Category Archives: entertainment

Writing, Pandemics & All That Jazz

bookWell, I don’t think there is much point in singing the pandemic song. This might be the only time in recent world history, or ever, where the world is experiencing the same event at the same time, and we’re all in the same boat. Isolation, depression, sadness, frustration, anger, fear: it’s affecting all of us in different ways. We don’t know if our world will ever go back to what it was and maybe all of it shouldn’t.

I live alone, so I’ve been suffering loneliness on a grander scale than I already did. And I’m lucky; I still have a job that I can do from home. Though I would never have any issue in filling my days if I weren’t working–that is, if I could go out. These days, the big excitement amounts to going to buy food. Like most writers who need some alone time to write, I have that but, like many people, we haven’t seen our production go up as the unpredictable future weighs on us.

The quarantines have cut into everyone’s lives. I didn’t get to be guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival. Maybe that will happen again in the future, if we have events anymore. I didn’t get to go to Europe or to Stokercon, or bond with friends and writers. So, yes, I too am suffering a malaise.

I have continued to sell various pieces so this will be a catch up post. Back in February, for Women in Horror Month, I had guest poets for every day of the month. I also wrote a guest post for Horror Tree, called “Writing Horror is a Nightmare.” It’s a short piece looking at the hard part of writing horror. Horror Tree for those that don’t know is both a zine that posts on markets as well as has blogs and articles to do with horror. However, all the markets they highlight are not all just horror. I subscribe to the newsletter for market tips.

I have had friends ask me where I find my markets, and I’m a search maven. So I thought PoetryShowcaseCoverI’d add this into the post, also for my friend Vie. Besides Horror Tree, I also check out Ralan.com.  Ralan has been running his site for a very long time and it lists specifically speculative markets. He breaks them into pro, semi-pro, pay and token categories, plus a few others. You can run down the list and see who is open and briefly what and when they accept.

A year ago, I started to use Submission Grinder as both a market search engine and to record my writing and sales. I have a hybrid system where I still use index cards for listing each story and poem and where I’ve sent them, plus I put them in the Grinder. I know I could switch to a spreadsheet (which I also use for taxes to list my sales) but I like the 3D aspect of searching for pieces by going through the cards. If you click on the Grinder logo it will show you tabs for Recent Activity, Recently Added Markets, and My Market Response List (the last for places where I have submissions). I check the Recently Added Markets to find new listings. I’d say it’s 50/50 on response since some “new” markets seem to be dead or unresponsive. The Grinder also lets you search for markets by genre and for poetry or fiction.

While those three are my mainstays, there are many others I use. Submittable lets you subscribe to their newsletter and they list callouts for submissions. You cannot tell if they’re paying or nonpaying unless you click on the market. Dark Markets is another one though I don’t find it that easily searchable. There is Publishing, and Other Forms of Insanity, which updates calls by month. Winning Writers is another one that lists markets, as well as contests and which ones are free. Some of these I get as newsletters, such as Funds for Writers and Pamelyn Castro’s Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter. I don’t always intensely study all of these but sometimes I do. And sometimes, I just google search to see if there is anything new. There are more market report sites out there but some of them are dated and therefore list markets no longer in existence. The ones I’ve listed here are the best and I’ve done a lot of searching. There is Duotrope, which is not free but is also recommended by other writers.

Pulp Horror Phobias 2Onto other news. I was awarded a BC Arts Council Grant in March. Oddly it was for an application from last year but I’m not saying no to funds for my writing trips. Engen Books in eastern Canada sponsors the Kit Sora flash fiction–flash photography monthly contest. I’ve used the short 250 word entries as a way to continue writing while grieving my bother’s death last year. In Dec. I came third place with “Accidentally, He Gives Her Dreams.” “Dinner Plans,” a drabble was part of the Quarantine Quanta contest in the humor category, and “A Taste of Eden” was podcast on Starship Sofa #625 in Feb.

There have been too many sales to list so, for poetry, I’m posting the ones that have been published:

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Women in Horror–Extended: Ann Schwader

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhy should women get short shrift? Women in Horror Month (February) is the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year! So, with that in mind, I’m doing my own extension of Women in Horror. I’ve featured 30 female poets, with Ann Scwader as guest today. There have been many award winners, nominees and extremely well published poets. I’ve had the chance to read more of their works and also read some new poets. Stay tuned; I’ll be featuring other writers from time to time, both male and female. I hope you’ve enjoyed these short interviews as well and continue to search out other works by the authors. The world is a vast and rich place, and the worlds shown by these poets expand those horizons.

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

My first introduction to poetry was through the Good Doctor Seuss. I discovered early that rhyme and meter were absolutely magic.  I read a lot of children’s poetry after that–think Beastly Boys & Ghastly Girls, not A.A. Milne! Later on, about high school age, I found Edna St. Vincent Millay and her remarkable sonnets. I know Millay’s not all that popular any more, but she taught me what a modern woman’s voice in sonnets could sound like.

Why do you write poetry?

Because I can’t help it? Mostly, because I pretty much always have written it, from grade school on. I love the sounds of words fitting themselves into patterns, and the way poetry will stick in the mind even when prose doesn’t–or at least, it doesn’t stick the same way.   I’m also very interested in ancient history and archaeology, and poetry goes all the way back. It’s one of the earliest ways humans learned to carry stories around in their heads long-term, and share them with others for entertainment or information.

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

I’m a formalist, so my major problem when starting a poem is to figure out what form will work best with the lines or phrases that have already popped into my head, or possibly with the story I want to tell. Once that’s been decided, things seem to move much more easily. I’ve never been prolific, and my speed seems to be getting even worse as the years go by.  I tend to fiddle with individual words, trying to figure out which one sounds best with the rest of the line. I’m also overly conscious about repeating words too often in a poem, or making sure my line breaks don’t line up with my sentence breaks.  There’s a lot of structural worrying.  Poems very rarely just flow for me.

Time Ghosts

Our times call ghosts to us. Though Homer knew
the power of dark blood to loosen tongues
parched centuries past silence, we insist
on sensory amnesia when the same
shades permeate the wreck of Port-au-Prince
with Pompeii’s wailings. While the limbless wraiths
who stalk Rwanda mourn their martyring
in Cathar accents, or some murdered girl
misnames her honor killing as sati,
we disbelieve . . . as if coincidence
alone explained such wounds of history
reopening afresh to slake a thirst
familiar as the ghosts of our bad nights,
& like them wandering unsatisfied
between hells happening that no one meant.

## from Ideomancer #14.1, 2010

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

Archaeology and astronomy / cosmology, though I frequently write about these subjects through a very dark filter. The bleaker side of SF also comes up a lot, and cosmic horror (Lovecraftian or otherwise) is my default when it comes to the really dark stuff. I’ve only had one completely themed collection.  That was In the Yaddith Time (Mythos Books, 2007), my answer to Lovecraft’s Fungi From Yuggoth. It’s a very SF Lovecraftian sonnet sequenc –complete with laser carbines!–featuring a female POV and an apocalyptic ending. My other poetry collections have all been mixtures of dark SF and horror/dark fantasy.

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

It depends upon the type of dark poetry. Poetry has always been a part of traditional weird fiction magazines (like Weird Tales) and websites. Weird fiction readers are drawn to formal dark verse very easily, though they may not appreciate free verse in quite the same way.  I’m not sure what other horror readers are looking for when they turn to poetry, though poetry has always, always been a big part of horror. Thank you, E.A. Poe.

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

I’ve just turned in a new collection of dark poetry to Weird House Press. The title is Unquiet Stars. I’m very excited to be working with Joe Morey & F.J. Bergmann on this one! As usual–at least, for my last few collections–this one has a new sonnet sequence: “Faces From the House of Pain.”

Void Music

Space is not silent, save for mundane ears
Attuned to flesh alone. The aether swells
With arias & whispers while we tell
Our tales of plasma waves, reshaping fear
As placid science. Island-dwellers cast
Adrift by proxy on a vast black sea
Should trust a little less in certainties
So fragile: did we voyage here unasked
Expecting welcome? Blind inside this drape
Of instruments, our curiosity
Expands as hubris, exponentially,
Athirst for evidence of our escape.

