Tag Archives: poetry

Women in Horror: Sara Tantlinger

WiHM11-Scalples-wvToday’s guest in Sara Tantlinger, another pretty amazing poet.

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

Like many others, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first writers to really lure me into the world of poetry. I remember reading “The Raven” in middle school and having the imagery stick with me for a long time. Additionally, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman were my biggest classic inspirations that took me deeper into my love of poetry. My more contemporary inspirations are all the wonderful horror poets out there, along with Sierra DeMulder and Richard Siken.

Why do you write poetry?

I love that poetry forces you to create something sharp and poignant in a small space. You have a short amount of time to grab the reader’s attention, exploit the senses, create vivid imagery, and hopefully, have the reader go back to the beginning and discover new aspects of the poem on a second or third read. I love those types of poems that you can come back to multiple times and feel all over again. When I write poetry, I want to evoke all of that within a reader.

Blood Clot Passenger

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
striking against
miasmic city filth
striking against
his well-dressed body

hearses roll by, iron-clad wheels rattling,
urging city rats to scamper
past bluebottle flies
hovering over animal corpses
littering over the city streets
like masses on an artery

a man walks through the city
as summer rots
locomotive steam pluming upward,
conjoining with polluted clouds,
soot and smoke
thickening a blockage from the sun

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train,
the clot breaks free, travels through
Chicago’s body,
this dark-mustached swindler,
this charmer who pied the snakes
swallowed them whole,

emits musical poison from his throat
walks past death without blinking
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
hungering over
the sight of maggots
wondering how squirming larvae
would look
inside the body of the pretty woman
he had sat next to on the train.

First published in The Devil’s Dreamland, Strangehouse Books, 2018

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

It can be difficult not to rely on the same words or imagery, especially in horror. It is a fantastic challenge to study new words and think of innovative ways to describe something like blood or death or darkness, but I always have to watch and edit myself for how many times I might rely on a certain word or image. The last thing I want to do is check over a collection of my poems and realize I used the same word 70 times or something like that!

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

I love themed poetry! Lately, historical horror has been the niche I’ve been drawing a lot from. I also really enjoy nature-themed poetry. Taking something beautiful or terrifying from nature and turning it into a horror poem is always a delight.

My first collection Love For Slaughter centers around obsessive, bloody love. It was inspired by the idea of “madness shared by two” and I’ve dubbed it a “horrormance” collection — a little romance and a lot of blood.

The Devil's Dreamland full rezAnd then my collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award, was inspired by the life and lies of serial killer H.H. Holmes. The poems dip into his point of view pretty heavily, but I also included poems from the perspective of his victims, the city, and his murder castle in 1800s Chicago.

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

Dark and speculative poetry is such a great rabbit hole to get lost in. I’ve heard from many readers before that they weren’t really into poetry until they discovered horror poetry. While I love an array of poetry, from classic sonnets to more contemporary free verse, I can understand why studying certain poems in school might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but dark poetry offers something a little different. The poems are like bite-sized bits of horror that readers can digest and then come back to for more.

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

I am currently working on my third poetry collection titled Cradleland of Parasites. It will be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, and it draws inspiration from the Black Death and other plagues! I love historical horror, so this project has been a fascinating one to work on so far. Coming up, I have a few poems in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts, a charity anthology to raise funds for the Australian bushfire victims — all sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian Red Cross and matched dollar-for-dollar by Microsoft (up to $50k) as part of their Giving campaign.

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

Though it isn’t poetry, my first edited anthology will also be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, Not All Monsters. The collection is made entirely of stories by women in horror, and it features some of the most stunning artwork from Don Noble. I am so proud to share the authors’ stories. Keep an eye to the horizon for pre-order info and other things soon!

Sara Tantlinger is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland: Tantlinger2020Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. Her other books include Love for Slaughter and To Be Devoured. Her poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including The Twisted Book of Shadows, Sunlight Press, Unnerving, and Abyss & Apex. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

 

 

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Women in Horror: Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

You will notice a theme with many writers on the therapeutic nature of writing. Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert is my guest today and she talks about the healing nature and the joy of writing.

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

I have been writing poetry since I was quite young. I used to submit to and win poetry contests in my local newspaper. Poetry has always been therapeutic for me, even before I knew what “therapeutic” meant. I’ve always had this need to transform my thoughts and feelings into words.

My earliest influences were probably Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. I don’t recall reading a lot of poetry at school, which is a shame. By junior high I’d discovered The Raven by Poe, which remains my favorite horror poem. Later, I discovered William Blake and liked his work, but wanting to read from women poets, I found Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood. Much of their poetry has speculative elements, which dovetailed nicely with my lifelong love of scifi, fantasy, and horror.

Why do you write poetry?

I have said that poetry saved my life, and that sounds melodramatic even though it’s true. I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety, and sometimes it felt as though putting my thoughts to paper was the only way to ease the darkness.

Aside from that, I love the way poetry can conjure images and descriptions in a way that other fictions cannot.

