My 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?
My 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 Horror, 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.