Tag Archives: Elgin Award

Women in Horror Month: LindaAnn LoSchiavo

Today, from New York, I introduce LindaAnn LoSchiavo, writer and thinker. LindaAnn was nominated for the SFPA’s Elgin Award last year, for a collection of poetry. She has many works to her credit.

Handmaiden to the Dark Side

A bogeyman, like the one lying in wait under your bed, is likely to be unprepossessing. Beauty in folklore reflected inner worthiness, kindness, and morality. Conversely, fantasy’s evil-doers―goblins, trolls, demons, and miscreants―are born beastly: grotesque, misshapen, stunted, lacking sex appeal.

Tweaking that stereotype, Bram Stoker [1847-1912] decided to depict his iconic bad boy and animated corpse as a humanoid shapeshifter, erotically charged, his fangs coexisting with a sensual mouth. A charming cosmopolitan, Count Dracula is a tall, strong, mature aristocrat with the ability to regain youthfulness via blood-sucking. Stoker’s wealthy Transylvanian confirms his passion for real estate and ancient architecture, explaining, “A new home would kill me.” He’s courtly, too, holding the door open―for his guest’s untimely departure.

Our favorite creature of the night.

Dracula, the 1897 bestseller that’s been a model for supernatural horror writers, is one of the titles that thrilled me during my formative years. I read prodigiously as a child, one library book a day, memorizing poems and whatever caught my fancy.

Introduced to grand opera as a toddler, and taken to Broadway shows since I was four years old, I was not shielded from menacing adult themes onstage. For instance, since I had devoured Henry James’ gothic horror novella The Turn of the Screw as an elementary school pupil, I was taken to a performance of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera adaptation. It featured two evil spirits who prey on the children; sexy, demonic Peter Quint and his cohort Miss Jessel, whose beautiful costumes and vocal chops dispelled some of their inherent Jamesian monstrosity.

Narrative and drama padded my girlish dreams. At nine, I had a poem accepted for publication and staged my first one-act drama in New York City (adapted from Alcott’s Little Women), my script typed six times for cast members. My nine-year-old self never heard of the sleight-of-hand trick of photocopying. 

Whether writing or reading, what captivated me were the transgressive characters, who dared to be different, whether it was Jo March, Queen of the Night, Peter Quint, or Count Dracula. But whenever I put pen to paper, unlike Bram Stoker, I gave villainy a long leash. No intrusive vampire hunters in my stanzas. 

My speculative poetry collection, Elgin Award nominee, A Route Obscure and Lonely [Wapshott Press, 2019, 62 pgs.] dances to dark music, featuring, for example, Black Sabbath rites, sinister deeds, and the Grim Reaper, who’s kept busy.

Two of my poems focus on vampires and what they vibe to: real estate and rejuvenation. “Unquiet House,” a dramatic monologue, is voiced by a vampire, posing as a house-hunter.

  Unquiet House         
 
 Dilapidated house. The broker’s keen
 To pitch the property to newlyweds
 From out-of-state, which we pretend to be.
  
 Maria’s chatter is distracting him,
 Eyes showing gleams of true engagement, winks.
  
 I slip out ― for a photo, I explain ―
 Meticulously cautious. Quiet shoes.
  
 How many bargain hunters have been here,
 Inspecting dirty cellar walls for clues
 Of water damage, not suspecting mold
 Is not the worst homeowner’s legacy?
  
 The deck is clouded. Spiders overhead,
 Suspended from dead vines, await a broom
 Knifing through filaments spun secretly.
  
 Unnatural deeds carry threads forward
 Like the black widow spider, breast-stroking
 Through gossamer voids under ragged moons.
  
 Sweet blood’s in undiscovered special rooms,
 Unconquerable sorrows tendon-taut.
  
 The “For Sale” sign nods back and forth as if
 It recognizes me through my disguise.
  
 No longer called a conjuror, my steps
 Still carry the pulsations of lost hearts.
   
 The agent doesn’t realize what’s right
 Behind him, why he must be sacrificed.
  
 Maria’s eyes meet mine, a message swept
 Across in spidery blinks of eyelash.
  
       The undead must have dreams for which to wait.