Meanwhile in undimensioned night beyond
Our sphere of ignorance, strange shadows drift
& sing the death of starlight. One by one,
Their threnodies thread ripples through this pond
Reality . . . until some chorus shifts
To sound the flickering of our brief sun.

## from Spectral Realms #2, 2015

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

I’d just like to put in a good word for rhyme, meter, and form in general when it comes to horror poetry. Well-crafted lines of formal verse have a way of haunting the mind, sometimes long after the poem itself has been put aside. Stark, startling imagery is fine–but I think there’s room in our field for spectral music as well.

SchwaderAnn K. Schwader is a poet, short fiction writer, and occasional reviewer of SF and dark works. She lives, writes, and volunteers at her local branch library in suburban Colorado. Her eighth speculative poetry collection, Unquiet Stars, is forthcoming from Weird House Press in late 2020.

Other poetry collections, readily available and otherwise, include: Dark Energies (P’rea Press 2015), Twisted in Dream (Hippocampus Press, 2011), Wild Hunt of the Stars (Sam’s Dot, 2010), In the Yaddith Time (Mythos Books, 2007), Architectures of Night (Dark Regions Press, 2003), The Worms Remember (Hive Press, 2001), and Werewoman ( Nocturnal Publications, 1990). Ann also has two collections of weird/Lovecraftian short fiction: Dark Equinox & Other Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (Hippocampus Press, 2015)  and Strange Stars & Alien Shadows (Lindisfarne Press, 2003).

She is a two-time Bram Stoker Award Finalist (for Dark Energies and Wild Hunt of the Stars) and a two-time winner of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award (once each for short and long-form poetry). SFPA named her a Grand Master in 2019.

Website: http://www.schwader.net/home
Dreamwidth blog, Yaddith Times
Goodreads Author profile

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Women in Horror: Saba Syed Razvi

Saba Syed Razvi is today’s guest, on the leap day of February. You’ll find that besides her poems, her answers are poetic as well. Note that due to special formatting her poems are put in as pictures to maintain the integrity. Thanks for stopping by for Women in Horror Month.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?WiHM11-Scalples-wv

Honestly, I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t around poetry. My parents recited poems to me alongside lullabies, and I learned to memorize and recite them back. Sometimes we sang them. Sometimes they were in English, and sometimes they were not. I read poems to my younger sisters, often. I think I wrote my first poem when I was in kindergarten; it was about seeing colors beyond the darkness, and the letter M–and maybe also about M&M candies! So, for me, poetry and music have always been linked– and have probably always been about sugar as much as shadow. In the ghazal tradition, in the lyric tradition, there is music alongside the musicality of verse, and those sounds are in my earliest memories. Perhaps that music from distant dunes and distant drums, from ancient flutes and a longing for new ones, has always influenced my understanding of the capacity for language to invoke something of an otherworldliness in the otherwise worldly words on our tongues. As an academic, I’ve made poetry the terrain of my scholarship and search, so I am heavily influenced by the traditions I have encountered along the way. The poet I am today has probably been mostly influenced by Baudelaire, Dickinson, HD, Lorca, by Rumi and Hafez, Ghalib and Attar. I’m fascinated by the logic of the ancient world, and the language that carries its shadows into the new world in which we live and in which we create technologies for the death of living.

Why do you write poetry?

The world around me bears song and light, and sometimes I want to share it. Poetry isn’t like prose. One can sit down to tell a tale, and make it happen by plotting it and mapping it out, but poetry needs something of a living fire inside of it. When I feel the world alive in me, or when I feel the anxious spectre of death nagging at me, at the things in my life I hold most dear, I feel compelled to write them into being, just a little. Sometimes, it’s my anger that I want to seal into a vessel of verse, and sometimes it’s my grief. Sometimes, the beauty of the impossible is what breaks my heart. I write poetry because I am compelled to write it, because sometimes I feel like the words are lightning on the tongues in heart, like the world is bleeding from fingers, aching to spill free. Poetry is born from an image that takes root like a madness, from a thought that leaves me haunted, leaves me hunted, and the writing is a way to put it somewhere other than my nightmares.

saba

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

The other day, in a class, I talked to my students about the difference between the source of inspiration and the process by which it is crafted into a work of literary art. Someone once called that the distinction between flame and fuel. I think it is more than inspiration or expression. I think poetry is a kind of alchemy of the self. Every poem takes something of who we are and transforms it into an offering. We take some aspect of ourselves, who we are at the core, at the most real, and we shape something from it. Maybe it comes from a desire of our shadow selves, or from the light of a lovesick delirium and its sabaOfTheDiviningAndTheDeadCoverlonging for the world. The most difficult aspect of writing poetry, then, isn’t finding the shape or the words or the idea, it’s the ability to let the world go long enough to invoke the energy that is the poem, to bring it into being. The ordinary world in which we all live is filled with obligations and tasks, responsibilities to be checked off and managed. We flit from one thing to the next, barely being in the world despite the time we spend. Poetry demands a deeper engagement, a vulnerability that comes from setting down those other duties and reins. I think the most difficult aspect of writing poetry is the point in the process when we must let go of our grasp on the ordinary world, trust our tether to allow us a space to create and a path to return. Composing poetry is a bit like falling into a trance; it isn’t something you can do while driving to the post office, but something you have to lean into. It needs deep time, and finding that time can be a challenge in our modern, busy lives!

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

Each of my books and each of my chapbooks takes on a different sensibility, a different theme, as organizing principle. In the Crocodile Gardens takes on myth and nightmare, dream logic and prophecy; it is about how we are beyond how we choose to be. heliophobia is more concerned with the promises of the fairy tale and the archetype; it asks us to think about who we are in the darkness, how light and shadow shape the places we belong. Limerence & Lux is really all about the dangerous pull of desire, the nightmare of longing or the delight of restraint. Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil takes on a different kind of darkness; it takes up the issue of the ordinary lives of Muslim Americans and the horror of their reality in a world which does not want to see them as something other than a foreign enemy, a horror more based in reality than in the supernatural. Of the Divining and the Dead takes up issues of the end times, of the realm of the soul beyond the life of the living, of prophecies and oneiromantic realities, or logic built from the idea of an afterlife built from sufi ideas of the material world and a world beyond the veil of the known. I suppose that the connecting thread among them all is that I am really drawn toward the spooky and the weird in our lives. I tend to write about the things that leave us feeling unsettled, disarmed, bare to the elements and to ourselves. I also like to write about robots and the goth scene, so it’s not all morbid mayhem, all the time!

saba2

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

I think there is comfort in the darkness, honesty. Bliss and joy and rapture are all ways of expressing happiness, with some sorrow mixed in. I think that speculative and dark poetry tends to be willing to confront the aspects of our human experiences that we often hide away from the world of sunlight and manners. Dark and Speculative poetry asks us to consider our masks – and who we are beneath them, and what made us choose them anyway. It permits a depth of contemplation that we tend to shy away from in moments of levity. I think that such a complexity can be highly rewarding – and, ironically, remarkably illuminating, too. The Aurora Borealis is most stunning in the dark of solitude. In the dark and in the grotesque, we can find ineffable dimensions of the sublime.

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

I’m currently finishing up a book of poems featuring a haunted castle in Ireland, a game hunter, a captive faerie creature, domestic violence, environmental destruction, and the ghosts left behind by grief. // One of my stories – a short piece that blurs the distinction between prose and poetry, called “Haunted Hearts” was recently published by the international online literary journal Queen Mob’s Teahouse. My haunted castle collection leans heavily into the poetry of the poems, if that makes sense, though a narrative is woven by the poems in the collection; it embellishes more of the grotesque. The story I’ve mentioned gives you a different sense of my appreciation for the things that haunt us, and it is tethered not by the emotional dimensionality of language, but by the shadows in the narrative and the outlines they bring to our attention. // If you haven’t checked out the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Volume VI (it’s filled with some wonderful poems by a lot of cool people), please do – and read my poem in it about vampire mermaids & Fukushima.