The Waiting Room in Purgatory

Chair pads of crushed red velvet,
singed;
stained by unknown liquids
over
countless centuries.

Ornate, carved wood backs darkened
with
age, gleaming from layers
of wax,
gouged by nails and claws
and
teeth
and
desperation.

The air is thick
with fetid breath,
and
smoke
and
dire need.

For eons, my tired eyes
have
traced, ev’ry thread; ev’ry
hole and
stain on the moth-eaten
tapestry that reads:

Neither here nor there.

## (Yet again, the wierdness of WordPress has allowed formatting for the second poem and not this one. The lines beginning with “over,” “of wax” and “hole” should be indented.)

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

One of the more difficult aspects of writing poetry for me are when you have an idea—or a sense or mood you want to convey—and want to describe it poetically. You start writing, and you find that the words coming out are not doing justice to what is in your head. Sometimes that can be overcome. Sometimes it just spills out the way you intended. More often than not, for me, I save what I have and try to go back to it later to “get it right.” But usually I fail. The times I succeed feel amazing!

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

I can’t say my poetry has any particular themes. My work does tend to be speculative and dark. And I’d say that a lot of it reflects a woman’s experience, but certainly not all of it. ReynoldsMy one published poetry collection, Interview with the Faerie (Part One) and Other Poems of Darkness and Light is divided into three sections. The first, “darkness,” has “dark” poetry, including a short poem written from the perspective of a man who is physically abusive to his partner. The middle section, “shades of grey,” has one poem that is not dark or “light,” although it has an ominous tone. The last section, “into the light,” contains a poem about a goblin on his first day of school. It’s one of the few things I’ve written that is suitable for children.

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

I believe that horror-themed fiction is attractive to people generally. Horror-themed movies and books are certainly undergoing a resurgence right now.

Dark speculative poetry is appealing because it can describe the unfathomable, the unthinkable, the grotesque, in beautiful and stunning ways. It makes the true horrors of our world digestible. It’s easier for many to read a horror poem than spend ten-plus hours digesting a horror novel. And to others, seeing horror play out on a screen is too visceral.

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

I’m actively working on two projects: I’m finishing up a horror short story for an anthology call, and I’m in the beginning stages of pulling together a new collection of short stories and poetry. Some of the material will be reprint, but much of it is new. I’ll be looking for a publisher once I have it together.

I also discovered painting last year during a mental health break I took from writing. I’m hoping to explore some darker themes in my painting this year.

That Witch We Dread

       A witch, sometimes,
should be dark. Should wear
a crooked nose,
a frock black like ink;
murky and stale
as the corner of a root cellar floor.

       Some witches exist,
to haunt your thoughts. Dive
gleefully into your mind,
unseat logic;
pulling up shadows
that were well-hidden, placed with reason.

       This witch is not
Wiccan, not Goddess.

       She is horrible.
The pit in your belly,
the earth falling away,
the dread that lives tightly coiled,
dormant; awaiting its moment with
grotesque implausibility.

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

I’ll say a word about women and traditionally underrepresented voices in horror. The horror that women often write reflects our lived experiences, and too many of us experience horrific things regularly. Women’s voices in the speculative genres are crucial. I feel that often it’s the underrepresented voices that make you really experience the “otherness” that drives so much of speculative fiction. To provide a concrete example, the experiences of Octavia Butler as a poor woman of color allowed her to write about human-ness, other-ness, and gender and sexuality in a way I don’t think a

Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert writes short fiction and poetry in the science fiction, horror, Reynolds bioand dark fantasy genres. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies The Final Summons, Killing It Softly (Vol.1), and The Deep Dark Woods. Read her poetry in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. VI, the anthologies Beneath Strange Stars and Wicked Witches, the websites Tales of the Zombie War, Eternal Haunted Summer, and Strong Verse; and in The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature. She published a short collection of poetry, Interview with the Faerie (Part One) and Other Poems of Darkness and Light in 2013.

Suzanne is a freelance content creation expert, editor, and works as a technical services librarian. She writes in between driving her daughter around and meeting the incessant demands of her feline overlords. https://suzannereynoldsalpert.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7394656.Suzanne_Reynolds_Alpert

 

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Women in Horror: Jeannine Hall Gailey

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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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Where I’ve Been & the End of a Decade

writing2Sometimes life is hills or valleys, and sometimes it dives so deep into the underlayer that you end up in orbit without a safety suit. To say I will be happy to see the end of the second decade of the third millennium is an understatement. Fair warning: this will be a long post.

2018 started with a bang…literally. I was driving to work on a slow, quiet, dry day. Thankfully, the traffic was light. My car had always had a sporadic and unpredictable issue of brakes locking at low speed. I always left lots of room in between cars before this. This time I was driving at 100km/hour when my brakes chose to lock, spinning me about and slamming me into a cement barrier. Totaled the car, smashed my leg but otherwise, with a couple of months of physio I was mostly right as rain (yet another permanent bump to my leg though).