Published in Bewildering Stories, Issue # 827, October 7, 2019
You Tube Link: Unquiet House  ― as a video-poem   

Published by Wapshott Press

Of the thirty-three poems in A Route Obscure and Lonely, twenty-six were written in 2019 for this collection and composed with some symmetry. For instance, “The Mermaid’s Lament” was paired with “What Mother Failed to Mention about Dating a Mer-Man;” a chant royal “Persephone in January” was mated with a dramatic monologue on Persephone’s abduction “The Son-in-Law from Hell;” “Samhain” set on October 31 was offset by a spookier vision inspired by Mussorgy’s 1867 orchestral tone poem: “Night on Bald Mountain, St. John’s Eve, June 23.”

Then, ready for another round of vampire versifying, I retrofitted Dracula as a player in a Regency romance in the vein of Jane Austen. The first line of Pride and Prejudice―about “a truth universally acknowledged,” inspired the epigraph to “The Tale of the Vintner’s Daughter.” Her family’s vineyards depend on sun, whereas “he shuns daylight, potato-like.” Could Dracula’s real estate portfolio be date-bait?

           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 fete 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. 

Published in Bewildering Stories, Issue # 825,  Sep. 16, 2019 

Dark poetry is not a road to warm refuge. Death occurs often in these pages and never in service of a higher purpose. Yet contemplating the eternal quietus is bracing. For away from the abyss, all height’s revised.

N.B.: Some poems have a video version.

You Tube Link: The Son-in-law from Hell  ― as a video-poem   
You Tube Link: Poe and His Women  ― as a video-poem   


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Women in Horror: Lori Lopez

WiHM11-Scalples-whLori Lopez is my guest today for Women in Horror Month. Yet another fantastic writer with nominations and awards. And a special treat: Lori wrote a brand new poem, seen here for the first time.

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

Well, that goes way back to Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes and Doctor Seuss books.  I loved those, and then the Alice books by Lewis Carroll.  I became familiar with works such as “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, murder ballads “Tom Dooley” and “Barbara Allen,” folk songs, protest songs, and a variety of lyrics.  I believe I wrote my first poem in third grade inspired by Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”  I was fascinated with verse and wrote it before getting into prose.  I recall writing and drawing when I wasn’t reading in my spare time as a child, and I never really stopped, though I was actually writing songs for some years as a young adult before focusing on poetry, short stories, novels and such.  I also illustrate my books.

Why do you write poetry?

It isn’t so much why I write poetry, it’s more that I cannot stop writing verse.  It practically flows from me like breath and has since I was small.  It really does come naturally, whether humorous or serious or dark, whether fantasy or science fiction, horror, speculative . . .  I seem to be drawn to dark poetry the most, yet I have written a fair amount of humorous pieces too.  And of course, the two will merge.

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

I find that poetry affects my prose and prose affects my poetry. They bleed into each other like humor and horror, blending. Things turn out funny that were supposed to be scary. It can cause delays for deadlines. Personally, I don’t mind if my prose is poetic at times, or my verse has a prose ring. Punctuation and breaks, flow and balance are emphasized in poetry, yet also important for prose I feel. And I enjoy horror comedy, growing up with The Munsters and The Addams Family and The Scooby Gang for inspiration! Not to mention Lewis Carroll (because I already did).

I like to tell stories, so longer narrative poems will pour out. That isn’t what’s “in” these days. I seldom write very short poems, and when I write haiku I like to do poems with multiple verses in haiku form. I used to rhyme more than I do now, but I do still love to rhyme. And I don’t care what the latest trends are, what’s popular. I write according to what the story or idea demands. So I guess being “current” or “relevant” might be a problem. I am hoping there will always be an audience for quality verse, even if it isn’t always a popular style. I do experiment and may be cutting-edge on occasion, but not because it’s expected.

