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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: 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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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: Angela Yuriko Smith

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

The first poem I remember reading was “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. I think I must have been around 2nd or 3rd grade. I was going through a bandits and pirates obsession and the way Noyes put together the story as a poem intrigued me. I was breathless after absorbing such an intense tale distilled into verse. Not long after I stumbled across “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. I fell in love with him and the way poetry could cut the fat from prose and leave the reader with only the essentials. In my mind, poetry heightened the reader’s discover and could play outside the normal rules of fiction.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because some stories need to be told that way. I love the way you can show an alternative perspective with poetry and turn a few thoughts into something to mull.  Poetry sparks revolution, soothes pain and reawakens the spirit.

Dark Matters

It’s all dark matters
in the space between the stars.
Inverted brilliance.

## 2019 winner of SFPA poetry contest in dwarf form

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

Finding an authentic voice and staying true to it. Allowing the poem to be what it wants to be makes me nervous sometimes. Often I tell a poem “You can’t say that!” but until I let the poem say what it wants in the way it wants, it won’t let me rest.

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

A lot of my poetry (and prose) hopes to give readers a different way to look at fears. Are monsters, death and destruction really so terrible? In my poetry, it’s often just the way you look at it. I’ve been told this is how “the Antichrist” communicates and I find that immensely flattering.

Parade of the Raven Prince

He stands at the head
of a carnivalistic parade…
hungry and bizarre with
hollowed, craven eyes.

His sharp beak pierces
the dark side of my heart.
His ebon feathers tickle
my fancy and I blush.

His misshapen troupe
watches from behind
licking cracked lips
waiting for reactions…
will I run or stay?

I stay, hypnotized
by his compelling dark
gaze laden with promises—
annihilation for adoration
seems a good exchange
in the woods at night
when face to face with
the Raven Prince and
his possessive posse.

His stance says enough.
I am already owned. He
is the scavenger of souls…
the claimer of carcasses.

Boneless, helpless
I drop to the leaves
adding my humanity
to the detritus there….
cast it off like a girl’s
outgrown, faded frock
and open my chest
inviting him to dip his
razor beak into my soul
and drain me to a husk.

Somewhere, a witch’s tears
mar her silver scry as she
witnesses wilted and sad
girlhood fall forgotten to
the forest floor and her
child prisoner rise to join
a different twisted family.

I see her eyes in the mist
watching me from shadows
cast from my new master.
With no love lost I wave
soft and secret for her
that watches, blinded
as her monkey joins
another circus.

##

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

Speculative poetry is the mirror we hold up so we can safely see Medusa. The world is Medusa. The speculative genre allows readers to dip into unsafe worlds where there are no rules, protections, or assurances and view our own through them. A fictional viral zombie apocalypse allows us to think about the very real coronavirus, but in a safer way. We can dip our toes into our fear, have a peek into its eyes and see how we might slay it.

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

My next poetry collection is Altars and Oubliettes which is an exploration of the things smith bookwe want to remember on our mind’s altars and the things we’d rather forget. I’m currently working on a collection I’ve called Sugar Skull Songs about the darker side of femininity. I am nearly done with the follow up to my Bitter Suites, my 2018 Bram Stoker Awards finalist and of course Space and Time magazine keeps me busier than I ever thought possible. I have a few short stories popping up in different anthologies and magazines over the next year as well.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about horror or poetry or other dark inspirations?

One of the areas I look forward to exploring in the next decade is my Okinawan background. Family lore has stories about my relatives there, the Ryukyuan religion they followed and how they were yuta, a kind of female medium or shaman. These influences were important factors as I grew up. I’m planning a trip to Okinawa in the next few years to visit some of these places and perhaps get some personal answers that I’m sure will show up in my writing.

smithAngela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award. Her novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards Finalist. In 2019 she won the SFPA’s poetry contest in the dwarf form category. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angelayurikosmithsmith pain
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngelaYSmith
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/angela_yuriko_smith/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/dandilyonfluff
Amazon: amazon.com/author/angelaysmith

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Women in Horror: Lynne Sargent

WiHM11-Scalples-whI’ve been impressed and honored to feature so many great poets for Women in Horror Month, and that continues with today’s guest, Lynne Sargent..

