The Scars Are Complimentary

Poetry chapbook, Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2002

This debut poetry chapbook from John Edward Lawson features thirty poems of the bizarre, ranging from horror to surreal to experimental. Stark pen and ink drawings accompany the poems.

“…a great introduction to the range of Lawson’s playful, dark, and challenging imagination. The book captures his voice in a can, and when you read the work, it pops out like one of those springy snakes hiding in the nutjar.” —Michael A. Arnzen, author Play Dead & 100 Jolts

Out of print!

What they’re saying about The Scars Are Complimentary:

John Edward Lawson’s recent self-published poetry chapbook, THE SCARS ARE COMPLIMENTARY, is a great introduction to the range of this upcoming poet’s playful, dark, and challenging imagination.The book launches with a poem called “Two Splitting Stomachs”—a bold poem that will make your gut do a “double-wrench”—and only the very savvy horror poetry fan would realize upon close reading that it is composed primarily from the virtual fridge magnets found at This is not to say that Lawson is derivative at all—instead, it testifies to his gusto for experimenting with words in a quest to capture (or release?) the dark and surreal depths of his imagination.What makes Lawson an interesting poet to me is his wide-eyed wonder at the potentialities of language. He’s got range: from a haiku in which “I go watering/my orchards of parasites/any time we kiss” to the subtle gore of the free versed “Motivational Balm” (“the world is a razor/raped oyster waiting to bleed/into my mouth”), Lawson seems able to capture strong metaphors through word play that would come across as vulgar punning in the hands of a lesser poet. Not all of Lawson’s literary games work in this book, but he managed to get me thinking. Lawson is obviously still finding his poetic voice but he’s on the right track: SCARS captures Lawson’s voice in a can, and when you read the work, it pops out like one of those springy snakes hiding in the nutjar.This is apropos for an aficianado with a proclivity for horror (Lawson edits THE DREAM PEOPLE webzine and has published widely in the horror press). He free associates and writes in search of surprise. He’s not afraid to go for the gross-out either (in one poem, maggots writhing in a pool of vomit trigger a pithy comment about nature).

Lawson is a relatively new writer, but I wish more horror poets had such literary kutzpah. I recommend this collection as an introduction to this writer’s voice. And I recommend you keep an eye on him as his dark vision develops and goes even deeper into the darkness.”
—Michael A. Arnzen, author Play Dead & 100 Jolts, for STAR*LINE Winter 2003

“The author of many poems, stories, and articles Mr. Lawson has honed his craft to [a] fine edged sword that could pour through these pages like a myth through the college grading curve. An educated guess would say that Mr. Lawson is barely showing his hand and that he will soon lean back across the table and raise.”
—Chris Mansel for The Muse Apprentice Guild

“John Edward Lawson has beautifully put together a small book of poetry of the unusual and grotesque. I’m not much of a poetry reader, but ‘The Scars Are Complimentary’ was definitely an eye catcher for even the largest loather of poetry. I read through 20 pages of wonderfully intertwined words veering from maggots to Greek mythology; my favorite being ‘Constellation Hope’.

I found a few of his poems sickly comical, especially the first in the book, ‘Body Found Under Pier, Details on Page A-17’ and ‘Mondo Verde’, while others like ‘Motivational Balm’ gave me a queasy, gory feeling. Most of the poems seemed to revolve around how disgustingly greedy and selfish the world we live in is, but he describes it hauntingly. John’s poetry is intelligent, breathtaking and sure to make you wonder what goes on in his fascinating mind. I’m thrilled that ‘The Scars Are Complimentary’ was the first poetry book to have placed on my bookshelf.”
—Stephanie Simpson-Woods for Camp Horror

“It has been said of modern poetry that its basic structure is the line. What can we say of postmodern poetry? Is there really such a thing? New definitions and a different aesthetic approach are needed. Having said this, I say so what! To hell with academic jargon and the “in the know” approach to literary criticism. When you’ve encountered something real and interestingly written you smile to yourself as you are propelled forward flying by the seat of your pants.

In The Scars Are Complimentary, a chapbook by John Edward Lawson, I came face to face with a poet coming to terms with himself and his craft. Both his success and failures intrigued me. To paraphrase the poet and apply that paraphrase to our struggle with words themselves: “I witnessed it—your faithless face stretched out like carrion over a drum I wanted to beat on.”

If you read the chapbook for interesting lines alone you will be well rewarded. As Lawson expresses in a blurb on the back of the back cover: “Just like a windshield/ we all go through a dark phase/ inner selves exposed.” Remember as well that for all of us when it comes to life: “the scars are complimentary.”
—J. Scott Malby

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