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

saba BesideTheMuezzinsCallCoverAbout my poetry: I like to test the limits of language, its textures and materiality, its logic and its magic. My poems are often fashioned into invented or embellished forms, sometimes inherited from gestures of divination or worship, from storytelling and from science. I tend to prefer things that are complicated, that slip between our expectations, and I write poems in such a manner that exaggerates such a sensibility in my form and my cadence. I’m not interested in making the familiar new, but in making the weird even weirder. My formal innovation and defiance of strictly traditional forms is a kind of linguistic play and ritual, all at once. As such, I tend to be drawn to and to explore literary works that blur the lines in all ways. A rebel on the page, if not in life! My academic research tends to explore more social and communal aspects of literature, technology, science, and the speculative. I’m drawn to the ways in which our literature reaches back into our human heritage, and what it projects forward with its words and with its technologies. After all, our language is all haunted and its words are the machines through which we experience those echoes of memory and the valence of the expression. I’m interested in work that blurs the lines and the distinctions, that deliberately transgresses the structures of literary art and human experience. It is my hope that my own work can inspire the same kind of interest in others as I feel for the things I write about and the things study.

Saba Syed Razvi, PhD is the author of the Elgin Award-nominated collection In the saba author photo January 2018Crocodile Gardens (Agape Editions) and the collection heliophobia (Finishing Line Press), which appeared on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award ® for Superior Achievement in Poetry, as well as the chapbooks Limerence & Lux (Chax Press), Of the Divining and the Dead (Finishing Line Press), and Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil (Finishing Line Press). She is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX, where in addition to working on scholarly research on interfaces between contemporary poetry and science and on gender & sexuality in speculative and horror literature and pop-culture, she is writing new poems and fiction.

Website: www.sabarazvi.com

Links to Books:
In the Crocodile Gardens, Agape Editions. From Amazon
heliophobia, Finishing Line Press. From Amazon
Beside the Muezzin’s Call and Beyond the Harem’s Veil, Finishing Line Press. From Amazon
Limerence & Lux, Chax Press.
Of the Divining and the Dead, Finishing Line Press.

 

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Women in Horror: Marcie Lynn Tentchoff

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteDeeply hidden along the mysterious coast of Canada, there is another Woman in Horror. Today’s guest is Marcie Lynn Tentchoff.

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

I honestly can’t be sure when I first discovered poetry.  It has always seemed to be an important part of my life.  My mother loved poetry, and we shared story poems from when I was very little onwards.  She also introduced me to the story poems within folk music, which probably added to the start of my addiction.  Then again, it can’t have helped that my father started reading Shakespeare to me when I was seven.  By that point my tragic love of poetry was probably fated.  One can’t hear the chants of the three witches from Macbeth as a child, in the dimly lit cabin of a slowly rocking boat, without being at least somewhat doomed to adore rhyme, darkness, and drama.

Why do you write poetry?

This question sort of boggles me.  How could I not write poetry?  Lines show up in my head.  Patterns, rhythms, and twists haunt me if I don’t write them down.

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

I don’t find the writing of poetry to be difficult.  Remembering, on the other hand, that readers can’t see into the murky mess that is my mind, and that I might have to flesh things out a bit more for them, that can be tough.

Midnight

There’s no lock on the door
since the Midnight Men came,
with their pale, grinning faces
their tire-track eyes,
and the sound of the shadows
seems louder somehow,
on the street that runs empty
past Emily’s house.

She still plays there sometimes
on the grey concrete stoop,
with the screen door wide open
to welcome the rays
that spread out from the dish
on the middle school roof –
education for all’s what
the Midnight Men say.

And the grown ups all smile
as they murmur along
with the lessons they learn
in the new, better way,
while they work at new jobs
that the Midnight Men brought
till their finger bones show
white on red, like their teeth.

It’s much safer these days —
no one worries at all
about vandals or thievery —
those things are done,
and if every gaze shies from
the old Northgate Mall
no one says much about it
or questions the smell.

But young Emily wishes
her life would change back
to the way that it was
before fog drifted down
from the cracks in the sky
where tomorrow peeked through,
before Midnight came early
and never moved on.

## First Published in Star*Line

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

tentchoffI love to write about bitterness, about making difficult and possibly the wrong choices.  I also love writing about how things can be different when seen from differing viewpoints, and how the tales behind known characters and character types are often darker and more complex.

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

I think everyone has dark moments and thoughts and that reading dark poetry helps to unlock and almost soothe those thoughts, much as listening to sad songs can soothe a person who is hurting.  It is easier to deal with one’s own sorrow and despair if it is shared with others.  Of course, I also think that there is, perhaps, an extra dose of truth to be found in darkness.  These days especially, truth is valuable, and all too scarce.

Diggers

“Is that a thighbone?”
Smile and tell him
that you think it is.
He’s kind of cute,
if you discount
his hump and scarring,
and anyway,
it never hurts to
make an extra friend
in digger circles,
someone who can
swap you limb for limb,
or brain for brain.
One never knows
when one might need an
eyeball, or the toe of
a birth-strangled babe,
or even, as you do right now,
the perfect hips to match
with last year’s waist.

## First published in Dreams & Nightmares

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?tentchoff 2

I am currently trying to map out a new dark poetry collection, but somehow it keeps getting waylaid as I  realize that there are new markets that might want some of the poems that I am foolishly hoping to save for that collection.  We’ll see whether my writing can outpace my need to send work out.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about writing, horror or poetry?

In writing, as in acting, villains are always the most fun to play with.  Heck, even fairy tale based movies prove this, since the villain songs are always the best and the most memorable.  Writing the dark, the horrific, gives writers (myself included)  the chance to truly immerse ourselves in the villainous mindset.

Across the Floor

You held my eyes while dancing
Across the floor,
Your dainty feet
Twirling your gore-red lips
In smiling spirals.
And still,
While I weep blindly,
Bloodily,
In my corner…
You hold my eyes.

## First Published in Sometimes While Dreaming

Tentchoff mMarcie Lynn Tentchoff is a poet/writer/editor/acting teacher who lives on the west coast of Canada with her various family members, both humanoid and rather obviously not.  Her work has appeared in such publications as Strange Horizons, Polu Texni, Star*Line, Polar Borealis, and Dreams & Nightmares.  There have been two collections of her poetry, Sometimes While Dreaming, and Through the Window: A Journey to the Borderlands of Faerie, as well as On the Brink of Never, a collection of poems by her writing group.

Marcie won an Aurora Award for her long Arthurian poem, “Surrendering the Blade,” and other works of hers have been nominated, short, or long-listed for Rhysling, Stoker, and World Fantasy Awards.

She is an active member of the HWA and of the SFPA, and while for a long time she found it difficult to accept that what she wrote could often be called horror, after enough people asked her why there was so much blood, pain and suffering in her sweet little love poems, she started to understand that maybe horror was as good a word as anything else.

“Coins for the Ferryman” currently on Polu Texni http://www.polutexni.com/?paged=4
“Go Bag” currently up in editor’s choice at Star*Line http://sfpoetry.com/sl/issues/starline42.4.html

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Women in Horror: Carina Bissett

WiHM11-Scalples-whCarina Bissett graces the virtual pages for Women in Horror Month. The month is nearly at an end but the poetry continues strong.

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

I have always been interested in the cadence and presentation of poetry, but it wasn’t until I read Anne Sexton’s Transformations that I realized I could walk the path of a poet. The real turning point for me was when Terri Windling invited me to write a fairy tale poem for Endicott Studio. That was two decades ago, and I’ve continued ever since.

Bissett Arterial BloomWhy do you write poetry?

For me, poetry is the perfect place to explore themes and imagery, both of which tend to drive my work. Not every image pairs well with the narrative drive expected in short fiction or novel-length work, but poetry is perfect for that sideways glimpse into wonder.

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

Usually, a poem will take as long, if not longer, to draft than a short story. I like to taste the syllables, shift sounds. I enjoy imposing structure on my poems even if they start out as free verse. That reinforcement often makes me look at lines in a different way. It can be frustrating writing to form, but sometimes it also opens doors to places I never expected to find.

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

All of my work is grounded in fairy tale and myth. The themes that tend to crop up in my work revolve around female relationships, estrangement and isolation, and domestic violence. Fairy tales have been a source of comfort for me since I was a young girl. Even then, I worked through issues in my personal life through the lens of fairy tale. As I grew older, I was introduced to feminist re-imaginings of these stories with The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. There is a special sort of freedom that comes from taking a well-known story and turning it on its head. In my own work, I tend to gravitate towards the fairy tales I hate the most. In rewriting them, I’m also to able to re-envision and explore my own personal narrative.

