This poem was meant as a light-hearted celebration of all things Gothic, and of scholars and students in the field. I crammed in as many tropes, archetypes, characters, and clichés as I could, torturously straining the rhymes on the rack. It was originally a short piece commissioned by Ali Younger at the University of Sunderland for her ‘Gorgeous Goth Girls’, so the alliteration of the letter ‘g’ became compulsive. It’s been expanded several times—I can’t seem to let it go—and the current iteration is in response to the University of Sheffield’s Reimagining the Gothic: Aesthetics and Archetypes conference which I was unfortunately unable to attend (there’s a sly reference to the conference theme in there now, and Prof. Angela Wright has a solo spot).
It’s a playful Bacchanalia, but beneath the surface there’s a more serious theme, one of aesthetic transformation and emancipation—a reimagining, if you like—and of the importance of narrative. All the moral ambiguity and subversiveness of the Gothic appears. The reworking of Gothic archetypes appears in an allusion to Angela Carter’s characterisation of her revisioning of fairy tales as ‘new wine in old bottles’. The action is a Walpurgisnacht of witches learning eagerly, conjuring lovers, feasting voraciously, and having a general good time while telling stories that reimagine and enchant the world, then soaring into the skies till dawn arrives.
Night of the Gorgeous Goth Girls: A Paranormal Romance.
(for Sam George, Angela Wright, Alison Younger, and their students of the Gothic at the Universities of Hertfordshire, Sheffield, and Sunderland)
Under a gibbous and gory moon
The Gorgeous Goth Girls gyre and gimble,
Gliding gaily to gloomy tune
With graceful sway and gait that’s nimble.
Their eyes adorned with artful shade,
Glad-ragged in black, lips daubed with mauve;
Transforming all that moonlit glade
Aesthetically, those Goth Girl fauves.
Witches all, with body parts
And occult herbs they craft their spell;
Imagination and dark arts
Create a heaven from savage Hell.
Hence three-faced Hekátē, through hexes
Etched in the air with argent fire,
Breathes lucid commerce among the sexes,
Inspiring a colloquy of desire.
Then, demon lovers from leafy wood,
Or leaping from the leaves of books,
Are stirred alive with boiling blood,
Enchanted by those glamouring looks.
Come icy Ruthven, cool Carmilla,
Lurching zombie, Giaour, and ghoul;
Spike and Angel, crazed Drusilla—
Glittery Edward’s here from school.
Barnabas and Scissorhands,
L’Estat, Ligeia, Yog-Sothoth,
Goblins, elves from Faerie lands
Salute the troupe of Gorgeous Goths.
The Count himself, three sultry brides;
Galvanic monster and his wife;
Pale warriors, werewolves, Mr Hyde:
All celebrate that Blood is Life.
And oh! What music they do make!
With gut and reed and rattling bones,
Wild revels like some Celtic wake
Resound with eerie, plangent tones.
The Girls gavotte with gay cadavers,
Goat-men, mermen, incubae,
Who quicken in the danse macabre
And ululate with ghostly cry.
The music dies; the feast begins
With tender flesh laid out to bite.
The menu sings of luscious sins
Enthralling curious appetites.
Such gleeful gusto! The gorgeous gluttons
Gulp goblin grapes and baneful berries;
Wolf glorious gateaux, goose and mutton,
With lusty wine from Naughty Man’s Cherries.
Licking lips, they leave the table
To conjure more delicious sin,
To reimagine Gothic fable—
New archetypes in ancient skin.
The greedy Girls explore grimoires
In search of threads that can be woven
Into stories spiced with noir
To spellbind the uncanny coven.
All gather kindling and ignite
A bonfire which soon fiercely rages.
The visions in the flames incite
Wild tales inscribed on virgin pages.
Ceridwen flings into the brew
That simmers in her cauldron bright
Wild elements to create anew
The chaos of the sable night.
There’s pickled spiders, gall of goat,
Scale of dragon and basilisk blood,
Syllables torn from infant throat,
Distilled with Gothic womanhood.
Benighted ravens, owls, and bats
Around the Girls shape-shift and swirl,
While grinning glowing-green-eyed cats
Torment the air with eldritch skirl.
Familiars help the spells get ready:
Faithful Wednesday, furred Pyewacket,
Wilful Willow, and torpid Teddy
Growl and purr in gleeful racket.
Who has gathered to incant
These arcane scripts? What dark divines
Will glorify and re-enchant
The world and render it sublime?
Matilda plots with Loridani,
Alice Nutter, Lilith, Glinda,
Bastet, Morrigan, fey Morgana,
Mab, Medea, and gypsy Wanda.
While Angela stirs Gothic Romance
Into the spell of history,
Beguiling Italy and France
Evoke Udolphan mystery.
There Ali, Lianan-Sídhe, reveals
Bright secrets from the darkest lore.
Her students, with delighted squeals,
Learn tales of terror, lust, and gore.
Samantha, witch of Circe’s line,
Likewise from open graves uncovers
Charms, unfit for abject swine,
That open minds of bards and lovers.
Kaja, lycanthrope, uncoils
Her tale of animality,
Reveals her hybrid self embroiled
With carnal sociality.
Through Rachey’s stories summoned hence,
Beautiful monsters who transgress
Morality and common sense
Mask vice beneath cosmetic dress.
These narratives grip the Girls with awe
And animate a fierce resolve
To transcend gravity’s grim law:
Besmearing skin with chymick salve
That stings their bodies into flight,
And shivering with the fierce uplift,
The Gorgeous Girls soar into night
Astride a hog or besom swift.
Now howling giddily, drunk with glee,
They trace Agnesi’s sensual curves,
Describing paths that set them free,
Reborn in wild ecstatic swerves . . .
But now the cock crows dreary day
And Gorgeous Goth Girls must retire.
Spectral visions fade away;
Bells clang and banish dark desire.