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

I have a very themed series of poetry books based on a poetry column I was writing for about five years, “Poetic Reflections.”  The column is currently on pause but will continue (I hope), less often than before.  Each column has a specific theme, with a humorous prose intro and poems more or less on the subject.  I used the columns to begin chapters in the Poetic Reflections book series, then added more poems.  Right now I am preparing second editions in print for the first two volumes, Keep the Heart of a Child and The Queen of Hats.  The first volume includes song lyrics.  A third volume was released at the very end of 2018 as an E-book, Blood On the Moon, and will be released this year as an illustrated print edition.  I have a fourth volume underway titled Poe-etic.

lopez bookI am also releasing two related book series.  My Poetic Reflections collections and columns encompass a wide variety of poems.  In my Darkverse series I am literally putting together the “dark verse” and have released a volume titled Darkverse:  The Shadow Hours.  It’s available in E-book and illustrated print editions.  I plan to launch a series for my humorous verse as well.

I also have a series of stories told in rhyming prose, with the first one titled The Dark Mister Snark.  There will be two sequels released in the near future:  The Darker Mister Snark and The Darkest Mister Snark.  I’ll be publishing some other specific poetry books, and my novella The Strange Tail of Oddzilla contains a number of silly pieces.

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

I’ve always loved spooky things.  I’m not alone in that, and people in general seem to enjoy macabre musings, creepy moods, atmospheric settings at least some of the time.  It can help them cope with unpleasant realities, prepare them for the true-life moments that make hearts race.  It’s certainly fun around Halloween.

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

There is a ghost collection of stories I hope to finally release this year, Spooktacular Tales, along with the second Mister Snark.

There may be a new dark poetry collection this year, and the first humorous compilation . . . plus new print releases for volumes one to three in my Poetic Reflections Series.  I have a few other special things I will be trying to get done.  There are so many projects to finish or start, and I never know how long things will take, especially my artwork.  I’ll see what I can accomplish in the months ahead, along with recording several of my songs with my sons for our new band, The Fairyflies.

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

I have a lot of horror tales published, and a lot of people don’t know about me yet.  I appreciate this chance to be featured for Women in Horror Month.

My sons and I released a funny Bigfoot sighting video last year, also The Chupacabra’s Jig with a spooky song and animated Chupacabras.  We’ll be doing plenty of interesting things together, horror and otherwise.  You can check out our website, Fairy Fly Entertainment, and look for us on You-Tube to find author readings and other videos.  We’re planning a couple of new web series and our first film projects in 2020 and beyond.

THE SACRIFICE

Digits of dread, cold as the chill of a grave
Fingerwalk the bones of my back in ghoulish strides
Up and down the column of a crooked spine
Wending like a road through the night. Woe is me,
Plodding such a route, silent as a charnel resting-place —
A pasture of tombs; a network of catacombs, the bodies
Buried deep to slumber undisturbed. Lucky stiffs.
I envy their repose, their peace.

Cloaked in exquisite solitude I roam, unable to nap
Or catch a wink. Solemn as a wraith, a specterless spirit.
Hunched in reverie without words, my phantom thoughts
Dark and elusive. Troubles submerged, unseen but sensed,
Like a fanged bloodfiend in the mirror, for that is
Surely the worst and the most free, to be glimpsed not —
Even by one’s self. I’ve read the tales, the folklore.
I comprehend their pain and misery.

Yet I am more alone, and spend my days wishing
I were blind, to not view these scars, the mounds of
Brute force, an ogre’s shadow! Wishing not to be aware.
On fleeting respites I carve a trail of un-speculation through
Shadow and street. Then return to my fate, and none the
Wiser. Me or the masses. For my calling is no clearer
To the eye of the ignorant. No more obvious than scratches
Under a coffin’s lid.

How comforting that could seem at my lowest point.
A bed without disruption, minus the echoes from end to end
Of these infernal waking minutes. The drudgery of days
Wretched beyond measure, crossing any limit of sanity,
While the late and early hours flit away in a moth’s aerial
Fairydance — too swift, too intangible. A mere blink,
And then I am risen from the Keeper’s hut above
The beldam’s abyss.

Someone has to bear it, the weight and monotony . . .
The blistering ache and dire lamentous torment of my tasks.
In complete oblivion, anonymous, thankless, friendless
I labor . . . to fulfill an oath, a purpose that few in reality
Would believe or appreciate. It must be carried out, so that
Everyone like you will have a chance to lead a happier life.
Isn’t that how the story goes? How it’s supposed to end?
I perform this sacrifice . . .

