Why 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.
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?
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.”
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.
Ann 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.