Daily Archives: February 11, 2020

Women in Horror: Sara Tantlinger

WiHM11-Scalples-wvToday’s guest in Sara Tantlinger, another pretty amazing poet.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

Like many others, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first writers to really lure me into the world of poetry. I remember reading “The Raven” in middle school and having the imagery stick with me for a long time. Additionally, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman were my biggest classic inspirations that took me deeper into my love of poetry. My more contemporary inspirations are all the wonderful horror poets out there, along with Sierra DeMulder and Richard Siken.

Why do you write poetry?

I love that poetry forces you to create something sharp and poignant in a small space. You have a short amount of time to grab the reader’s attention, exploit the senses, create vivid imagery, and hopefully, have the reader go back to the beginning and discover new aspects of the poem on a second or third read. I love those types of poems that you can come back to multiple times and feel all over again. When I write poetry, I want to evoke all of that within a reader.

Blood Clot Passenger

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
striking against
miasmic city filth
striking against
his well-dressed body

hearses roll by, iron-clad wheels rattling,
urging city rats to scamper
past bluebottle flies
hovering over animal corpses
littering over the city streets
like masses on an artery

a man walks through the city
as summer rots
locomotive steam pluming upward,
conjoining with polluted clouds,
soot and smoke
thickening a blockage from the sun

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train,
the clot breaks free, travels through
Chicago’s body,
this dark-mustached swindler,
this charmer who pied the snakes
swallowed them whole,

emits musical poison from his throat
walks past death without blinking
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
hungering over
the sight of maggots
wondering how squirming larvae
would look
inside the body of the pretty woman
he had sat next to on the train.

First published in The Devil’s Dreamland, Strangehouse Books, 2018

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What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

It can be difficult not to rely on the same words or imagery, especially in horror. It is a fantastic challenge to study new words and think of innovative ways to describe something like blood or death or darkness, but I always have to watch and edit myself for how many times I might rely on a certain word or image. The last thing I want to do is check over a collection of my poems and realize I used the same word 70 times or something like that!

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I love themed poetry! Lately, historical horror has been the niche I’ve been drawing a lot from. I also really enjoy nature-themed poetry. Taking something beautiful or terrifying from nature and turning it into a horror poem is always a delight.

My first collection Love For Slaughter centers around obsessive, bloody love. It was inspired by the idea of “madness shared by two” and I’ve dubbed it a “horrormance” collection — a little romance and a lot of blood.

The Devil's Dreamland full rezAnd then my collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award, was inspired by the life and lies of serial killer H.H. Holmes. The poems dip into his point of view pretty heavily, but I also included poems from the perspective of his victims, the city, and his murder castle in 1800s Chicago.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

Dark and speculative poetry is such a great rabbit hole to get lost in. I’ve heard from many readers before that they weren’t really into poetry until they discovered horror poetry. While I love an array of poetry, from classic sonnets to more contemporary free verse, I can understand why studying certain poems in school might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but dark poetry offers something a little different. The poems are like bite-sized bits of horror that readers can digest and then come back to for more.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I am currently working on my third poetry collection titled Cradleland of Parasites. It will be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, and it draws inspiration from the Black Death and other plagues! I love historical horror, so this project has been a fascinating one to work on so far. Coming up, I have a few poems in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts, a charity anthology to raise funds for the Australian bushfire victims — all sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian Red Cross and matched dollar-for-dollar by Microsoft (up to $50k) as part of their Giving campaign.

Is there anything else that you would like to say about  horror or poetry?

Though it isn’t poetry, my first edited anthology will also be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, Not All Monsters. The collection is made entirely of stories by women in horror, and it features some of the most stunning artwork from Don Noble. I am so proud to share the authors’ stories. Keep an eye to the horizon for pre-order info and other things soon!

Sara Tantlinger is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland: Tantlinger2020Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. Her other books include Love for Slaughter and To Be Devoured. Her poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including The Twisted Book of Shadows, Sunlight Press, Unnerving, and Abyss & Apex. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

 

 

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