In March, I visited my family. My mother, in her 90s, had nearly died in January, so I was seeing her while she had her health. I was also working on writing through my Canada Council grant and Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, the anthology of Lewis Carroll based stories, came out. That was the slow, almost normal time.

DSC03616

I shot this in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic ©2017

In June, I fell and broke my hand, but the doctors misdiagnosed it for three months which then required some other treatments to fix it. Just after that, I finally landed a new job and was getting ready to leave my previous toxic workspace. Then my cat died on the July long weekend. My job ended on Friday, July 13 and I would be starting the new job the following Monday. Instead, at midnight the same night I was booking a flight as my mother was failing fast. I was in Calgary for five days, and when I booked the return my mother was recovering. But before I had left she was failing again. I returned to start my new job two days late. I worked one day when my new boss gave me a flight back to Calgary the next day. I arrived on the Friday, the last day my mother was really conscious. She died that Sunday morning.

I stayed in Calgary for two weeks to deal with her effects and for her celebration of life. I was only back a week, grieving these deaths, when my landlady of more than 20 years chose to evict me. I live in Vancouver, the land of exorbitant rents. My landlady had once been a friend but she turned into an even more passive aggressive and petty person, had stopped talking to me at all and claimed that she and her new husband (she became very bitter when she divorced her narcissistic ex four years before) needed more space when they lived in the biggest house on the block, with 2 floors, and 3 bedrooms and were semi retired. Needless to say, she had become more bitter and paranoid and odd, and I now had to grieve losing my home and moving. On top of that she had known since the spring that I was in Europe in October and guess which month I was going to have to move?

December came and I was still setting up my new place. My brother and sister-in-law came out for a short visit. I didn’t make it out for Christmas, being stressed and exhausted. My brother’s health wasn’t good and he was suffering the extreme effects of sleep apnea, including brain fatigue and memory loss. We were very worried about him.

2018 came to a close and I was thankful, thinking this was the end of a terrible year. That was not the end of terrible or trauma though. In March, my brother died unexpectedly, which sent the whole family into a tailspin. Dennis was much loved and as siblings we were all very close. Again I was in Edmonton, helping my sister-in-law and grieving terribly.

Burning-book-mrtwismI had barely written in 2018 and the weight of grief made it extremely difficult to think of writing. I applied to the Horror Writers Association for the Scholarship from Hell, a scholarship to attend the Stokercon convention and masterclass workshops, as well as free flight and accommodation. I didn’t win the scholarship but was awarded a runner-up scholarship that included free attendance and master classes. I desperately needed the energy of writers to inspire me.

During the con I took a master class in poetry with Linda Addison. I came back, somewhat inspired but still fatigued by grief. I began exploring a few short forms of poetry, which was one way I dealt with my brother’s death.

Then in July, just past a year from having broken my hand, I fractured my ankle. I’m lucky my job allowed me to work from home as I was stuck in a walk-up. I also damaged the tendons in my thumbs and my shoulders from crutches and started physio before I was even out of a cast.

You would think that was plenty but it still didn’t end. My boss reluctantly informed me that there wasn’t the budget to continue my job in the new year. So now I was back looking for work. Then in September I was stung on my hand by a wasp. My hand and arm swelled up with extreme itchiness. Several weeks later I had hives on my head, side and leg. My doctor was pretty useless and for over two months I dealt with hives.

Then I caught a sinus cold. Just a cold, no big deal. Except it brought tinnitus with it and I’m still suffering ringing in my ears. Three months later, the sinus drainage continues. I have been doing all sorts of self care–physio, chiropractic, massage, counseling–all to get me through these challenging years. On top of that, I ended up with a stye so bad that my nose and cheek swelled. My doctor sent me to ER but thankfully, it just turned out to be some very extreme version of a stye.

Stress can be brought on by various things and the grief and trauma of my last two years has left me with stress and a dread of what could possibly be next. One extreme health issue after another has had me worried. Stress can cause a candida infection and I believe that might be the cause of the lingering tinnitus, the stye, the sinus issues and the extreme reaction to the wasp sting. I’m working on getting this sorted out.

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Art by Jenn Brisson, published by Black Shuck Books

With everything that happen and still missing so very much my dear brother (I still can’t believe he is gone.), I do have to remember that there were some good things in my life. The compassion of my current employer was amazing and I will always cherish that I had the time to grieve with my family. My solo anthology Alice Unbound, as well as my collection, A Body of Work, were both published in 2018. I had received a Canada Council grant for writing, and a runner-up scholarship from HWA. I was also asked and will be a guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival in 2020.

On top of that, I had record years in publishing my fiction and poetry. I wrote more new poetry this year than I had in years. In 2018, 12 poems were published and 3 stories. For 2019, 23 poems have been published and 10 stories. I’ll be listing links after this piece for 2019 and where most pieces can be read or bought. I don’t know if what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but I have weathered the worst two years of my entire life. I’ve had enough.

What do I hope for 2020 and the new decade to begin?