There is a larger good, I need to believe that.
It is all I’ve got left to remember you. Eight years ago
I made a vow, accepted the destiny of fathers and sons in our
Bloodline. I was a daughter. No man-child remained of age.
And I did not inherit size or strength, but had to be adapted —
Flesh rebuilt from daintier, warped from beauty into beast,
Transformed like a monster by gruesome procedures and
Parts. Ripped from the arms of my young . . .

Who I may nevermore visit, hold, or speak with.
I miss you both. And fear for you. The patchwork creature
Of bulk and brawn a kind lass became has no resemblance,
No claim to such foolish daydreams. Wistful reflections.
A faraway existence. Only this. My duty and ordeal.
You were too small. If I might talk to you again, sweet children;
If I could share a last Bedtime Story, I would explain that
Once upon a time . . .

There were four Great Witches. Lazy. Selfish.
Rancorous old women. A family of very huge, very hungry
Sisters. And sometimes families cannot get along. These
Siblings fought over everything! To protect the world,
They had to be kept apart . . . These hags are vital for they
Control the Seasons and Elements. Without them,
A fragile balance could be destroyed. Their mother —
Nature — the Planet — would be in chaos.

I and male cousins toil as Witchkeepers. The Cavewitch
Locked in a mountain. The Woodwitch confined to a towering
Treehouse. The Pondwitch inhabiting a cage submerged,
The mudpool her kettle. Each stirs a cauldron, maintains a Spell.
The Wellwitch I tend, chained at the base of a dry stone pit.
At Dawn I must drag her out of bed, lug the enormous crone
To her pot, then collect sackfuls of ingredients. Fat Pumpkins.
Thick Toadstools. Fresh-picked Banewort and Witchgrass.

Devil’s Hand. Goat’s Rue. Bee Orchids. Witch Hazel.
Snapdragon Seed Pods. The Root of Mandrake. Flame and
Voodoo Lilies. The shed Skin of Poisonous Spiders and Serpents.
The Spit of Wildcats. Stray Owl Feathers and Bear Fur.
Whiskers fallen from Vampire Bats. A broken Bigfoot Toenail.
Laughing Hyena Tears. Lost Milkteeth from below the pillows
Of ornery sleeping Tots. A demanding list of foraged items to
Feed the Witch and fuel her Potion.

Vapors of enchantment ascend the steep rounded shaft,
Wafting, blending, merging with magick from her siblings
To form a purple layer of gases, embracing, shielding
Earth. Colorless to mortal gazes, undetected. Keeping you
Safe. Tomorrow I repeat the routine, climbing to the floor.
Moving the Witch. Scaling the Well. Gathering the List.
Hauling it to the cauldron. This time I will have slipped inside,
Instead of lingering at the window.

I may look like a beast; my heart is the same that
Always loved you. When you read this note, my darlings,
Picture me as I was. Tell your father to take you far.
I will not endure forever. This burden grinds one down,
And I do not want it to be yours. The world might not
Be as secure, as stable in the future. You will need to
Watch out for each other. Do not be afraid to live.
Do not despair over me.

I must stay alert or am haunted by grim concerns.
I cannot allow myself to think: What if I refused?
What if I tricked the Witch to do my bidding, rather than
Permit these changes? What if I were the mother you
Knew and could run off with you . . . It’s too late now,
My dears. A surgeon and your grandma contrived this
Ruin. I thought there was no choice. When I think,
I see the truth — that I was deceived.

##

lopez

Lori R. Lopez is an award-winning author, poet, songwriter, and illustrator who loves wearing hats.  Books include The Dark Mister Snark, Leery Lane, An Ill Wind Blows, Odds & Ends: A Dark Collection, and Darkverse: The Shadow Hours.  Verse and prose have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines such as The Horror Zine, Weirdbook, The Sirens Call, Bewildering Stories, H.W.A. Poetry Showcases, California Screamin’ (the Foreword Poem), Grey Matter Monsters, Dead Harvest, and Fearful Fathoms Volume I.