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

The first poetry I encountered was Tolkien’s, as a child I loved poetry that was seeded into the books I loved to read. I started seeking out external poetry after coming across Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot” in Meg Cabot’s Avalon High. After I started writing poetry in high school as the result of a book report assignment, I also fell in love with Dickinson, Wilde, Plath, and when I found speculative poetry and started publishing, my horizons broadened even further and now I love poets like Amal El-Mohtar, Leah Bobet, Holly Lyn Walrath, and Brandon O’Brien. In general, my poetry is hugely influenced by politics, myths, and fairy tales.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because it’s how I organize my brain. Poetry writing is an intense and sidelong endeavor in journaling, and its also how I work through ideas/emotions/problems that are too complex to handle in plain language.

Particularities

She put a grain of sand
under my eyelid,
not a pea
under my mattress

and still, I do not sleep.

Each morning comes,
the performed joy of waking
for his honor, the unemotional tears
second, unbidden, borne of irritation
or exhaustion, I know not
which.

I yawn at the day
at how carefully they scrub my skin
how precisely they watch my hand
with the knife at the dinner table.

I never pretended to be a princess,
I just was a discomforted woman
-and that was enough for them to avoid
the cost of a corset.

Now I dream of bedding you,
how you will lick my face clean
again, give me new eyes
like a new name.

Our kingdom will be a hundred mattresses high
all of them waiting to be stained salty,
too uncomfortable to look
upon, and you will know

the grating that can keep you
from sleep.

## Previously published in Dreams & Nightmares

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

I find the most difficult aspect in writing poetry is the editing: refining an idea down, keeping it focused, ensuring the punctuation and breaks say exactly what you want to say, and making specific things general or camouflaged enough that readers can find something to grasp onto and see themselves in.

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

The themes I find myself coming back to time and time again are issues of oppression, and the ways that stories can challenge oppression or reinforce it. As storytellers and writers, we have a fine line to walk making sure that the things we write are moving, but also that they have responsible messages.

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

I think dark poetry is attractive because in some ways it’s taboo, and it lets us talk about taboo things. Poetry is often about vulnerability and honesty, saying things that can’t be said in other ways. Dark subjects share that with poetry so they suit each other well. I also think in some ways poetry makes the grotesque more manageable, we make it pretty so its harder to look away.

Meat Puppets

They eat the children’s dancing skins
to the soundtrack of thunder in the next room over

while I take off your clothes,
and your flesh, and make love
to the naked muscles and bones beneath.

We chopped off limbs like they were butter,
rode dirt bikes through decrepit parking lots
told campfire stories while watching the gangrene seep into our skin

crawl its way all the way up to our eyeballs,
until the sunrise only looked like hunger.

and now here I am-
at screams and storms and meaty pieces

bloody, but satiated.

## Previously published in Polar Borealis

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

I’m working on getting my first book ready for publication with Renaissance Press! A Refuge of Tales is chock full of fairy tales and myths, and how they still influence our lives and the stories we tell about our world now. It’s my first collection (full-length) or otherwise so its very exciting and very nerve wracking.

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

Let poetry wash over you! If you don’t understand it, that’s okay, just relax and let it make you feel how you will feel. Anyone can read and/or love poetry; its not just for critics and experts in literary analysis!

SargentLynne Sargent is a writer, aerialist, and philosophy Ph.D student currently studying at the University of Waterloo. Her work has appeared in venues such as Strange Horizons, Dreams and Nightmares, and Augur Magazine, among others. She is a Rhysling and Aurora Award Nominated poet. Her first poetry collection A Refuge of Tales is forthcoming from Renaissance Press, and received an Ontario Arts Council Grant. If you want to find out more, reach out to her on Twitter @SamLynneS, or find a complete list of her published works at scribbledshadows.wordpress.com

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Women in Horror: Halli Lilburn

WiHM11-GrrrlWhite

Today’s guest is Halli Lilburn, a Canadian poet, editor and fiction writer.