I want calm and peace, no endings, no trauma, no grief. I want health and the only excitement to be in what I get published. I want the continued support, love and compassion of friends and family, and hope that I can give it as well. I want to write more, maybe get that novel done and publish one of the two others that are languishing. For the world, I’d love to see an increase in understanding, empathy and compassion and a decrease in mistrust, fear mongering and hate. To all of you, may you have a wonderful, harm free 2020.

Noor5Poetry

Fiction

 

 

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Women in Horror: Penny Jones

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Today, from the UK, author Penny Jones talks about why she loves horror and how it might just be normal.

Women in Horror month is a strange concept for me; on one hand, as a fairly new female writer I love it (any exposure is good exposure), and I get to learn about what some of my favourite writers are up to, and read some work from other writers who are new to me. But on the other hand, I’ve always read female horror writers. At my first ever convention I was a giggling mess when I met John Connolly and Simon Bestwick, but I was equally in awe of meeting Cate Gardner and Thana Niveau at the same convention. My bookshelves have always been pretty 50/50 when it comes to male or female authors. So I wonder if the issue isn’t around women in horror, but around people’s perception of what horror is.

Jones 3

Penny Jones indicates her part in Great British Horror

Now I’ve always been lucky (though I didn’t realise this until I met other horror writers). My family and friends have always been big readers, and they’ve also been big horror fans. So, when I first went to a convention it was a shock to hear other authors saying it was nice to be around people who understood you, and who didn’t ask, “Why don’t you write something nice?” Because I’ve never been in that situation (see told you I was lucky).

As a child I was more likely to be watching a Hammer Horror than I was a Disney film, and my parents happily bought me Mary Danby’s ghost stories, as well as a Rupert the Bear annual at Christmas. Horror has never been a dirty word in my life. Also, horror wasn’t introduced to me as being all about excess gore and shock value. In fact, I don’t really like what I term “Tits and Torture” (I’ve been trying to gear myself up to watch Saw for years now. I love the concept behind the story, but I really am too scared to watch it). But most of the “Tits and Torture” that I’m too squeamish to watch isn’t actually sold as horror anyway; it’s sold as mainstream TV such as Game of Thrones or Vikings. That’s not to say I won’t read the more extreme side of horror. One of my favourite writers is Alex White who wrote several stories for the Pan Book of Horror, including my favourite of the entire series The Clinic and, you guessed it, Alex White is a female author (though I only found that out a couple of years ago). It is something I see time and time again−female horror authors who people think are male, either that or female horror authors who aren’t described as horror writers.

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Penny shares her poetry in a unique fashion

If you walk into your local bookstore and look at your meagre one shelf of horror books, it is a pretty sure bet that the only authors you will see there will be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, with the occasional Herbert, Barker or Neville thrown into the mix. But if you look elsewhere in the book store and take a peek at the crime, the classics, and the literary shelves, you’ll find plenty of amazing female horror writers. There’s a joke that if you want a horror book to sell you call it a literary book and put a picture of a tree on the front, but I think what’s equally true is that if you want a female horror writer to be commercially viable you don’t put their work on the horror shelf. Look at Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House; it is quite clearly a horror book. It has the word “Haunting” in the title for God’s sake, but still you will usually find it snuggled next to James Joyce on the literary shelves in the store.

If you weren’t as lucky as me, and your only concept of horror is the trailer for the latest slasher flick or seeing the latest Stephen King bestseller on the shelves at WHSmiths, then here are some of my favourite female horror writers for you to get your teeth into:

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Dark Voices includes one of Penny’s tales.

Priya Sharma−All the Fabulous Beasts

Tracy Fahey−New Music for Old Rituals

Alex White−The Clinic (Which can be found in: Back from the dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories)

Shirley Jackson−The Haunting of Hill House

Daphne du Maurier−Don’t Look Now and Other Stories

Susan Hill−The Woman in Black

Alison Littlewood−A Cold Season

Laura Mauro−Naming the Bones

Cate Gardner−Theatre of Curious Acts

Thana Niveau−Unquiet Waters

Georgina Bruce−This House of Wounds (Out later this year by Undertow Publications)

Charlotte Brontë−Jane Eyre

Mary Shelley−Frankenstein

Marie O’Regan−Times of Want

A.K. Benedict−Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts

Sarah Pinborough−The Death House

Jones 4Penny Jones knew she was a writer when she started to talk about herself in the third person (her family knew, when Santa bought her a typewriter for Christmas). She loves reading and will read pretty much anything you put in front of her, but her favourite authors are Stephen King, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham. In fact Penny only got into writing to buy books, when she realised that there wasn’t that much money in writing she stayed for the cake.

Penny’s horror has been published in: Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills, Dark Voices, Black Room Manuscripts IV, and Along the Long Road. You can find out more at www.penny-jones.com

 

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Eye to the Telescope Submission Call

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Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

Lisa Trimpf, editor of the Eye to the Telescope submission call on sports and games gives some insight into what she’s looking fr.