Vegan and an activist, Lori resides in Southern California.  She’s originally from Wisconsin and has lived in Hawaii, Florida, and Spain.  Her works span a range of genres — primarily Horror, Speculative, Dark Fantasy, Suspense, and Humor.  Lori co-owns Fairy Fly Entertainment with her two talented sons.

A 2020 Rhysling Award Nominee and a 2018 Elgin Award Nominee, her other honors include three first places in the 2018 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards, finalist for poetry in the 2018 Kindle Book Awards, second place for poetry in the 2016 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, second place for humor in the 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, and winner in the 2014 San Diego Book Awards.

Website: www.fairyflyentertainment.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/fairyflyent
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/lori-r.-lopez
https://amazon.com/author/lorirlopez

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Women in Horror: Shannon Connor Winward

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteToday’s guest is the well-published and award-winning Shannon Connor Winward.

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

Do you know—I’m only just making this connection now, but it was probably Shel Silverstein who truly showed me what poetry could be. I remember they had an album of his poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic at our local library (which was pretty much my personal temple when I was a little girl). I must have borrowed that album a dozen times; I loved listening to it at night before bed, with all but the closet’s light off in my room. He had such a powerful, spellbinding voice, and an uncanny ability to tap into the imagination of children—that’s why he was (and is) so hugely popular and beloved. Obviously my tastes evolved (and darkened*) as I grew older, but I guess I must credit him with igniting the spark of my love for poetry.

*(To be fair, though, lots of Silverstein’s poems are pretty freaking dark!)

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because I was born a poet. That might sound romantic or grandiose or whatever, but that’s really what it comes down to. 🙂 Every part of my personality is built to observe the world and paint it with language.

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

The biggest obstacles to writing poetry are self-doubt, real life, and politics. Self-doubt is the mind-killer, so many of us are kept silent or slowed down for too long. Then, there’s the struggle to find time to write, and to keep that commitment. Beyond that, the many many rivulets of politics and personalities in the poetry world make it extremely challenging to be heard as a poet, to say something relevant or useful, to be a good literary citizen, etc. It is definitely not an endeavour for the weak-of-heart.

Session

Last night I was in a field
under a heavy sun
surrounded by people chipping at the ground
people sifting dirt through a screen
people trying to make tableaus from shards of pottery
though there were never enough pieces.

I told them where to dig.
They uncovered the remains of a woman
and I knew
in the way you know in dreams
that she was me.
I knew also that there were others
so many more
a field of fragments

and they were also me.
I knew that men, like you, would come,
doctors,
that you would want to bring them up
that you would want to catalog them
ask me what I felt about them
and what I think it means

as if it were only
a metaphor.

I think you should look more closely.
Sometimes a cigar is also
a cigar.
The remains tell a story.
See, here, how the skull is not quite fused?
I was a child.
And yet, here, in the space between my hips
(where you measure with your fingers, like this
yes, just like this.)
I bore children. At least one.
Probably more.
Probably hundreds.

Open my mouth, look, and read
what I ate, or, sometimes
what I hungered for.
Sweetness, rotten
gaps, bits
gnawed and worn down to the root
charred bread and mistletoe, bits
of his hand
bit-back words, here
lodged in the throat.

Take my hand,
arthritic, my hand, useless, my hand
shattered, here; a defensive wound
my hands
clutched around my knees and frozen
on bright alpaca blankets, my hands
bound behind my back,
at his feet, my hands
scoured with wine and Nile salt and
laid gently on my breast

gutted,
courage and rancor encapsulated
in an ivory vase behind my head
(but not my heart. No.
That I keep).

I think that you should consider
the psychology of forensics
the anatomy of history.
Examine the lines on my face
the hollow of my eyes.
Peel back, gently
the layers of my resting-place
I will not fight you.
I will not move.
I am in situ
I am

a testament. See, here,
I lived, here
I felt, here I was broken and here
I endure.
The remains tell a story
and mine say
See.
I was here.

