Today’s guest poet for Women in Horror Month is Trisha Wooldridge who has had fiction in the EPIC award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, and Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory. She also won the Eye on Life prize for her poem “To Me, You Are Holy,” in 2011.
When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?
I discovered poetry in my childhood through nursery rhymes and nursery rhyme collections, many of which have surprisingly disturbing poems! I was probably only about six or seven when I read Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” and I was physically ill from the thought of eating that school of baby oysters. On the other hand, I couldn’t stop rereading it because I sensed that there was a Deep Truth to the nonsense: you couldn’t trust people; not everyone has your best interests in mind; people will hurt you to their benefit. In fact, if you look at a lot of children’s nursery rhymes, they talk about horrible and true things. London Bridge falling down, the plague, children getting hurt, being unable to heal from injuries… And then in grade school, we had Shel Silverstein, who also dealt with complicated and sometimes dark issues with nonsensical verse: being lazy, being bullied, things going wrong for no reason, dealing with the fair and unfair consequences to actions… So, from a young age, poetry was where I found a place to explore complicated and scary emotions.
Why do you write poetry?
I write poetry to process my most complicated and difficult emotions. While I love prose, poetry works on more levels than linear storytelling. With poetry, the white space, line breaks, punctuation are as much the message as the words—and word choice and word order carry more meaning than in a prose construction. So often emotions or situations—dealing with death, betrayal, self-analysis, pain, truest love—don’t fit into just words or just sentences. They need more—more dimensions, more meanings, more places to fit meanings. Poetry is a gift and tool for such feelings and experiences.
What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?
Honestly, everything! If I’m writing a poem, it’s because I already have a complex, possibly painful or achingly beautiful—relationship with a topic. But the construction of a poem is also a challenge. Some poems are meant to be shorter free verse, others are 5,000-word rhymed and metered monstrosities! Some poems need a haiku, so you’re limited with an exceptionally short and rigid form. So, writing a poem is not only doing a deep-dive into emotions, it’s painstakingly finding the right form and then working it into that form. And then making sure it might hopefully make sense to someone else.
If I can share a bit of a story behind this one? It’s currently unpublished. I wrote it as a challenge to myself when I was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago: I would to record the first month of taking Adderall by writing a poem about mental health every day. It was my most productive and poetic month; I’ve actually found myself able to write more poems overall since the diagnosis. At some point, once I edit them all, I plan on collecting all 30 poems and some other ADHD related ones into a chap book.
Poetic Coping Strategies – An Adderall Poem
I’m reading three different books of poetry— one whimsical songs of birds, death, and dinosaurs; one exploding, burning galaxy that equally loves and tears asunder; one a musical road trip of drugs, sex, murder, and suicide— not always in that order. They are different sized books with different textured covers, and I read from each in parts and in succession, and together they make sense in the coils and tangles wiring my brain. I’ve written more poems than there are days in these past months. Last time I hyperfocused on poetry, Death was on the lines— past and future. That then-present medicated haze left me leaving metered and rhymed text messages unintentionally. It rewired my brain— not that it was factory setting normal in the first place. Or ever. But that was then— an emotional fractal honed by a deadline I didn’t want to miss— And this is now— a mental fractal tasting medicine enhanced by the promise of opportunity. No less an interest-based obsession. No less a force of nature.More me, being the me I want to be.
## Due to WordPress issues and to preserve the formatting–which is not spaced as Trisha wanted it–I could not get this to show in the same font.
If I can share a bit of a story behind this one? It’s currently unpublished. I wrote it as a challenge to myself when I was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago: I would to record the first month of taking Adderall by writing a poem about mental health every day. It was my most productive and poetic month; I’ve actually found myself able to write more poems overall since the diagnosis. At some point, once I edit them all, I plan on collecting all 30 poems and some other ADHD related ones into a chapbook.
Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?