Wanted: “Sports and Games”-Themed Speculative Poetry

Star Trek’s three-dimensional chess. Quidditch, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. The race to solve a gaming challenge in Ready Player One. Those are only a few examples of sports and games popping up in speculative literature, movies, and television—sometimes in a feature role, and sometimes as a side interest.

When the call went out for volunteer editor for Eye to the Telescope, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s quarterly online magazine, I put up my hand. Tasked with suggesting a topic, I thought, why not sports and games? Having played a variety of sports throughout my lifetime, it’s an area of long-standing interest for me. Plus, the field is wide open for more speculation, more thought, more invention.

From where we’re standing in early 2019, it’s hard to predict with any certainty what the

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Lisa Trimpf writes and plays sports.

future of sports and games might look like. We might guess wrong, and we might guess right. The reality might surprise us, because it’s something we didn’t foresee at all. I can attest to that from my experiences as a female athlete.

When I was growing up, there were no girls’ hockey teams in my home town, and as for playing on a boys’ team—at the time, it just wasn’t done. So my friends and I played pick-up ball hockey instead, or rented the local arena occasionally for a game of shinny. We wore the jerseys of our favorite NHL hockey stars, because those were our only role models.

balero(1)In the space of just under 40 years, so much has changed. Girls’ house league and rep teams abound in many areas of Canada. Women’s hockey is now in the Olympic Games—something that I would have found difficult to imagine in the late 1970s.

There have been, and continue to be, female role models young players can aspire to emulate, people like Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin, Cassie Campbell—and the list goes on. Women are now sports announcers and commentators. A handful of female hockey players have even been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, something I can assure you my friends and I never saw coming back when we were shooting a tennis ball at a goal my friend’s father cobbled together from two-by-fours and plastic netting.

There are other trends, too, that many of us wouldn’t have imagined a few decades ago. marblesFan participation in certain aspects of sport has broadened—all-star voting, for example, or fantasy leagues, in which fans get to pick their “dream team” and see how they perform. The Olympic Games now include events like aerial skiing or half-pipe snowboarding, sports that weren’t even a thing back when the modern Olympics were re-vitalized in 1896. And, of course, there are increasingly sophisticated sports-themed video games, a notion that seemed light years distant back in the 1970s when we thought Atari’s Pong was a big deal.

So, here we sit in 2019, almost 2020. What will sports and games look like four decades from now (or later) here on Earth? What new twists might we see on existing traditions? Will we eventually see gender parity in sports? Will parents of the future opt for genetic tweaking to produce the ultimate athlete? What sports and games will colonists bring with them to Mars, or the moon, or asteroid mining operations, or even further afield? What pastimes might aliens enjoy? Those are examples of ideas that might be explored or entertained in a speculative sports poem.

But the great thing about speculative poetry is that thinking about the future is only one avenue you might pursue. Speculative poetry opens so many other doors: magic and magical creatures, alternate histories, parallel universes, and so on.

Just one caveat: every editor has their own biases, and while I’m looking for good poems, I’m also looking for poems in which the link to the theme of sports and games is direct rather than oblique.

Some people like to participate in “theme-related” submission calls, while some do not. While everyone is entitled to their preference, I can say from my personal experience that themed submission calls such as the ones provided in Eye to the Telescope have spurred me to create works I might not have created otherwise.

In some cases, I’ve had success with submissions. In other cases, I’ve had submissions declined by the publication they were initially inspired by, but have later placed them elsewhere, making it worth the effort. Over the course of time I’ve learned not to look an inspirational gift horse in the mouth.

I’d encourage anyone with the inclination to do so to send in a poem or three Eye to the Telescope: Issue 32, Sports and Games. The complete guidelines can be found at the Eye to the Telescope web site.

So, why not give it a shot? Deadline is March 15, 2019, and all submitters should expect to receive an acceptance or decline by April 1, 2019.

Simcoe, Ontario resident Lisa Timpf first started writing speculative fiction and poetry in 2014 after retiring from a 26-year career in human resources and communications. She has had more than 30 speculative short stories and 70-plus speculative poems published. Timpf’s work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Star*Line, New Myths, Neo-Opsis, Enter the Rebirth, and Tesseracts Twenty-One (Nevertheless). You can find out more about Timpf’s writing projects at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

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When Life Sucks You into a Vortex

I have written very little on this blog this year and I was trying to do at least a few posts every month. But I really do have a good excuse or few. Sometimes life gets in the way of doing all those things you plan in life.

Here’s how my year started: I was driving to work on a dry January day when my brakes locked at 100 km/hr and I spun out into a cement barricade, smashing the car and myself. The thing was, my mechanic had never found the issue and it had only happened (sporadically) at low speeds. That was the one and only time at high speed, and if it wasn’t that traffic was light, I left lots of space in front of me (because I was always cautious of the car’s issues), and that there was a barricade, someone would have died. My leg was smashed badly but unbroken and I needed about four months of physio and chiropractic to get everything fixed. But because I’ve done pilates for several years, I’m better now.