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

I started in high school when I was first diagnosed with depression. I used it as an outlet. My first great influences were Neil Gaiman, Shakespeare (thanks to the curriculum) and my grandmother.

Why do you write poetry?

For attention.  Honest answer.  I need to understand myself and I need others to understand me.

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

I want to have a point and often it’s difficult to translate the feelings and misgivings of my heart into a formula that others can understand.

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

I enjoy themes like steampunk, nature, resurrection and spiritual powers. My chapbook, The Ballad of the Sea Lion Woman takes myths and fairy tales and spins them into steampunk tales.

Monster

I need your eyes
Scoop them out for me
So bright and alive
They will show me much more than before
I need your legs
Just chop them off
So strong and steady
They will take me much farther than before
Give me your voice
I wrecked mine when I stopped caring
So, I will rewind time
And breathe deep again.
Your brain, I need your brain next
To fill in the holes and the shadows
Carved out by abuse and ignorance
You should hear the things I was told.
The racist, sexist, ablest common norms
That stained me.
I got to switch up that rubbish with hipster tolerance and representation
While you’re at it, give me your liver, your heart, your age, your diet, your height and your depth.
The depth you stabbed me with when you tried to kill me.
Tried to rid society of old monsters like me.
Me and my entitlement, fake news and fake tan
But I can’t die. I can’t even get sick
Drown me, crush me, incinerate me.
My broken bones will snap back in place
And I will reach out and steal your parts
Piece myself back together.
You never wanted the responsibility or ownership or accountability
I’ll leave what’s left of you propped up in a chair
Hooked up to machines
With the occasional lightning bolt to zap life into you.
Your eye sockets can stare out
The passive listener like you always wanted
‘Cause man, if you had legs you might have used them.
If you still had a voice you might have to speak out.

## from We Shall Be Monsters

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

People need to wake up to the world around them.  The horror of indecency needs to be exposed so that we can abhor it and fight it.

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

I am working on a sky pirate adventure novel with my 17-year-old daughter.  She creates the monsters and I write the fight scenes. We are excited to get it published.

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

My spelling can be horrifying and I apologize for that, but I won’t let it stop me from writing. Not any more. I had teachers who cared about nothing else and that really stifled me but my skills lie in structure and imagery so stop telling me I’m stupid.  Not lilburn biohelpful.

You can find Halli at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5301255.Halli_Lilburn  I have works in Tesseracts 18 and 22, Carte Blanche, Vine Leaves and many others.  I am an editor with essentialedits.ca and The Dame Was Trouble by Coffin Hop Press.  She teaches creative writing, art journaling and steampunk workshops.  She is also a Dungeon Master.

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Women in Horror: Ashley Dioses

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

I discovered poetry when I was very young.  My dad used to write children’s poetry and read it to me and my brother when we were young.  He would come to my elementary school and read to our classrooms and include poems in the school newsletter.  My dad also happened to be a huge horror and fantasy fan, and eventually, when I grew older, he introduced me to Poe’s fiction and poetry.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because poetry has always been in my life.  I wrote stories when I was too young to read horror and when I discovered Poe, I didn’t realize horror poetry existed.  I put two and two together and I went from there.

A Queen in Hell

To Edgar Allan Poe

Upon a moonlit eve, we strolled along the shores
Of a still lake, all atrament save for the bright,
Rich, hoary moon-glow, which threw wide dark, eldritch doors
Into a hell of reeking hells that stole her light.

My love, my gorgeous love, how could you abandon me?
What haunting daemons lured you to your early grave?
How could you not perceive that you were always free?
Why, why was it not you, my love, that I could save?

The years have passed and sadly I stand so alone
Beside you, by your grave, yet in my heart you dwell.
Your kinsmen knew of your great beauty, and it’s known
That we lament so deeply for a queen in Hell.