Swimming with the Shark Boys

I was warned to be wary in water,
especially when swimming with the sharks.
But those were the boys I always liked best,
with their slick-backed scalps, sharp smiles,
and eyes like bottomless pits.

I recognize them by their restlessness,
the subtle gleam as they cut through the crowd,
the shimmer of shadow in a clear sky.
But others also watch them prowl.
Deadly beauty attracts admirers
seeking the sharp taste of fear.

I watch mermaids flirt through a mirror’s lens
as they pout full lips and flaunt dangerous curves.
Scales glitter in a practiced seduction
as they comb hair perfect for binding men.
The shark boys just laugh, teeth bared.

The sirens orchestrate a counterpoint,
chaos conjured from the deep, dark places.
They measure out the notes of seduction,
drowning the protests of the waves
relentlessly breaking upon the rocks
— a requiem for the dead.

My selkie sisters and I know better
than to venture out of reach of safe shores.
We cinch our seal skins tight around our waists,
watching for the warning signs,
the scent of blood on the waves.

But every time one of the shark boys turns,
gliding out of the gloom with graceful ease,
I can’t help but wonder how it would feel
to shed my skin, press flesh on flesh,
smother in a crush of deadly kisses,
falling into the abyss.

## published in Mythic Delirium, May 2016. It also received an Honorable Mention from Ellen Datlow in 2016 for Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 9

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

Once, when I was a young woman, I was caught out in the desert during a particularly intense storm. Once the rain let up, I left the safety of my car to explore the new world that was left behind. When I looked at the ground, I discovered beads of polished obsidian everywhere. The rain had washed away the top layer of accumulated dirt to reveal these beautiful memories created by volcanic activity millions of years ago. I think dark poetry is akin to those obsidian pebbles, otherwise known as Apache tears. That darkness already exists, and the poets who work with this subject matter are simply exposing those gems for readers to discover.

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

I’m currently working on a collection of poems about monstrous women in myth and Bissett Arachne Dorefairy tale. I also have a Snow White retelling coming out in Arterial Bloom, which was edited by Mercedes Murdock Yardley and is scheduled for release by Crystal Lake Publishing in April 2020. It features some wickedly gorgeous work, and I’m ecstatic that my story is included in this anthology.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about writing, horror or poetry?

In addition to writing, I’m lucky enough to work with other writers in my online, generative workshops at The Storied Imaginarium (https://thestoriedimaginarium.com/). These writers have created an incredibly supportive writing community, and many past participants have gone on to publish stories and poems generated in workshop. Just a few of the recent anthologies featuring their work include The Twisted Book of Shadow, Not All Monsters, and Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors. Seeing these writers’ successes gives me great joy. It has been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to seeing what they will write next.

Bissett Author PhotoCarina Bissett is a writer, poet, and educator working primarily in the fields of dark fiction and interstitial art. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in multiple journals and anthologies including Arterial Bloom, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, Hath No Fury, Mythic Delirium, NonBinary Review, and the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V and VI. She teaches online workshops at The Storied Imaginarium, and she is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at Stonecoast. Her work has been nominated for several awards including the Pushcart Prize and the Sundress Publications Best of the Net. Links to her work can be found at http://carinabissett.com.

O MAD ARACHNE: A Folle in Three Acts

ACT I

Of course she’s bent
back, legs splayed
open for inspection
pride punished, Purgatory
reflected on a monster,
flanked,
an Infernal tapestry,
color curled,
secrets spun by sinners
who dared to fly to close
to the sun.

ACT II

In her Wisdom,
the goddess punished
the girl, a weaver, who needed
to learn a lesson—
as all girls do.
After all,
maidens are meant to be seen,
not heard.
Hubris for humanity,
despair hanging,
suspended, judged,
a tapestry of tragedy
wrought in twisted limbs,
bruised breasts, plundered spoils
of a war undeclared,
unquestioned.

ACT III

Talent?—Never, the matron
says. Wait!
The time will come—
an hour-glass counting down
minutes slipped,
regret shrouded,
ghosted, shed, obscure
glory days remembered
on cigarette breaks,
red lipstick smeared, feathered
lines, regret drowned,
boxed wine.

Remember, the matron says
to the dumpster, remember
she says to the stray
dog-bear, winged beast
remember, she says
to the spider who stares back,
eight eyes reflecting pride
shattered—
a warped mirror.

Inside the diner, a girl,
so young, so beautiful.
An artist—
a peer, a student, a child.
Listen, the matron says, stern,
unyielding.
An echo.
Wait.
The cycle resets.

## NonBinary Review #19 Dante’s Inferno, Zoetic Press. December 2018. The image above of Arachne is by Gustave Doré and is in the public domain. It was the inspiration behind this poem.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carina.bissett.5
Twitter: @cmariebissett
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cmariebissett/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Carina-Bissett/e/B00UK8VKDS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/cmbissett

 

 

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Women in Horror: LindaAnn LoSchiavo

WiHM11-Scalples-wvToday’s guest is LindaAnn LoSchiavo, who hails from New York, where she writes poetry and does dramatic presentations as well.

When did you discover poetry and who influenced you?

As a toddler, I discovered rhymed verse in books and on Hallmark cards.

My first poems were written at 3 ½ years old. My parents, who were living in the basement of a building owned by my maternal grandparents, quarreled often. Invariably I retreated  to the peaceful second floor to be with my native Italian grandparents and my two unmarried aunts. My Aunt Fay was, like her father (i.e., my Grandpa Umberto), artistic and always sketching. My first poems were written to coordinate with her drawings: ballerinas, clowns, balloons, flowers, the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island’s Ferris wheel, dogs, cats, swans, birds, or squirrels.

My first stage play was written at 9 years old; it was seen onstage for 11 months in Brooklyn, NY.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry (as well as fiction, stage plays, drama criticism) because I have many things to say and a unique viewpoint.

However, I write ghost poems because of many encounters with wraiths.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?
The ever-changing, increasingly fragmented marketplace. And the disappearance of good journals where many poets felt welcomed.

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

My poems constellate into images orbiting certain themes: Italian culture, Catholicism, erotica, romance, disappointed or abused women, mythology and other speculative themes.

My upcoming event (March 21, 2020) is called “Verses Sacred & Profane: A Spicy Literary Lushness for Lent” https://www.eventbrite.com/e/verses-sacred-profane-a-spicy-literary-lushness-tickets-89928964955  I’ll be reading Catholic poems with a Lenten theme as well as erotic poems from my two new books.

Concupiscent Consumption, Red Ferret Press, 2020, is a collection of erotic poetry. This 24-page chapbook starts with kissing and explores seduction, temptation, the genitalia, bondage, whipping, adultery, etc.

A Route Obscure and Lonely, Wapshott Press, 2020, focuses on spec-po. This 54-page collection explores a variety of fantasy, sci-fi, mythology, and dark horror themes. Since you are spotlighting “Women in Horror,” let me mention some of my ghastly poems in this book: “Unquiet House,” in which two vampires pose as home-buyers in order to sacrifice a real estate agent; “The Tale of the Vintner’s Daughter,” which takes the Jane Austen marriage plot approach to an eligible bachelor named Count Dracula; “Footprints in the Snow,” about an abused wife who returns to haunt the home she was murdered in; “Embodiment,” about a woman slain by her boyfriend, who returns at bedtime to sleep in her younger sister’s room;”A Ghost Revisits a Tattoo Parlor,” a victim of domestic violence watches his new bride, who is getting her husband’s name tattooed; “Endless Night,” the frightening one you’ll never wake up from.

I hope someone who reads this interview would like to review my book.

The Tale of the Vintner’s Daughter

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a foreign bachelor,
in possession of a drafty castle, must be in want of a wife.”

She overheard her parents mentioning
A vast estate, long vacant, just changed hands.
Inheritance. Fortunate foreigner,
Related distantly. A gentleman —
Aristocrat — whose bloodline staked his claim,
Will take possession soon of Mount Ardeal.

Townsfolk with daughters gave approval, sight
Unseen. A bachelor! Well circumstanced!
Considering an heiress gets respect
At any age, she was insulted when
Her father dared to call her “an old maid.”
Inspecting manicured and chaste white hands,
Aware there’s merit in matched wedding bands,
Realities of warring unmet needs
Upbraid the tight lips of virginity.