At the end of June, I broke my hand, but they only figured it out two weeks ago. In July, I was ending one job and starting another so it was a hectic few weeks of finishing up the old job. In that time, my kitty, Venus, who was about 16 years old and had a slow going tumour, hit the hard part and I had to put her down. I finished the last ten days of my job and on July 13 (yes, Friday the 13th) I finished and within 12 hours was booking a flight back to Calgary as my mother was not doing well. I was supposed to start my new job the next Tuesday.

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My mother Amy Anderson was almost 95 when she passed.

By that Sunday, it looked like my mother had made a turn for the better so I booked my flight back on the Wednesday. Then before I left, she started to go downhill again. I flew back and started my new job late on the Thursday, and my mother was doing very badly. I worked one day at my new job when my new boss gave me a ticket back to Calgary. I arrived Friday and it was the last day my mother was aware and able to respond even a little. She had a bad heart and it finally gave up on Sunday morning. She was an amazingly tough woman and was not always easy to get along with. I’ll do another post about my mother but I wrote this about Amy Anderson for the obituary.

I then spent two weeks in Calgary with my siblings, going through my mother’s effects, writing her celebration of life and generally dealing with stuff. I then went back to my new job. I was only back a little over a week when my landlady, out of the blue, evicted me (because they didn’t want to be landlords anymore). It became very messy and nasty but needless to say after a couple decades and the cost of rentals in Vancouver, I was dealing with a move. The reality in Vancouver is very bad and that will be all for another post.

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A Body of Work, available through Black Shuck Books & Amazon

In amongst all of that I had a trip to the UK planned and paid for so I went to England and Wales and my book A Body of Work was launched by Steve Shaw and Black Shuck Books at Fantasycon. This collection features my dark fiction and I hope to do a N. American launch soon. I came back to more moving and packing and I haven’t stopped yet.

Needless to say, I’ve done little writing in six months. Yet, I have to remember the good things: I edited Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, and that came out in the spring from Exile, and a review in Publishers Weekly. I also was working

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

on fiction through my Canada Council grant back in the spring. “Sir Tor and the River Maiden” came out in By the Light of Camelot by Edge Publishing. I managed to sell another story but cannot as yet mention it.

And I would be remiss to not mention the poems that came out. It’s amazing I sold anything considering I’ve submitted very few things this year. “Mermaid’s Comb” came out in The Future Fire  #45, “Cinderella’s Pumpkin” in Polu Texni, “Savor” in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V, “Learning to Run” in Polar Borealis #7, “Washday Blues” in Polar Borealis #6, and “The Sand Witch” won second place in the Balticon poetry contest. There could possibly be a few other things but I’ve really lost track, including contracts that I’ve signed/been signing.

I hope to be here more often in the near future and might pull in a few guests to write some posts. But this is the reason I’ve been quiet of late.

 

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Writing Update & Call for Submissions

It’s been a busy month or two. In March I drove down to the Olympic Peninsula for the Rainforest Writers Retreat, where I accomplished a lot, writing several stories, and ended the event with catching the flu, alas. I then rode the wave of the flu (haven’t had one in over 8 years) in time to go to Ottawa and work on more writing as part of my Canada Council grant. Thank you, Canada Council.

Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland is out on the shelves, as we speak (figuratively) and if you’re in Ottawa, check out the launch and readings at The 3 Brewers/Les 3 Brasseurs.Alice Ottawa

There is a great lineup of writers and it’s also available through Exile Editions and Amazon. I hope to have a reading in Vancouver in June. More details as they come.

I’m also editing Eye to the Telescope #29. The theme is the Dark. I want to see how one fights the dark or succumbs to it. How the dark enhances light, or obscures truth. What blooms in the darkest shadows and what is better left there. Click to go to the guidelines. I look at all forms of poems. Reprints will be a harder sell but if you think it’s stellar I might consider it. Eye to the Telescope is part of the Speculative Fiction Poetry Association (though they don’t seem to have changed the name yet on the site), which also publishes Starline. You do not have to be a member to submit, and anyone anywhere can submit as long as it’s in English, so if you think you have a poem that embraces the dark, send it in before June 15.

Arhtur, Camelot, knights, the Round Table, chivalry, battle, valorIn publishing news, my story “Sir Tor and the River Maiden” will be out in By the Light of Camelot, published by Edge Publishing, edited by J.R. Campbell and Shannon Allen. It’s available as an ebook in July. There are 13 tales in this anthology.

And a fun little sea shanty “Washday Blues” has been published in Polar Borealis #6, a collection of Canadian poetry and fiction that’s free to read.

There are other things in the works, including a trip to the UK this fall for the launch of my dark fiction collection from Black Shuck books, A Body of Work.

Now, I have to get back to writing and editing, and getting some more poet interviews up.

 

 

 

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Poet Interview: Sarah Tolmie

Today, I’m interviewing Canadian poet, Sarah Tolmie, who hales from Kitchener, Ontario.

Tolmie

Author Sarah Tolmie writes books that tell a story through poetry

So let’s start with when were you first attracted to the written word, and especially poetry? What then inspired you to try your hand at it?