I do tend to write in themes. A lot of my poetry explores mortality and the relationships people have with death and mortality through faith, spirituality, and religion—and how faith, spirituality, and religion can be positive or toxic to one’s life before they die. I’ve also recently been having quite the unwelcome roller-coaster of emotion in relation to health, mental health, the American medical culture, and the social culture around women’s health and overall mental health, so I’ve written a LOT of poems on that recently. I also love writing about the weirdly or eerily or creepily beautiful things in nature. And I have always been drawn to speculative topics—to magic, to monsters, to mythology, to the fae. So, while I do have some poems that are specifically fantastical or speculative, a lot of speculative elements work their way into my poems. As far as I’m concerned, magic is real and all around us, so most anything can and should acknowledge that.
What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?
Everybody has things they are afraid of; speculative anything creates metaphors, thought experiments, that let people explore their fears from a safer distance than actually experiencing those fears; and poetry pushes the brain to think and comprehend the message in a different way than prose. Dark speculative poetry gives people a means to explore their fears, and thus give them some measure of power to handle those fears, through the use of metaphor and thought experiment in a form that both creates distance from the fear but also forces them to think about the fear in a different way. And in thinking about the fear differently and from a distance, a person can further empower themselves and perhaps see new ways to deal with that fear.
What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?
I’m really bad at putting together poetry publications. Usually I submit single poems to particular markets, and I currently haven’t got any poems I know are coming out soon. However, I am editing the next New England Horror Writers anthology, Wicked Women, and we are open to poems. It’s open to women who are current members of NEHW with a deadline of February 29. So, if you’ve got women readers in New England, they should check out the NEHW organization, join if so moved (it’s free!)… and send me some work! That should be out this October. Also, my contribution to New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, also coming out this October, is poetic prose. As for what I’m working on, poetry-wise, I have a collection of Ekphrastic cards (poems paired with photos) that I’ve been bringing to events; I’m very proud of those. And I’m currently going through a set of poems I wrote when I was diagnosed with ADHD that deal with mental health and putting that together in likely a chapbook collection.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about horror or poetry?
I went for some years just writing fiction and non-fiction, focusing on those for publication, and then I happened to hear Linda Addison read at a SF/F convention in Long Island…and I like to say she broke my brain in the best possible way. I bought one of everything she had that day and consumed it all. Since then, I’ve actually had the honor and pleasure of getting to know her through the horror community, so I can’t recommend her enough. But once Linda set me right and back into poetry, life was altogether better. Besides Linda, I love the poetry by Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, whose poetry may or may not get employed by Unseelie courts to entrap humans. Stephanie Wytovich’s poems cast amazing and beautifully profane spells that shatter reality into lacy spiderwebs. Donna Lynch (who I first discovered through the band Ego Likeness, which everyone should also check out!) will eat you alive, heart or liver first, with the jagged teeth of her poems, while you sing along. Um…many more. But those three happen to actually be in my line of sight while I type this. Check out the HWA Poetry Showcase collections!
Trisha J. Wooldridge (or child-friendly T.J. Wooldridge) writes novels, short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry about bad-ass faeries, carnivorous horses, social justice witches, vengeful spirits—and mundane stuff like food, hay-eating horses, social justice debates, writer advice, and alcoholic spirits. Her publications include stories and poems in all of the New England Horror Writer anthologies, The HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 5 and Volume 6, the Pseudopod podcast, and The Book of Twisted Shadows, The Jimmy Fund charity anthology Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and the upcoming New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, as well as three spooky kids’ novels. Her poetry and art have been featured in the Blackstone Valley Artist Association Art-Poetry shows of 2017, 2018, and 2019. She is also editing the 2020 New England Horror Writers anthology, Wicked Women, open to all NEHW members who identify as women. Rare moments of mystical “free time” are spent with a very patient Husband-of-Awesome, a calico horse, and a bratty tabby cat. Join her adventures at www.anovelfriend.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.