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?
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,
stained by unknown liquids
Ornate, carved wood backs darkened
age, gleaming from layers
gouged by nails and claws
The air is thick
with fetid breath,
For eons, my tired eyes
traced, ev’ry thread; ev’ry
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. My 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,
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
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, and 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/