## from Appears in Diary of a Sorceress

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

Writing in a structured form.  Not only do you have to master any form you are trying to write in, but you must also do it in a way as to not distract from the story or message you are trying to convey.  There’s a delicate balance that can be hard to achieve.

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

I tend to stick to speculative genre, mostly in the veins of Gothic, Weird, horror, Dioses SORCERESS_LSI_FRONTsupernatural, and fantasy.  I grew up listening to these genres being read to me until I could read myself and I’ve never stopped.  My first collection, Diary of a Sorceress, is broken up into four themes which range from fantasy to nature-based fantasy to dark romance, and then to horror.  My next collection of poetry, The Withering, will cover mostly supernatural and psychotic/psychological themes.  Future collections will be more refined and will stick to one theme.

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

It’s an escape from the real world and yet I think people can resonate with the various underlining meanings darkness can convey.

Quest for the Flesh

Arise at night when sun takes flight;
Awaken with the moon.
A chilling breeze is just a tease
For what is coming soon.

A breath you feel, which makes you squeal,
Still lurks inside your mind.
The nighttime stars have healed your scars
While you are in a bind.

The loss of hope and things you cope
With leave you with a lie.
The path you take will make you shake—
Yet will it let you die?

You grasp your past but that won’t last,
For lust infects your core.
Her body chills as her blood spills,
Yet you are craving more.

The quest for flesh, the human mesh,
Ignites your blood-mad slave,
Your eyes alight when she turns white—
You leave her in a grave.

## from The Withering

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

My second poetry collection, The Withering, contains 55 of the best poems I wrote in my pre-teen and teenage years.  It is due out on Walpurgisnact (April 30th,) from Gehenna and Hinnom Books.  My current project is Diary of a Vampyress, which will be my Gothic-centric poetry collection.

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

I have a degree in health science, I’m a martial artist and former instructor, and I have a deep interest in the occult; all things that help aid in my writing one way or another.

DiosesAshley Dioses is a poet of dark fantasy and horror from southern California. Her poetry has appeared in Weird Fiction Review, Spectral Realms, Weirdbook Magazine, PS Publishing, and elsewhere. Her debut collection of dark traditional poetry, Diary of a Sorceress, was released from Hippocampus Press in 2017.  Her second collection, The Withering, is forthcoming from Gehenna and Hinnom Books in 2020.  She has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  She blogs at fiendlover.blogspot.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Ashley-Dioses/e/B00ME9N2D2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_3 
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7463452.Ashley_Dioses

 

 

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Women in Horror: Jacqueline West

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

I discovered poetry as a kid, when I spent many hours browsing the narrow aisles of our little public library. Shakespeare and Poe and other classics came first, and then I moved on to T.S. Eliot and e. e. cummings, and around age thirteen I found Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and fell madly in love. Because I couldn’t afford all of those books myself (and because the internet wasn’t really a thing yet), I would copy all of my favorite poems down by hand in a blank book, so I could keep them and reread them again and again and again.

Why do you write poetry?

Because I can’t help it, I suppose. These days, I spend far more time writing fiction, but I began with poetry, and I think I’ll always return to it. A novel is a giant, sprawling construction, and I love wandering around in the worlds that I get to create that way, but I’m not sure there’s anything more satisfying than a finished poem. The rhythm and color and magic of words is put on such perfect display in poetry. Everything else is pared away.

Seven Whistlers

The Whistlers are six spectral birds who circle the world in search of a seventh. When all seven fly together, the world will end.

Close as papers in a book
they nest, now and then,
though they do not sleep.
Their open eyes glister
like slag in the dark.
Four, five, six keep watch
restlessly, settling wings
that send a dry wind
knocking cornstalks,
distant shutters.
They are family;
they are one body.
They love one another like bones.

Listen—
in the darkening sky
the whistle of breeze
through hollow things.
They are passing over.
The moan of breath
in an empty bottle;
a storm, miles off,
cut on the crest of a hill.
The chill of rain
without water.
They pass on.
They are searching still.