I have always loved words and started writing poetry as a child. I continued through my teens and early 20s and then went dumb as a doornail during and right after grad school, for about a decade. The academy just kills you stone dead. Eventually I recovered, by my early 30s, after my kids were born. One of my earliest memories is reading bits of {John} Skelton’s “Philip Sparrow” in an old university textbook of my mother’s (those old Penguin paperbacks, orange and white) when I was about nine — it’s in late Middle English so it made very little sense to me, but I thought it was utterly magical. So I thought poetry was a secret language, a code. I was very disappointed to realize soon after that many poems were written in ordinary language … I got over this in time, though I still retain a love for Middle English (which became my professional field) and its kookiness and playfulness and weird spellings. A lot of inspiration for my work comes from very early poetry.

You mentioned that Middle English became your profession? It sounds like your love of Middle English is important. What styles of poetry do you write or have you explored? Would you say it informs the structure of your poems or the content, or both?

Tolmie cover

Published through McGill-Queen’s University Press.

I have an MA in medieval studies from Toronto and PhD from Cambridge, yes. In my other life I teach at UW {U of Waterloo}. When I was young I wrote free verse, but since I started writing again as an adult I have been much more interested in formal verse. My first book, Trio, in 2015, with MQUP {McGill-Queen’s University Press}, was a sequence of 120 sonnets that told a story about a love triangle of sorts, with a female narrator. Syntax and vocabulary were modern and they were pretty colloquial (to avoid what I call the “prithee varlet” problem) but I found the constraints of the form very empowering. They fractured and sped up the narrative. It took a while to shed the form, though—I wrote hundreds of sonnets—which can be a downside. Everything I wrote turned into one for months afterward.

Tomie My new book, The Art of Dying, which MQUP just published in 2018, is an ars moriendi, a how-to-die manual (a medieval form) updated for today. It’s a satire about our contemporary death rituals and euphemisms and general evasive strategies. It’s mostly in triplets, though not exclusively, and was written consecutively, as a whole book that looks at one topic from many different perspectives. That’s one thing I’ve learned: I write books. I am rarely a one-off person. I do actually want my poems to tell a story; this is likely the influence of the medieval poets I spend my time teaching; they wrote long poems. It’s also true that I didn’t come back to poetry until after I had written my first novel (in which there was a poet character who mostly worked in received forms, I now realize).

Is there any current writer whose poetry inspires you and why?

The poets who have exerted most influence on me are Langland, Chaucer and Donne. The stuff I am writing now is more satirical and aphoristic and kind of recalls AE Housman, Auden or even Pope. In terms of people who are actually alive, I am a huge fan of Carol Ann Duffy. She has done great things for poetry today. I also like Ann Carson, who just goes her own way, period. I admire Carolyn Smart, who also writes whole books, with characters, thematically connected: at least she did in Hooked and Careen.

Wow! I just learned a few things about medieval poetry. 🙂 Would you consider that your poetry falls into the genre of speculative (SF, F, H) or would you say it spans any specific category? I’ve noticed poetry in general does not get as pegged in a genre hole as spec fiction does. Do you see any significant difference between poetry that might be in a genre magazine (StarLine, OnSpec, Grievous Angel, etc.) and that published in a literary journal?

I have trouble getting spec poetry in focus per se. I think it is a lot to do with how the poets themselves identify professionally; I have seen poems in non-genre venues that would fit in the genre magazines you name, and vice versa. Spec poetry is more committed to the fantastic, perhaps. But look at Sandra Kasturi, say—she could publish anywhere.

What would be your one piece of advice for poets?

My one piece of advice for poets is: don’t quit your day job. Not only because you would starve, but because other expertise is really valuable, if not absolutely necessary. Look how many poets are (or have been) doctors or bureaucrats or scientists or athletes or whatever. This is true even of academics, because while it is true that people like me teach and research on literature, what we do at work has nothing to do with writing poetry at all. It is actually antithetical to it.

Do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to mention?

My current project is a bitchy satirical book called Confirmation Bias. In tone and technique it is rather continuous with The Art of Dying, but on a different topic—this endless human problem of finding what we expect to find in all walks of life, and endlessly choosing people and groups who will support our view. I am promoting and doing readings from The Art of Dying now, and have a few dates indicated on my website (sarahtolmie.ca)—plus am entirely open to doing more, if other poets or communities are interested!

From The Art of Dying: 

Why can’t I hire a death coach?
Surely death is still in growth.

Murderers practice what they preach,
Though their instructions may be brief.

Men in armies must discuss how fatal wounds
Are not just given but received.

Torturers may use the word and do the deed
Though it is not death, but pain, that is their speciality.

Hospice workers, nurses in palliative care,
Practically help us to prepare.

Churches insist it’s not death, anyway.
Perhaps this is my opportunity.

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Poet Interview: John Reinhart

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Poet John Reinhart lives in Denver, Colorado and has several collections out.