Receptions will be held, bite-size buffets.
This heir, unknown, is suddenly “a catch.”
The vintner’s daughter can sense life’s about
To change once she’s in a relationship.
Enchanting friendships could lead to courtship.

Her early childhood memories were filled
With bone-dry men admitting they had come
To slake their thirst, which is unquenchable,
She learned, while watching mother pour and pour.

Vacationing at vineyards tutored her.
She watched the women kneeling to tie off
Vines —  how their expertise was in the knots
Not grapes —  enduring, bending, bowing low,
And salving calloused hands at quitting time.

Admiring the fruitfulness of their
Harvest on horseback, they see an ornate
Black carriage pass, its curtains tightly drawn.
It must be him, the heir they’ve heard about.

Born in Romania, this bachelor
Inherited five castles, acreage.
Unlike the grapes, their ripening athirst
For sun, he shuns daylight, potato like,
Basks in his soft cocoon of native soil.

Their fête won’t start till red horizon’s drained
And autumn air’s electric with decay.

Assuming his disguise, Count Dracula
Arrives, polite, attired properly,
Seductive, well turned out considering
He can’t see his reflection. Mirrors won’t
Hold him. Avoiding long engagements, he’ll
Tell ladies he prefers to sleep alone.

Echolocation guides his strong black wings
To candle-lit bed chambers. Milky white
Breasts, pleasure’s playthings, don’t stir his manhood.
Sharp fangs seek virginal smooth necks. Always
His type, blood’s sustenance is what he craves,
Imagining the process from the grave.

He’s parched when entering the ballroom.
Delaying satisfaction sweetens it.
Unmarried females study him, inspect
His gold ancestral jewelry engraved
Impiously. Flirtatious words affect
The vintner’s daughter, nodding glassy-eyed,
Intoxicated. His gaze penetrates
Until she’s under his hypnotic sway.

The heiress has arranged to meet the Count
In private. At eleven they will mount
Their horses, undetected, take a ride.

Discreet, she’ll hide in the orangerie,
Alerting him to the romantic grove
By a rose petalled trail, a daring ruse.

Excited to imagine his caress,
The dark dissolving inhibitions, she’s
Startled by flapping wings overhead.

Peculiarly, her petals were consumed.

Spotting a white handkerchief on a chair,
She rests her rosebuds there — a silent prayer.

## from A Route Obscure and Lonely

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

Presented via stage plays and motion pictures, dark horror attracts viewers who enjoy being scared–but from a safe distance.  There was a time when you could not access these spooky, goose-bumpy plays or films at home; you had to be in a theatre.

But you could always take a harrowing thriller or dark poetry to bed, beckoning the boogeyman (page by page) into your own private space, challenging yourself to picture the blood, the monstrosity, the ever-present evil–and somehow cope with it.

Personally, I like to re-read dark poetry to learn something about what type of demon unnerves me the most.

This scientific explanation fascinated me.  According to Dr. Steven Schlozman, a Harvard University professor and the author of The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse, that’s because those are two very different experiences at the neurological level.  He said, “I expect a much stronger kind of physiological arousal from a horror film.

“The studies of what your brain looks like when it’s experiencing a story told visually vs. a story told through written narrative — so reading as opposed to having it read to you — are pretty clear,” Schlozman added. “Although reading horror lights up the parts of the brain that deal with space and time, ‘When you watch a movie, those areas don’t get as engaged, in part because it’s already been done for you on the screen. So if you’re into your own kind of worldbuilding, like imagining something without it being shown to you, then you read the story. If you want to have the challenge of pattern recognition not making sense, then you watch the film.'”

Source:  “Why Do You Love Horror Even Though it Freaks You Out? Here’s What the Experts Say” by K.W. Colyard, posted in Bustle  on Oct 30, 2019

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

Launching two books at once, a.k.a., wearing the winged Author Hat, involves organizing events, seeking reviews, and creative marketing. However, I am eager to return to these long-form projects on my desk:

(a.)  “Elfriche” [narrative poem in blank verse]–after a fairy watches a naked male washing his genitals in a stream, her curiosity spirals into infatuation, then lust.  Her yearning makes her seek out a troll who sells love potions. Unintended consequences result. Genre: Fantasy and horror.

(b.) “The Pryderi Solution” [short story]–after her healthy husband becomes bed-ridden due to low-lung volume, Annie’s life spirals downward.  Her best friend, who has mysteriously recovered from her “incurable” auto-immune disorder, tells Annie about an expensive untraditional healer, Tamiesin, who can sell her a permanent cure, the Pryderi Solution. In order to pay for this solution, Annie decides to do some reprehensible things. Unintended consequences result. Genre: Fantasy and horror.

(c.)  “The Pianist and the Djinni” [novella]–the Reeding family has inherited a 19th century haunted house where Ewan Reeding (the paterfamilias) has grown up. Since his business travels often take Ewan Reeding abroad, his lonely wife Desiree takes a lover and becomes pregnant. Terrified that the birth of this love child will tear the family apart, teenage daughter Carnella tries to stop this illegitimate son from being born, unaware that there are opposing dark forces who have their own feelings about this illegitimate heir, and that she will be forced to bargain with violent spirits who intend to keep the house’s monstrous history buried. Deeper complications arise as Carnella begins to fall under the spell of the ghost of her great-uncle Ainsley Reeding, the dark lord of the house.

This fast-paced novella, set during Desiree’s final trimester, is based on my own stage play with the same title. Genre: Fantasy and horror.

(d.)  “Nightfall at Shadow House”  [screenplay]–Since female portraitists never seem to advance in the NYC art world, Jennice Mortimer accepts an invitation from an uncle she’s never met (who spent his career in India), who claims his British art world connections will help her. A bachelor, Harrison Mortimer resides in rural England on a dilapidated estate that Jennice will inherit.

Right before she flies to Britain, Jennice’s fiance dumps her but she decides to visit Uncle Harrison Mortimer all alone.  It will take Jennice awhile to realize that this affable, generous gentleman is not her uncle but an impostor. Also unknown to her, the Hindi-speaking residents of Shadow House have been under investigation for stolen antiquities, looting, and tax fraud.

A detective, hired to track this art thief, assumes Jennice is his accomplice and follows her to England.   Still in the dark about this charming impostor, Jennice rebuffs the detective, at first.

However, by accident, she resurrects the former resident of her bedroom at Shadow House, a peerless pastelist who meddles in this affair by using Jennice’s art supplies to paint clues. Complications will ensue before Jennice realizes her ghost-cousin is protecting her, the detective is falling for her, and the impostor has her real Uncle Harrison chained up and starving in a shed.

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

I’m not alone in wishing there were more zines that offered payment to poets. And when I see the same SFF bylines dominating the good magazines, I can’t help but wish these editors were more welcoming to new names. I’ve written two plays about Mae West and maintained this daily blog for over 15 years.

LindaAnn LoSchiavo is a dramatist, writer, and poet. Her poetry chapbooks Conflicted LindaAnn_with_cat_TExcitement, Red Wolf Editions, 2018, Concupiscent Consumption, Red Ferret Press, 2020, and A Route Obscure and Lonely, Wapshott Press, 2020, along with her collaborative book on prejudice [Macmillan in the USA, Aracne Editions in Italy] are her latest titles. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and SFPA. Her speculative fiction has won two Honorable Mentions from Writers of the Future.  Her ghost poem “Footprints in the Snow” won an award from Dually Noted (March 2019).
* * Interview: https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/interview-with-lindaann-loschiavo Her new website LindaAnnLoSchiavo.com is forthcoming.

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/110279531-lindaann-loschiavo Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B084WSGD5K

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Women in Horror: Deborah Davitt

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhen did you discover poetry and who influenced you?

Back in high school, I had a great teacher in my senior year who firmly taught us all that there was a clear and distinct difference between good writing and bad, and that poetry could easily be discerned as “good” or “bad” by applying tools to it–tools like looking for double-meanings and ambivalence and metaphor and so on. I took that first set of tools with me through college and grad school, where I focused on medieval and Renaissance literature, from Beowulf and Chaucer through Spenser and Shakespeare.

