Chapbook review: Basement Gemini

basement gemini

Chelsea Margaret Bodnar weaves a tangled web of horror film tropes and sheds a little lightness on the flickering world of dark.

‘You didn’t pay attention ‘til the lights went out forever, my nails

flecking the well-wall, the whole world closing up and leaving me down in

                  the dark with all the small change of your wishes.’

-Chelsea Margaret Bodnar, Basement Gemini

Chelsea Margaret Bodnar creates a haunted house of poetry that meanders through the tropes that define horror plot and the characters that bring them to life in her debut chapbook Basement Gemini. Each entry of exquisitely crafted prose poetry keeps the reader rapt and turning pages. Available through the meticulously handcrafted chapbooks published by Hyacinth Girl Press in their Year Eight series, this is a text worth adding to any poetry collection.

I’ve always been the type of person to relish horror flicks at home. I have a complex relationship with them that usually involves peeking through my fingers and alternating between a lights on/lights off strategy to get through to the end. I don’t typically revisit horror films. However, in the short time that I’ve had Basement Gemini, I have re-visited Bodnar’s words again and again. The author clearly has a longstanding history with viewing the genre and I felt as if she’d taken me by the hand through a house of horrors in the daytime, as if to say “see, it’s not so scary here.” Suddenly, the blood becomes ketchup packets and chocolate syrup and a severed head is not so terrifying, after all.

‘You’ve seen real violence and it looks like television, the head cut off could just be someone poking through a table.’

-Chelsea Margaret Bodnar, Basement Gemini

 Several passages in her work remind me of the tropes that speak specifically to teenage girls and young women, usually involving them in the occult or a ‘Mean Girls’ type mentality. While I read these powerful descriptions, my memory recall becomes a kind of dark Proustian melange of sleepovers, Ouija boards and candlelit seances. It is a powerful reminder that life and art imitate each other and I am more aware than ever that in order for horror films to truly scare me, they must always have this niggling kernel that is seeded deep in my mind of something that could happen in real life.

The subtext in here seems to be that tropes are the backbone of horror and leaves me wondering how a trope becomes such in the first place. How many memories do I have of reaching into the darkness and trying to touch ‘the other side’?

‘This is the same story where the teenage girls are lifted, backs broken, high above their beds, limbs splayed like predatory birds.’

-Chelsea Margaret Bodnar, Basement Gemini

Throughout the chapbook there are small sarcasms that made me chuckle mixed in with the horror peepshow that comes with every page turn. From moment to moment, I’m not sure whether to be frightened or to laugh at how ridiculous some of these horror films can be in the light of day. I love that Bodnar keeps me on my toes and interweaves a bit of humour when I least expect it.

This is complicating your entire investigation; mass grave of daughters, slow erosion of pretty milk skin… And big surprise, love interest pushed you in.’

-Chelsea Margaret Bodnar, Basement Gemini

As I finished the chapbook, I found myself wishing that I knew all the movies referenced by the author, so that I could go on a film binge. Lights out, of course. Chelsea Margaret Bodnar’s Basement Gemini has changed my view on horror films in a unique and refreshing way. I may not even have to peek through my fingers next time.