They have no call.
They only stare.
The pitch of air
through skeletons
and featherless wings as broad as sails
carries over miles, over mountains
and seas. Seven seeds,
holding secrets
that will split and swell,
while somewhere
the lost one waits.
Someday the pieces
will fall into place.

##  from Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions

In my most recent novel, I got to write both prose and poetry. The book is my modern-West CandlePinsCover600day, Minnesotan, metal re-imagining of the musician who may have sold his soul to the devil, so I got to write lyrics for my protagonist’s songs—which was incredibly fun.

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

The line between ambiguity and too-obviousness can be pretty fine. Often what seems perfectly clear in your head doesn’t actually make it onto the paper—so then you revise until you’re afraid that all the mystery and richness is gone, and then you have to go back and start all over again.

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

A lot of my work is inspired by folklore, myth, and fairy tales. My collection Candles and Pins: Poems on Superstitions, is obviously rooted in superstitious beliefs and lore. Each poem explores a different superstition; some are whimsical, and some are very dark. I’m West LastThings Final Coveralso often inspired by history and location. My chapbook, Cherma, is not speculative, but it was inspired by rambles around a historic cemetery…

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

Like many people have said, dark literature gives us a safe way to confront our fears as well as our other deep, dark emotions—to examine them, make sense of them, play with them. And a lot of us just find the dark and strange to be beautiful.

A Few Rules

Young people who fall in love while dressed in mourning clothes are doomed never to marry.

No flirting at the funeral.
No caressing near the casket.
No hand-holding behind the hearse,
no giggling at the grave.
Don’t parade your liveliness, your loveliness,
your youth, your certainty that you
will never be the ones shut up
out here, beneath the neat green hills
where every party peters out.
Don’t be too smug.
Don’t snuggle down among the tombs.
Don’t wink behind the preacher’s back,
steal a bloom from the bouquets.
You’ll be tempted. You’ll be sorry.
Don’t think that just because
the dead are dead they can’t be petty.
That just because they’re underground
they don’t begrudge you that quick kiss,
don’t hear and covet your fluttering heart

## from Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions

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

I’ve got a short story coming out in the anthology Nox Pareidolia: Volume II later this year, and I’m at work on my next fantasy/horror middle grade novel, which should be released by Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2021.

Jacqueline West is the author of the New York Times-bestselling middle grade series The Books of Elsewhere, the Schneider Family Honor Book The Collectors, and several other West2017 croppedmiddle grade and young adult novels. Her most recent novel, the YA horror/fantasy Last Things, is a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards and has been selected for the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot. Her poetry has appeared in journals including Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Liminality, and Star*Line, and she has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and two Pushcart Prizes, and received a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. Her first full-length poetry collection, Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions was published by Alban Lake in 2018 and was selected for the preliminary ballot of the Bram Stoker Awards. Jacqueline lives with her family in Red Wing, Minnesota.

www.jacquelinewest.com

Escaping the Dawn

On Halloween, all souls in hell are released for twenty-four hours.

Their hunger builds in the last hours.
Streetlamps flicker, the small storms
of moths and mayflies long departed.
Gradual as a freeze, the liquid dark
turns white, ice trapping the moment
in anesthesia. Stars dull their corners.
The moon dissolves, a brittle skull
swirled to the edge of a seashell.
This is their warning. Dragged back
into closets, to the dust under beds,
to dark corners, to graffiti-spattered
holes, they mutter, unsatisfied, licking
their fingers. Day takes its first breath
on the horizon as they stagger slowly
back toward the darkness, always just
out of reach of those long, bright hands.

## from Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions

The Collectors #2: A Storm of Wishes (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2019)
Last Things (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2019)
Digging Up Danger (Rodale Kids/Penguin Random House, 2019)
The Collectors (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2018)
Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions (Alban Lake, 2018)
The Books of Elsewhere (Dial/Penguin, 2010 – 2014)

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Women in Horror: Michelle Scalise

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteMy guest today is Michelle Scalise. Her poetry punches hard and all the more wrenching for its reality.