. . . and then I started writing poetry, and selling poetry, and I’m no longer convinced that there’s “good” poetry and “bad;” I think there’s “what’s to someone’s taste, and being lucky enough to find an audience for your voice” and that the world is a wonderfully more weird and complicated place than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.

Why do you write poetry?

Why do I write poetry? That’s a good question. And the answer is manifold. Sometimes, I have an image or a word I can’t shake, and it doesn’t quite have a full story or a novel behind it, so I write the poem to get it out. Sometimes I write a poem because I’m angry or upset, and want to get *that* out. Sometimes I write poems as technical exercises, to prove, “yes, I can actually do a paradelle and have it make sense.”

Sometimes a poem written to a self-imposed prompt won’t leave me, and I wind up writing a longer story out of it. Or, as with last November, I wind up with a collection of poems that tell a narrative, and I find myself as compelled to finish that story as I ever have been with a piece of prose.

But in the end, I also write everything I write, poetry or prose, to communicate a thought or idea. I very rarely go for abstruse in my writing. I was a technical writer for just about twenty years, so my goal in everything I write is clarity and precision.

Hitogata

The world needs scapegoats and sin-eaters;
through which we might cast
our culpability into a doll,
a piece of bread, a slice of godly flesh,

washing them away in running water,
through which no evil spirit can pass,
or watch our sins slide,
sleekly buttered like a crumpet
past someone’s kindly lips,

erased and absolved,
taken on someone else’s shoulders—
oh, if only if guilt could be absolved
instead of perpetuated endlessly
in an endless cacophony online.

I swallowed my opinions,
buried them deep in my own gullet
where no one could hear my
confession and condemn me—
made my own flesh
my hitogata,

until I opened my eyes one night
to find myself surrounded
by a swarm of paper dolls
all wearing my face,
shuffling shiff-shiff, each to each,
as each flattened body slithered
under the door
to seek new homes.

I should have drowned them first.

## First published, Gyroscope Review, Issue 18-3, Summer 2018. Click here to hear Deborah’s reading of it on Gyroscope’s site!

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry? Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why? {note: Deborah sort of answered these together so I have put the questions together as well}

While I was assembling The Gates of Never out of previously-published works, alongside pieces I hadn’t yet had published, I tried to organize them by theme; I think the two weaknesses of many chapbooks and collections are different faces of the same coin–either authors go very one-note, without any contrast of theme or tone, or they’re very scattershot, with wildly different pieces next to each other without any build or theme.

So I approached my first collection as, essentially, sheaves or folios of my work, organized by theme, stapled together. And thus I started with my more mythological and folkloric work, the historical faces of evil, or at least of indifference, the monsters out of the past. Then I moved through the fairy tale retellings, and then into the futuristic and scientific stuff–much of which connects back to the mythic as well.

Some reviewers have asked me, “Why all the monsters?” and the answer is, we learn who we are as humans, by looking at our darkest impulses. All of our monsters are always ourselves, at least in part. Some reviewers have talked to me about the passion in  the poems–it’s there, sure. The desire to drown in another, and find yourself become someone new, when you’re a we, and no longer an I. . . and then the tension between the we and the I. . . all part of Eriksen’s crises, really, and I play in the Generativity column of his crises a great deal. And there’s also the thought that the past and the future are really all a part of the same thing.

Or you can read the poems and decide what they mean to you. I can’t control that. In fact, that’s one of the things that makes reading and writing so much fun!

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

I can’t speak for others, but what attracts me to dark speculative poetry is really how it can illuminate our current mental and social condition, through metaphor, through fractured mythology. All poetry does that, to a certain extent, but dark poetry takes a look at the monsters of our id and ego, drags them out into the light, and lets us see them–and ourselves–for who we really are. And might encourage us to aspire to be more.

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

I have two collections of poems and a chapbook all out making the publisher’s rounds, and looking at my Submission Grinder entries, I have a total of 115 things sitting in various slushpiles at the moment. That’s about average for me, and it includes short stories, flash, poems, collections, and more. There are a couple of larger projects I owe myself work on, but I’ve gotten derailed from for some time–so I’ll be looking to redress that in about April.

Testament

The burin’s edge slants across my flesh,
slicing through the skin
like copper plates, intaglio;
chiseling runes in the ink of my blood,
staining his fingers black.

The lines entangle, enjamb,
weaving ascenders and descenders
in tender embraces,
each word opening me further,
binding me, defining me.

He writes me upside down
and backwards, so that
I hardly know myself yet,
but my hundred newly-open mouths
whisper secret meanings,
and offer atramentum kisses;

he soothes my wounds with
copper vitriol, making the words
holy and incorruptible,
incapable of fading into sepia;

yet as he kisses me, our tongues meeting,
the words spark white-fire
under my skin, the runes writhing
into new configurations,
just as true as the ones he placed there;

I wrap myself around him,
the words press against him,
brand him, surge into his soul;
I pour into him as he pours into me;
I whisper his name against his ear
and bind him as he bound me,
press him as a leaf among my leaves.

## First published in  Panoply, #7, Summer 2017; also appears in The Gates of Never

Is there anything else you’d like to say about writing horror or poetry?

I never thought I’d write poetry; it took my friend Michelle Muenzler mentioning that there was such a thing as speculative poetry, and that you could get paid for writing it, at my first convention back in 2015, to open me to the possibility. I never thought of myself as a “horror” writer; while I cheerfully employ dark elements to threaten and terrify my protagonists in novels and short stories, I’d never have thought of myself as at all akin to the horror writers I’ve read and enjoyed–I’d have considered myself closer to “dark fantasy” authors like Tim Powers, whose work I greatly enjoy. But here we are, which is to say that you’re never your own best judge of anything, so . . . go out and do stuff, and let other people worry about categorization!

Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Nevada, but currently lives in Houston, Texas with her ddavitt p17 - Copyhusband and son.  Her poetry has received Rhysling, Dwarf Star, and Pushcart nominations and has been published at over fifty venues; her short fiction has appeared in Galaxy’s EdgeCompelling Science Fiction, and Pseudopod. For more about her work, please see www.edda-earth.com/bibliography. You can obtain her poetry collection, The Gates of Never, at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/the-gates-of-never-by-deborah-l-davitt/ and may contact her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deborah.davitt.3 or on Twitter, @davittDL.

 

 

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Women in Horror: Denise Dumars

WiHM11-Scalples-wh

Denise Dumars is today’s guest poet. She talks about her love of poetry, interests in weird themes and being considered strange.

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

I honestly don’t remember NOT knowing about or reading poetry. In my day it was common for people to learn to read before starting school, and children’s books are full of poetry. My favorite poem when I was a little girl was called “Overheard on a Saltmarsh” by Harold Monro. It’s about a goblin who is just dying to get these green glass beads that a nymph is wearing. He’s howling and freaking out and the nymph tells him to shut up because she stole the beads from the moon. So, yeah, fairly dark poem for a little girl. I guess I haven’t changed. I went on to favor Poe, Lovecraft, Baudelaire, and especially Emily Dickinson. Dickinson lived in a repressed era in which formalist poetry was pretty much the only poetry, and so she made up her own forms and lived her life her way. When she discovered that the neighborhood kids were whispering about her, she started wearing white to add to her “legend.” She also had an unrequited love for a married clergyman. Dark romantic all the way!  I discovered the small press in the late 1970’s, and found so many poets that I felt a kinship with and who wrote work that I admired. There are too many to name, of course, but some names for Women in Horror month that pop up immediately are Corinne DeWinter, Ann K. Schwader, Marge Simon, Stephanie Wytovich, Linda Addison, Deborah Kolodji, Nancy Ellis Taylor…I could go on and on. See also my answers to the last question.

Dumars solarWhy do you write poetry?

I had this student who always wore cat ears to class. I asked her one day, “Why do you always wear cat ears to class?” She said, “Why not wear cat ears to class?” She had a point.  It’s like that with poetry, and people look askance at you for writing it almost as much as they look askance at someone wearing cat ears every day. But seriously, I think poets are born, not made. Poetry is just something I do; it’s part of my identity. No matter how much fiction and nonfiction I write, people primarily think of me as a poet. And I haven’t had much time to write in the last few years. I still have to make a living, and most of my free time has been spent taking care of elders in my family and managing their lives. I’m just now getting back, gradually, to my writing. My most recent book of poetry came out in 2012, and was nominated for an Elgin twice, and then later that same year my aunt got sick and I became her conservator. I’ll spare you the details; right now I’m trying to manage my late father’s estate and see that my mother is cared for. It’s a full-time unpaid job. I’ve been recently published in Star*Line, Dreams & Nightmares, Space & Time, Eternal Haunted Summer, The Literary Hatchet and several other genre and mainstream poetry journals. Not having time to write has almost driven me over the edge, I’ll admit, so I guess I could say that poetry has saved my life multiple times.