In an attempt to write more frequently in my blog, I’ve decided to do some interviews with poets who write speculative verse. That’s fantasy, SF, horror and the subgenres. My first interviewee is with John Reinhart, who recently edited an issue of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s (SFPA) Eye to the Telescope #25, the “garbage” issue. Following, italics are me, with John’s responses.

Let’s start with you telling me when you first found a love for poetry and what were you reading?

My first pen was dipped in the pain of puberty, followed closely by a 50-pound IBM Selectric that wrote in smoke. Writing in flailing and fits, I continued to drivel through high school, even submitting for publication. Then, mercifully, I put my words to other use. My next foray into verse came 15 years later, coinciding with the birth of my daughter. I quickly realized that the development of the internet and online submissions had changed the face of publishing since my typewriter days. My earliest favorite poet was Robert Service, which says little about my subsequent writing except my love of quirky humor. 

poetry, humor, writing

John Reinhart’s collection screaming, available at Amazon.

So you’re saying you dipped your pen into the pain of puberty? That does sound painful. Did Robert Service inspire you to write or were you already writing and he inspired you to greater heights? On that point, which authors in your formative years caused you stretch your poetic wings? And what was your first published poem?

Actually, I was inspired to do my earliest writing (short stories) after reading Jay Williams’s “Danny Dunn” books. My sci-fi interest continued to develop with Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Arthur C. Clarke. Mostly I wrote rhymed garbage those early years, including a poem about pipe smokers that was published in the Pipe Smokers Ephemeris. Twenty years later, I learned of the SFPA (then, the Science Fiction Poetry Association).

reinhart 2As I re-entered the poetry writing and submitting scene, I read Campbell McGrath, Paul Goodman, D.H. Lawrence, Kenneth Rexroth, Russell Edson, and eventually anything else I could get my hands on at the library in an attempt to expand my poetic experience and teach myself about modern poetry. After I was awarded the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association, I actually took a poetry course, but the last poetry course I had previous to that was in high school. To date, I have published a collection about people around me, an experimental collection, a prose poetry collection, and two speculative collections. I like to think that I absorb everything I read and earthworm it into new substance to fuel new views of our technicolor world.

We grew up on the same authors. Congratulations on receiving the scholarship. You’ve reinhart 3named a lot of published collections. Have you published individual poems in magazines or anthologies where people can search them out? Oh, and where do you hail from?

I have spent most of my life in Denver, Colorado. I did achieve escape velocity once, but drifted back into orbit and found the Rocky Mountain gravitational pull too strong. I’m rebooting the engines as we speak.

My work has been featured in recent issues of Crannog, Pedestal Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Holy Shit, Grievous Angel, Quatrain.Fish, and many issues of Star*Line and Scifaikuest. I was particularly touched to land a couple poems in A Poet’s Siddur, alongside a poem by Leonard Cohen.

What would you say is the most important thing about poetry as compared to fiction?

The most important thing about poetry, as compared to fiction, is that I can compose a poem in less time and space than I can compose a short story. Black holes condense matter into meaninglessness, sucking in enough light to exhale in humorous high tones like people do at birthday parties with helium balloons. What we wheeze out of the ordinary vegetable universe ought to be blood out of turnips: poetry.

Would you say you have a particular style of poetry that you write, or topics that you explore?

I hope for my poetry to open new perceptions into our technicolor vegetable universe. Frequently, I utilize sci-fi/fantasy/horror as a means to highlight social issues, of which I think that observing and knowing our world is primary.

In terms of style, I often lean on humor in my observations and reflections on the daily mundane elevated to poetry. Though I have a fine selection of scifaiku in print, I tend to write free verse, with a special love for villanelles.

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Reinhart has written SF, fantasy and horror poetry.

What would be the one piece of wisdom you would pass on to any aspiring poet? And last, is there anything else about poetry that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked, or upcoming works you’d like to chirp about?

For aspiring poets – write, read, write more, read more. Submitting—and submitting frequently—is a good way to engage in the contemporary poetry scene, which should encourage you to read what appears in journals and online as well as the books you find at the local library. Find authors you love and read everything they have. Find authors you dislike or don’t understand, and read everything they have. Honestly, I love to write poetry. I like what it does to me, how it shapes my perceptions and changes my interactions with the world. That part is awesome. But it’s balanced with my thorough appreciation of walking this weird path with so many other talented and gracious artists. I leap at chances to meet up with other poets, regularly exchange emails with poets across the world, and revel in the beautiful work that shows up everywhere, if you dig below the surface.

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John likes to use humor as a lens through which he writes some of his poems.

I have two collections coming out shortly: dig it (Lion Tamer Press), and arson (NightBallet Press). dig it fulfills a goal at Patreon, where my patrons helped me reach a funding goal at which point I promised to self-publish a full-length collection. To date, this is my longest collection. As with my previous collection, screaming, this one veers away from much of my earlier form, though eccentricities and humor still make regular appearances. arson is a chapbook-length take on my multifaceted understanding of arson. It starts with a poem/syllabus on Arson 101.

Thanks, John. Check out John’s works through the links above and through Amazon. If you are a published speculative poet, feel free to contact me for an interview.

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