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

I was taught dull, unrelatable poems in grade school but when I started high school I discovered Edgar Allan Poe on my own. “Annabel Lee,” in particular, made me obsessed with the art form. My work now is influenced by everyone from Charles Baudelaire to Sylvia Plath to Anne Sexton.

Why do you write poetry?

Besides poetry, I also write short stories but I can express myself and my life through poetry in unique ways. I love the way poetry lets a writer play with the sounds of words and the rhythm they make to create an image and feeling.

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

The most difficult part of writing is getting the feeling across to the reader but leaving enough room for them to relate to a poem in their own way.

MISTY WAS AN UGLY DOLL

When she grew weary
stubbing out cigarettes
on the old lady,
who paid dearly for
adopting a sewer rat,
Mama would come for me.

She’d lift me onto the stepping stool.
It didn’t help to beg and weep,
humiliation was a sound for the weak.

With giant antique sheers,
She’d chop off my hair muttering,
“Pretty girls are blonde like me.”

Upstairs in the shadows,
a box with my favorite doll
“Beautiful Misty” it read in bold print.
But they were wrong,
her hair was red
and grew long with the turn of knob.

Misty cried when I cut her locks.
I had no mercy for a toy that lied.

Sometimes Mama slapped too hard
but I couldn’t make Misty bleed.
So I colored bruises on her cheeks.
Now she’s dead inside like me.

## from Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning

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

scalise bookMy latest collection, DRAGONFLY AND SONGS OF MOURNING (LVP Publications 2019) is about the death of my husband, novelist Tom Piccirilli, of cancer. Most poets who write in the horror genre use death a lot but this is personal. It was also the only work I’ve ever done that was painful to write. My last collection THE MANUFACTURER OF SORROW (Eldritch Press) doesn’t have a theme. I am always writing about scarred childhoods and turning the image of mothers into monsters. That’s my way of fighting back at my past. Both of my short story collections also contain poems.

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

Life is dark and awful for everyone at times. There is something soothing about reading a poet one can relate to.

WORDS HE REMEMBERED

He couldn’t see her anymore
Morphine shuttered his eyes
And cobwebs hung from his lashes
But he heard her whispering
And her prayers became a chapter
On the white walls of his cell.
Words dripping from the ceiling
To languish on the cracked linoleum floor.

His writing was his hunger.
Words black as the poison inside him
Spun into strings of sentences.
Both the horror and the beauty
He longed to type.

Ideas drowning in an IV bag.
Page after page
Streaming from his brain
Too quickly to catch.
He cried watching them fly away.

But he didn’t grieve his own loss,
She’d do that for him.
It was the stories
He’d forgotten to tell
That ran like deer in the mountains
Through the silence he’d leave behind.

## from Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning

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

I have started something new but it won’t have an actual theme, at least so far. When I go back I may discover something similar running through the poems.

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

My love for horror began when I was a little girl. I would watch old horror movies with my father. He died young but his memory is always in my work.

Since 1994, Michelle Scalise‘s work has appeared in such anthologies as Unspeakable ScaliseHorror, Darker Side, Mortis Operendi I, Dark Arts, The Big Book of Erotic Ghost Stories, Best Women’s Erotica, and such magazines as Cemetery Dance, Crimewave, Space and Time, and Dark Discoveries. She was nominated for the 2010 Spectrum Award, which honors outstanding works of fantasy and horror that include positive gay characters. Her poetry has been nominated for the Elgin Award and the Rhysling Award. Her fiction has received honorable mention in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her fiction collection, Collective Suicide, was published by Crossroad Press in 2012. In 2014, Eldritch Press published a collection of her poetry, The Manufacturer of Sorrow in paperback and ebook. It became a bestseller in the women writers category on Amazon. In May of 2019, her latest collection of poetry, Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning, was published by Lycan Valley Press. It has made the preliminary ballet for the Bram Stoker Award. Michelle is an active member of the HWA and the SFPA.

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