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

Well, except for the fact that people in the U.S. think you’re weird for writing poetry, I think getting in a poetic frame of mind is hard, especially if you’ve been writing a lot of prose. Few people really encourage you except when you write fiction and nonfiction, so when I write a lot of that I find it very hard to come back to poetry. I’m working on a couple of novels right now and have several new short stories I’m revising. I also have to write a second volume of one of my most popular nonfiction books, The Dark Archetype. Teaching doesn’t help. It’s really been the kiss of death for my vocabulary. I can’t spell anymore, either. A colleague warned me about that when I first started teaching and I thought she was kidding, but now that I’ve taught college English for 24 years I find that it’s true. Thankfully, I’ve been nominated for a Rhysling several times and even won a second-place Rhysling once.

Ghost Riders

They’re not what you think.
Transparent Hells’ Angels,
Dude may have weighed 280 in life
But now weighs less than a feather.

A last member of the Hessians’
“One percent” is on his oxygen tank today
Telling me how he saw his late friend,
The one Jim Carroll wrote about,
Who came looking for him
Right there in Intensive Care,
Transparent as a hooker’s raincoat.

You don’t tell him that you’ve seen them
As they laugh through red light cameras
Disappearing into the Milky Way
Out around Yucca Valley,
Heading toward the honky-tonk
At Pappy’s Pioneer Town,
Leaving you in the dust of life

Out where the sky
Is vaster than the afterlife,
Darker than the demons
That compelled the ghost riders
To leave the mainstream world behind
Even while they were alive,
None fearing the end
That inevitably comes too soon.

You taste salt and Reaper Ale
On your tongue, grow claustrophobic
Beneath a sky you had no idea
Was so fucking crowded,
And the hollow roar
Of phantom engines nearly drowns out
The Gram Parsons tribute band
At Pappy’s, and you are the one sad
Mutherfucker alone in the crowd.

You could disappear
Into the tarantula darkness
Of the Mojave,
A vision quest
Beneath the great chaotic
Smear of the night sky,
Or you could stop awhile
And listen to their voices
Before going back to the bar,
“Last call,”
Just too damned ironic,
Then the long, dark
Lonely road home.

Don’t worry; they’ll be here
When you travel the dark highway
Again. You’ll start to feel the freedom
Of coming and going as one pleases,
Without corporeal limits.

It’s a trap; don’t believe it.
Every one would come back full-throttle
Sell his weevily soul
For just one more taste of Jack Daniels
One kiss from the girl singer
In Daisy Dukes.

Finish your beer; say a prayer;
Give them the middle-finger salute
Or any other gesture
You feel is appropriate,
And let them fade, fade,
Headlights lost in the Milky Way.

## I wrote this poem in memory of my late cousin, James Hicks, who was a biker. It appeared in my book Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, 2012, White Cat Publications.

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

My latest book of poetry, Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal has a theme: paranormal investigation in the modern world. It just cracks me up the way ghost hunters nowadays use a plethora of electronic devices to talk to ghosts! They go hollering down hallways and banging on walls. Whatever happened to séances? Whatever happened to being quiet and listening? I find the whole thing hilarious. Overall I tend to write dark work: horror, dark fantasy, dark SF. I prefer the supernatural and the mysteries of nature and the universe, but I do write some mainstream poetry. As for themes, I think alienation, melancholy, loneliness, decay—you know, the usual! All of my books are out of print except the ones I still have copies of to sell. However, I do a lot of poetry readings. Check out my website or my Facebook page for info. I started performing with Casketeria, a dark romantic poetry performance troupe that also delves into humor. They’re an offshoot of a troupe I read with back in the 90’s called Undead Poets Society. Poetry is part of the oral tradition; it’s meant to be heard.

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

It’s the same frisson you get from reading a horror story, watching a horror movie, listening to Goth music or viewing dark artwork. It’s all about the emotion; horror is a feeling, not a genre, really, and I forgot who first said that! Poetry is uniquely suited to evoking feelings, so if those feelings are dark and creepy, poetry really brings those emotions to the fore in an immediate way.

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

I mentioned novels and short stories and nonfiction, but as for poetry, I have a couple of collections working, and I’m promising myself that in 2020 I will submit far more poetry and get some of my chapbooks and book-length stuff together to submit to publishers. As for a themed collection I keep thinking of goofy crazy things—I have one called Heisenberg’s Phone Bill and another called Cajuns in Space, but I’ll probably finish a darker collection first—Kali Yuga Raga. We’re living in the Kali Yuga—the time of troubles. According to Hindu lore the Kali Yuga started on my birthday—Feb. 18th—around five thousand years ago. A raga is a Hindu pattern of notes that can be played for, oh, several hours to several days! I have a very dark view of our society and the future right now. That definitely does factor into my poetic themes. I’m a Lovecraftian, also, but as much as I try to stay away from Lovecraft these days the themes of cosmic horror keep sneaking up on me. My column on finding speculative poetry in mainstream magazines is published in each new issue of Star*Line, so look for that.

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

I really believe in the beauty of decadence in its literal sense of decay. It’s a romantic thing; the love of cemeteries and ruined buildings and famous people whose lives ended tragically. I can be pretty harsh in my writing, but I think it all goes back to the darkly romantic. I was “Goth” before the word had begun to be used to describe the subculture. I like that science is now able to observe decaying orbits and suns and things like that, so that we can enjoy the beauty of the decaying cosmos. I love Paris, like all poets, but I also love Mexico and New Orleans, both of which display some of the same cultural tendencies toward dark romanticism. New Orleans is a part of my heritage on my father’s side, and it shows up in my poetry a lot. I keep a picture of his aunt Josephine on my bookshelf guarding some of my contributor’s copies. It’s an eerie picture of her in her nun habit in the fog—like the ghost of the Flying Nun! A sizable part of my interests also run toward surrealism and Dada—Andre Breton, the founder of surrealism, went to Mexico and famously said, “This country does not need our movement.” In Mexico they have meet-ups for all the kids who wear black—it doesn’t matter if you’re emo or Goth, a metalero (fan of heavy metal), a witch, a vampire or whatever–wear black and come to this coffee house at such and such a time on such and such a day. How poetic is that?

Denise Dumars is a college English instructor, poet, fiction writer, and writer of Dumars biometaphysical nonfiction. She is the author’s liaison for the academic journal Coreopsis: Journal of Myth and Theatre, and writes a quarterly column for Star*Line. She also helms Rev. Dee’s Apothecary: a New Orleans-Style Botanica, available online at www.DyanaAset.com and https://www.facebook.com/RevDeesApothecary/. She has a blog that no one reads at https://dyanaaset.blogspot.com/. See these links and her own website, www.DeniseDumars.com, for more info and book sales. She was born and still lives in Los Angeles County’s  beautiful South Bay region, but her heart is in New Orleans. She has published two collections of short fiction, several poetry chapbooks, one full-length book of poetry, and two metaphysical texts, one co-authored with Lori Nyx. Many years ago she also had a screenplay optioned, co-authored with Nancy Ellis Taylor. She can be found grousing and muttering to herself at https://www.facebook.com/denise.dumars.

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Women in Horror: Michelle Jeffrey

WiHM11-Scalples-wvMichelle Jeffrey is my guest poet today. She shows quite well the dark with her poems of pagans and mythic beings.

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

I started writing poetry when I was six years old, so my early influences would have been traditional nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss. I started exploring dark themes in my poetry when I was eleven, drawing from life experience. Later I was influenced by the work of T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because my soul screams out for it to be written. I have been driven to write poetry from when I could first write. It is an integral part of my being and I could not imagine a life where I was not writing poetry regularly.

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

I find it difficult to write poetry when I pick a subject and decide to write about it. My poetry is usually written about something I feel passionate about. The muse takes me and the words just flow from deep within my psyche.