## first published in The Pedestal Magazine, 2011

Winward bookDo you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I explore a variety of themes in my writing, as I’m sure most of us do.  Some of what I write is dark, some less so. Personal experience and preoccupation drives that kind of thing. For my part, I tend to be preoccupied with things like: mortality, life after death, the meaning of life, lust and pathos, and the urge to leave the world a better place than I found it. I was the girl scout telling ghost stories around the campfire over a mouthful of s’mores. In many ways, that’s still exactly who I am.

My chapbook, Undoing Winter, is a katabasis—a journey down into the dark places of the spirit and back again into the light. Like much of my work, it combines speculative themes (gods, ghosts, monsters, and so on) with stories of personal experience and reflection.

My full-length collection, The Year of the Witch, is similar in themes and tone but on a broader scale and with more cheekiness. It is structured to mimic a “New Age guide to the lunar ritual calendar of modern witches” so it has a sort-of faux educational, “homage to the seasons” riff, overlying poems both personal and speculative.

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

It’s funny, I brought up “pathos” twice now recently. The other day I was talking to my 13-year-old, who is tasked with giving an oral presentation on Dr. King. He didn’t know how to begin, since his go-to narrative voice always skews toward the funny. “There’s nothing funny about Dr. King!” he cried. In my best philosopher-mom manner, I told him that, in my opinion (at least at that moment), the opposite of humor is pathos—a good speaker can capture an audience by jokes, sure, but also by tapping into our love of a good tragedy.

I think pathos is the lure of dark poetry for much the same reasons. There’s something about dwelling on the sad things, slowing down to look at the traffic accident. It’s as entertaining as it is cathartic—a means of coming to terms with the inevitable tragedies in our own stories.

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

Right now I’m entering the second year of a medical situation that has severely impacted my day-to-day life. Unfortunately, this includes my professional and creative lives. I’m not involved in much of anything outside of the orbit of my illness. Still, I’m doing my best to stay connected to my literary communities, local and virtual, in the hopes that all of that will still be there if and when I get well again. I’m looking forward to the day that I can pick up a pen or rock a mic, and I am awash with ideas for future issues of Riddled with Arrows.

Winward bioShannon Connor Winward  is the author of the Elgin-Award winning chapbook Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and the Elgin-nominated full-length collection The Year of the Witch (Sycorax Press, 2018). She has won the SFPA Poetry Contest for speculative poetry in multiple categories, and has a quiver full of other nominations and awards, including an Emerging Artist Fellowship by the Delaware Division of the Arts. Her writing appears widely in places such as Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Pseudopod (Artemis Rising), Strange Horizons, Star*Line, The HWA Poetry Showcase and elsewhere. In between parenting, writing, and other madness, Shannon is also founding editor of Riddled with Arrowsa (sometimes, gleefully, dark) literary journal dedicated to metafiction, ars poetica, and writing that celebrates the process and product of writing as art.

 

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Women in Horror: Jeannine Hall Gailey

WiHM11-GrrrlWhite

It’s Women in Horror Month, where we show the world that women have talent to dig into the deep pits of memory and experience and pull out the viscera. Last year I featured women who wrote dark fiction. This year, I have chosen to feature women who write dark poetry.

If you’re interested in exploring other ways that Women in Horror Month is celebrated, you can check out the site that lists many women in the arts and the projects going on. Just click the link above and check it out. You might find you already like more horror than you thought.

To start, for Feb. 1, I have Jeannine Hall Gailey, tears of the Disney layer on fairy tales. You’ll find information about her writing here, plus several poems to read.

From Field Guide to the End of the World

Introduction to the Body in Fairy Tales

The body is a place of violence. Wolf teeth, amputated hands.
Cover yourself with a cloak of leaves, a coat of a thousand furs,
a paper dress. The dark forest has a code. The witch
sometimes dispenses advice, sometimes eats you for dinner,
sometimes turns your brother to stone.

You will become a canary in a castle, but you’ll learn plenty
of songs. Little girl, watch out for old women and young men.
If you don’t stay in your tower you’re bound for trouble.
This too is code. Your body is the tower you long to escape,

and all the rotted fruit your babies. The bones in the forest
your memories. The little birds bring you berries.
The pebbles on the trail glow ghostly white.

