Lori 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.
I 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.
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.
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.