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Review of john compton’s ‘the castration of a minor god’ by Kellie Scott-Reed

Truth. Your truth; mine. We have our versions, but for it to actually be the truth, we must first be honest with ourselves. In john compton’s ‘the castration of a minor god’, we get it; unvarnished, harsh, and beautiful.

compton’s collection of poetry masterfully explores the connections between the manufactured and oppressive ‘truth’ of religion, and the holistic truth of who we are as human beings. He doesn’t hold back the reality or the brutality, but the language is a phoenix on the brink of rebirth. Fire feels important in his imagery, as a cleansing, sacrificial and purification rite.

For example, in “the men who made bonfires’, he explores the torture and public shaming of two men, ‘when their secret is revealed’ and this rebirth is seen in the last line at the moment of their eventual murder:

"they clothed them in fire,

made them women in orange dresses


compton explores familial relationships in beautiful and heartbreaking pieces like ‘aelena’, ‘rowland’ and ‘john'. There were times when I had to pause, and catch my breath. We have all been that child, an amalgamation of the trauma and pain of those who came before, as well as the love and filial loyalty with which we struggle to understand. These poems feel universal and therefore, very personal. He does a brilliant job of creating a human landscape that is complex and multi dimensional. In ‘the news slips off your tongue like hot soup’, for example, he invites us into the intimate moment of the realization of a parent’s imminent death, and the realization that they have reconciled long before this moment. It’s brilliantly executed but it’s hard, very hard. You will realize with compton’s work that there is no easy ‘out’. The only way to understanding, is through.

Sex; blooming, curious, humorous and sometimes violent, is explored with an honesty that is liberating in this collection. compton enmeshes the ritual of church and the violence of the religious towards LGBTQ marriage and sexuality in general. In ‘your fear becomes holy’, and ‘mary’ for example, he is almost wondering aloud at the preposterousness of the dogma. Where the humorous turn around of religious mythos in ‘your fear becomes holy, 2’ and the idea of dildo as animal in ‘dog’ are the said ‘phoenix’ rising from the ashes. His poems lead you to and inside intimate experiences, ones you may recognize and others foreign to you, and you carry them with you for a while.

My favorite poem of the collection (if that’s even possible) is ‘somehow the hips move wildly’. I just ask you to read it. I won’t tell you why I love it, it’s up to you to see what you think. But here is a line from it that has stuck with me and made me want to sit down at this computer and implore you to read this collection.

‘“you should agree with what dean young said

about why we created god, there is a need

to call people liars, you, reader, are a liar.”

‘the castration of a minor god’, is a collection of worth and you will learn something about yourself when you read it. If you write, it may make you go back and take a look at some of those half truths you’ve told yourself when you committed something to the page. To sum up my experience with this collection:

I felt love when he asked me to, I felt inflamed when he willed it, and I understood a little more about what drives the human spirit against all odds. compton is telling us the truth, and I, for one, am grateful for it.

john compton (b. 1987) is gay poet who lives in kentucky. he lives in a tiny town, with his husband josh and their 3 dogs and 2 cats. his poetry is a personal journey. he reaches for things close and far, trying to give them life: growing up gay; having mental health issues; a journey into his childhood; the world that surrounds us. he writes to be alive, to learn and to grow. he loves imagery, metaphor, simile, abstract language, sounds, when one word can drift you into another direction. he loves playing with vocabulary, creating texture and emotions. he has published 2 books and 5 chapbooks published and forthcoming: [books]: trainride elsewhere (august 2016) from Pressed Wafer; stranger in the attic of clouds (tba) from dead man's press inc; [chapbooks]: that moan like a saxophone (december 2016) from kindle; ampersand (march 2018) from Plan B Press; a child growing wild inside the mothering womb (june 2020) from ghost city press; i saw god cooking children / paint their bones (oct 2020) from blood pudding press; to wash all the pretty things off my skin (sept 2021) from ethel zine & micro-press. he has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.


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