Jeffrey spec 12A Summoning of Demons

Oh fallen angel, oh spirit unclean
However heinous and obscene
Be thou but the fiercest fiend
From the very darkness weaned
Nurtured fast on dread and slaughter
Thou who dwell across the water
Beyond the bounds of space and time
From nether regions’ fiery clime
Come, cross the river of life and death
With burning eyes and blazing breath
Come hither now with ravening bent
In answer to this summons sent

Beelzebub, thou of envy and spite
Come storming from the realm of night
Belphegor, cause thyself to shift
Come voracious, across the rift
Asmodeus, thou who stirs the blood
Licentious, lust and passions flood!
Baal and Hadad, come together
With thou rain and stormy weather
Sathanus, wild with wrathful ire
Come thou from the realms of fire!
Mammon, heavy with rapacious greed
With appetite strong and avarice freed
Lucifer, proud with blinding light
That shines eternal burning bright

Demons mighty, strong and tall
Greatest gods before the fall
Indomitable, rampant, wild and savage
Unbridled, set to storm and ravage
Monstrous with malevolent grace
Hither, come unto this space

## Published in Spectral Realms No. 12, Winter 2020

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

I often write about the natural world, such as the seasons, the rain, the sea and the moon. My poetry is often drawn from classical mythology and paganism; Gods and Goddesses and their stories.

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

I think some people like the thrill of immersing themselves in horror. They enjoy the feeling of being scared and contemplating something outside their day-to-day existence, beyond the bounds of the safe structures society builds around them. There is something about the meter of poetry that heightens the macabre experience, causing people to anticipate dread with a disturbing delight.

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

I am currently working on a ritual descent to the Underworld incorporating my poetry. I will be conducting the ceremony in the Temple of Baal Cave, one of the most spectacular limestone caves at Jenolan Caves, located in Australia.

Of Hooves and Horns

Within the depths of velvet forest
Something stirs
Elusive scent lichen and moss
Ferns and firs
Movement slight scarcely seen
Rarely caught
Shadows move the darkness dancing
Edge of thought
Wilderness walking stalking shadow
Soft sounding
Hooves clatter striking stone
Wild bounding
Taunting glimpse horned shadow
Falling light
Calling drawing through the veil
Darkness bright

Jeffrey god## published in Call of the God: An Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine Within Modern Paganism, 2015
(Also published in Spectral Realms No. 9, Summer 2018)

Is there anything else you want to say about horror or poetry?

My mother used to  take me to see the Hammer gothic horror movies as a young girl, sparking off a lifetime love of the horror genre.

Jeffrey bioMichelle Jeffrey is a poet, artist, dreamer and cat whisperer who likes to weave mythology, music and poetry into the rhythm of rituals and ceremonies. She is a regular contributor of poetry and articles to pagan magazines in Australia. Her poetry has also appeared in the Spectral Realms: A Weird Poetry Journal and Call of the God: An Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine Within Modern Paganism. Michelle resides in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two cats.

 

Twelve o’clock

Deeply engrossed
With the busy day’s clatter
Never expecting the sudden crack
Stunning my senses
Staring blindly
At the increasing void

The icy surface
So smooth, so still
The break was raw
Against all nature
It seemed
As if Hades had come
And dragged me down
As abruptly as
He had seized Persephone
Tearing me too
From the stable surface
Scattered flowers in my wake

## published in The Small Tapestry, Winter 2015Jeffery spec 9

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Women in Horror: Emma Gibbon

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhen did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I started writing poetry as a teenager. I was extremely angsty and trying to put down some of the darkness I felt was a way of releasing it. I read the first poetry that really blew me away around the same time at school–Coleridge and Blake. “Christabel” was a wonder to my teenage brain and “The Sick Rose” was the first poem I ever memorized. Later, Plath and Sexton really spoke to me. I find my influences come from different mediums too–the music videos of Mark Pellington, the works of Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, film and TV like Donnie Darko and Twin Peaks, and the photography of Gregory Crewdson. I’ve always said that if I can ever create something that gives me the same feeling as Nirvana’s version of “In the Pines” then I’ll feel like I’ve finally made it.

Consumption

I had always envied Emily’s beauty
her life it seemed
charmed
and I a hobgoblin in her wake,
the ugliest sister,
while she of the flaxen hair,
rosebud lips
and a laugh that
tinkled like spun glass
sailed ahead.

Even when the sickness settled into her bones
like a cursed sea fret
and the hack, hack, hack of her cough filled rooms
still her suitors came.

This creature,
this consumption,
enhanced her beauty still.
Burrowed into her body
and made it shine
like a thing that must die.

Her cheeks, inflamed, bloomed
in their hollows
and those famed lips,
crimson and blood-bitten

but it was her eyes
her eyes
that stopped the menfolk across
the room
feverish green
gasoline on water burning
come-hither and much, much more.

How I wanted what she had
How I wanted to be her
How I wanted

I watched her obsessively
as she lounged on every chaise longue
trying to hide what she produced with her hack, hack, hack.
She was sly but not as sly as
I. I tracked those delicate handkerchiefs she
spat into,
folded,
and tucked under cushions,
pillows,
behind drapes,
trying to hide the shame
of her mortality.

Still the men simpered,
her tragedy an aphrodisiac.

When she was abed,
swimming in laudanum dreams,

I would retrace her faltering steps,
collect the small silken packets
she would leave like presents.

When alone I would open them,
inspect the slime,
the bloody sputum.
Steeling myself,
I would lick the silk,
consume her sickness,

steal her beauty for myself.

## published in Eye to the Telescope #33

Why do you write poetry?

It’s the same as all the writing I do, it really is a compulsion. I am a happier person when I do. I don’t necessarily find writing easy but not writing makes me feel uneasy in my skin.

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

There are certain poems that come out almost fully formed and it feels like magic. I can reverse engineer them and see what my subconscious was working on and where they came from, but in the moment of writing, I experience a flow that is the best feeling of writing. The difficulty comes when it is the opposite of that when there’s something I want to write about but it really takes work and a lot of drafts to get it right. The irony is is that I don’t think the reader can tell the difference between the finished poems.

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

I do. I have themes that come up over and over again. Very often, I am only aware of it retrospectively. I’ve been writing for over twenty years now, and I can track what my concerns and worries and interests are through my work. I also have certain “obsessions” that I come back to. My librarian-brain means I go down research rabbit holes and these resurface later in my writing. Some of the themes and motifs you’ll find in my poetry (and other writings) are illness (especially tuberculosis), sympathetic portrayals of monsters, underdogs and outcasts, robots and AI, death and funeral rituals, the supernatural, gothic sensibilities, dystopias, punk and glam rock and much more!

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

I genuinely think that there are many people (myself included) that are just hardwired to be attracted to darker themes. I’m deeply suspicious of people who are relentlessly sunshine-y and positive. I believe that art is full of dark and light and all the gray areas in between and to experience all of it is to live a fuller life.

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

I have “Persephone,” a poem out with Kaleidotrope this year and I also have a chapbook, Monster, Miasma & Myth, out on submission that I hope someone will pick up. Very excitingly, I have two poems nominated for the Rhysling: “Fune-RL” and “Consumption.” In not-poetry news, I have a story “Purgatory” due out in the folk horror anthology, Would But Time Await, and my debut fiction collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is due out in May. I’m also going to be a Readercon program participant this year, and I will be editing Eye to the Telescope 36, House and Home which will release in April.

Emma J. Gibbon is originally from Yorkshire in the U.K. and now lives in Midcoast Maine. GibbionShe is a Rhysling-nominated speculative poet, horror writer and librarian. Her poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Liminality, Pedestal Magazine and Eye to the Telescope. Her stories have appeared in the New England Horror Writers anthologies, Wicked Haunted and Wicked Weird, The Muse & The Flame and Toasted Cake podcast. Her debut fiction collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is out in May from Trepidatio Publishing. Emma lives with her husband, Steve, and three exceptional animals: Odin, Mothra and M. Bison (also known as Grim). She is a member of the New England Horror Writers, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, the Angela Carter Society and the Tuesday Mayhem Society. Her website is emmajgibbon.com and you can find her on twitter @EmmaJGibbon.

 

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