existence what it describes, leaving nothing but an “unnatural blank-spaced silence.” Basking in the glow of his meteoric rise (literary critics hail him as “the greatest poet who ever lived”), the hubristic David ultimately precipitates his own downfall. Like some mad scientist, he begins to experiment with dogs and cats, sheep and even people as the subjects of his poetry. But when David proclaims his intention to write about the universe itself (“I’ll dissect the heavens if I wish, rip down the worlds, toy with suns if I damn please!”), his horrified wife Lisa takes clandestine yet drastic steps to dissolve their marriage.
Leave it to a creative genius like Bradbury to think up such a story about the wonders–and dangers–of the imagination. Appropriately, the image-rich prose here (“The paper was a square, brilliantly sunlit casement through which one might lean into another and brighter amber land”) approaches the quality of poetry. In its concerns with the uncanny power of inking, the story also prefigures the classic tale “The Illustrated Man.” “The Poems” is certainly dark enough in import; perhaps the only thing that makes it an imperfect fit with the contents of the original Dark Carnival collection is its predominantly vernal (rather than autumnal) vibe.