##

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

I started writing when I was about ten years old. I liked e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay. In college I discovered Sylvia Plath, Rita Dove, Dorianne Laux, Louise Gluck, and Denise Duhamel. I found my true home when I found out speculative poetry was a thing –thanks to editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, who included my work in their early anthology, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (and I will always be grateful!)

Why do you write poetry?

I’ve always liked shorter forms–I’ve tried plays and fiction, I worked as a tech writer, copy editor and journalist, but I’ve always come back to poetry as my one true form.

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

The challenge is finding an audience. I’ve never had trouble writing–I tend to write more under stress, not less–but finding an audience for that work, that’s a little harder.

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

Gailey villainess

Yes, my interests have always included mythology and women’s transformations – fairy tales, pop culture, video games – all have been inspiration. My first book is all about the journey from princess/victim to villainess (hence the title, Becoming the Villainess.) My latest book was all about the apocalypse, about a fiction female survivor of an apocalypse who is constantly posting postcards to people that don’t exist anymore. That’s what Field Guide to the End of the World was about.

From Becoming the Villainess:

Wonder Woman Dreams of the Amazon

I miss the tropes of Paradise – green vines
roped around wrists, jasmine coronets,
a thousand rainbow birds and their incessant chatter,
the improbably misty clothing of my tribe.

I dream of the land where they celebrated
my birth, named me after their patron Goddess;
they said I would be a warrior for their kind,
blessed me with gifts before my eyes lost the cloudiness of birth.

I still dream of my mother,
Hippolyta, shining golden legs,
the strength of her arms –
before her betrayal and death.

In my dreams she wraps me tightly
again in the American flag, warning me,
cling to your bracelets, your magic lasso,
don’t be a fool for men.

She’s always lecturing me, telling me
not to leave her. Sometimes she changes into a doe,
and I see my father shooting her, her blood.
Sometimes in these dreams, it is me who shoots her.

My daily transformation from prim kitten-bowed suit
to bustier with red-white-and-blue stars
splayed across my bosom is less complicated.
The invisible jet makes for clean escapes,

The animals are my spies and allies; sometimes,
inexplicably, snow-feathered doves appear in my hands.
I capture Nazis and Martians with boomerang grace.

When I turn and turn, the music plays louder,
the glow around me burns white-hot,
I become everything I was born to be,
the dreams of the mother, the threat of the father.

##

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

I think that definitely the mood of our current age is one of apocalypse–there’s a reason there are so many disaster movies and superhero movies. We look to the mythological and the epic to try to make our own stories make more sense.

Gailey Field Guide final cover

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

I have two book manuscripts in circulation to publishers and I have a speculative poem coming up in the latest issue of Ploughshares called “Irradiate” and an upcoming poem in Poetry called “Calamity.”

Is there anything else you would like to say about horror and speculative poetry and fiction?

I am really glad the horror and speculative communities exist and I’ve made friends within the SFPA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association) and the HWA (Horror Writers Association) that are really important to me. Often, we can be treated as “outsiders” in the literary world, but we aren’t really outsiders–I guarantee there are more poetry fans of speculative and horror work than people think.

Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work appeared or will appear in journals such as American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.

They Are Not Regenerating

We are not zombies, thrown into a pool
of dubious origin and coming back beautiful
but decaying
unsure of how to live – pretending to swim,
eat yogurt like regular girls.

We are not clones, despite being drawn to specifications
(36-26-36) and bearing bouffants and bikinis
we might hack each other to pieces
but we are not confused about our identities

(living or not living) we continue
in this shape we were given
our cells cannot regenerate and the scientist
names us “Dead”
we are not regenerating we cannot reproduce ourselves we cannot be anything
but the fulfillment of your fantasy, flesh-eating or not.

##

Books by Jeannine

  • Becoming the Villainess, Steel Toe Books, 2006.
  • She Returns to the Floating World, Kitsune Books, 2011. Reissued in 2015 by Two Sylvias Press.
  • Unexplained Fevers, New Binary, 2013.
  • The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Mayapple Press, 2015.
  • Field Guide to the End of the World, Moon City Press, 2016. (Won the Moon City Press Book Prize and the 2016 Elgin Award.)

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