First Look! Read Poetry for Mental Health Month with Bram Stoker Nominated Donna Lynch

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Poetry Feature –

On this last day of May, and to round out mental health awareness month, I have another great poet and poem to share with you all. Donna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). She has written numerous poetry collections, including Witches, which was Bram Stoker Nominated this year.

A word from Donna on writing about mental health topics:

“There’s nothing creative or interesting about mental illness. It’s a disease that doesn’t just consume you, but takes with it everyone who gets too close. People sometimes say, “But maybe it’s your experiences that make you see the world the way you do and give you that creativity,” and I point out to them that I write about people being haunted. I write about loss and violation and madness. I write about nightmares and the way your body can turn on you. I would give anything to not have the experiences that make me see the world that way, but since medicine and therapy can only do so much, I figure I may as well try to capitalize on it a little. But the bottom line is that disease doesn’t want to see you succeed or thrive, so I write in spite of my pain, not because of it.”

Mental Health Awareness

Donna is a really cool person and a talented creative. I’ve had the pleasure of reading poetry with her at a virtual reading and I can tell you, her work can make you shiver. This seven-part poem will be featured in Donna’s next collection, Choking Back the Devil, coming from Raw Dog Screaming Press on July 17, 2019!

I’m thrilled to offer you a first look!

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Borderlines: A Horror Story in 7 Small Parts
by Donna Lynch, Bram Stoker Nominated Poet of Witches

Introduction

Spend a lifetime inventing broken characters

and don’t ask why or how

when they end up in you like a thousand shards of glass and splinters.

You miss the joke.

 

Spend a lifetime hiding from monsters and you blind
yourself to the ones inside of you.

 

1.

First,

you are hollowed out.

But maybe not.

I’m already remembering it wrong.

Maybe, before that,

you’re just worn out,

chased through the woods by a man, or something
resembling a man,

wielding a rusted tool from the shed that you know will not
be quick nor painless.

Something that will hurt in a way you can’t prepare for.

So you run and run and run,

on the ankle you just sprained in a divot.

If you hear that snap, it will be over faster.

The running, that is. Everything else will have just begun.

You listen and wait. The snapping is sticks, not bones.

Not yet.

But you run and run and run,

with the cramping in your side,

and lungs that feel like you’ve inhaled winter razors.

It feels like stabbing, you think but

You’d be so wrong.

You’re about to find out.

You run and run and run,

with no sense of direction

other than

away.

But unlike the man with the rusted tool, you have not
trained for this.

As a child, you never thought,

one day…

When I was a child, I never thought I’d need to run.

I only knew I needed to hide,

so I became a ghost.

But I was not trained to run,

never ridden, never raced.

Breeds like me are broken in, but not in the fields,

not on the trails.

So if you’re a breed like me,

you can only run so far before you have to stop.

And it’s upon you now, which brings us back to the hollowing.

 

2.

The hollowing out of a person,

in this context,

is not the desired end result.

It’s the kitchen counter full of pink fluids and glistening bits on Thanksgiving.

It’s filling and stringing up a pinata.

It’s turning a canyon into a landfill.

It’s the act of creating a void—which was inevitable when you think about it—

and re-filling the cavity with even worse decay.

You are your own Pandora’s Box.

Every ugly thing needs a home, and the space inside your
head works nicely.

The space inside your chest…

even better.

A little further south, and disembowelment offers spatial
options that seem to defy physics.

All that loss,

and pain,

and malice…

you can fold it,

layer it,

coil it inside,

until you can barely tell it isn’t the entrails you started with.

 

3.

So there you are,

strung up in the shed.

You can see the things that used to be inside you in a tub in
the corner.

Someone or some thing will eat them and they will be gone.

You mourn the loss of these things, because you don’t
realize there is something else in you now,

growing,

evolving.

You think you are empty,

and this is how you will justify everything to come.

It was the loss.

It was grief.

It was someone you loved,

and because you loved them,

when it was time,

you made the decision.

And you wanted to run and run and run then,

but you were not trained for it.

So you stayed.

Because where will you go?

Loss finds everyone.

Even the ghosts,

and the really excellent hiders.

It is real when the light goes out in someone you love.

You feel it,

like an electric charge in the air,

in a storm.

There is a flash of terror in your head,

for yourself, and for them…

then

nothing.

You carry what’s left of them home in a plastic bag with a
hard handle.

Their clothing,

shoes,

glasses.

A necklace, maybe.

How can you even tell?

It all just looks like pieces of them.

Because it’s just a container of entrails, of insides,

to be consumed, in time.

All of it will end up in a container. A coffin, an urn, that
empty space in your chest.

And you wait and wait

to feel something again.

 

4.

Take in all the empathy,

all the sympathy while you can.

The well-wishes, the visitors, having your erratic behaviors
excused and tolerated take it all.

Even though you know it’s just going to seep into the void and dissipate

the way enzymes break down,

you take it,

because before long,

there will be no more.

 

5.

Here’s where the story changes.

No more tool sheds, no faceless men hunting you.

Now we are in the realm of demons.

Possession by an entity of no discernible origin.

No name.

It all looks normal, a normal setting, on any given normal day.

The storm has passed, and that means it’s all right, right?

If you don’t look anyone in the eye, no one will know.

At least for a while.

If you let it in and let it out as it pleases, and don’t fight, it
will come and go with little fanfare.

It is, of course, filling you with poison, consuming the
poison, regurgitating
the poison, on and on forever, until you are nothing but a
toxic canyon.

You keep the outside pretty, for desperate, selfish tourists.

They’ve come to see the sights.

Tequila sunrises and tear-stained sunsets.

Lies for miles and black-out skies you’ll never remember,
because your damaged brain never filmed it.

The thing swimming in your empty shell tells you to be glad.

Be glad you’ll never know.

It’s one of the two kind things it will ever do for you.

(The second kind thing comes later)

Like when the person who just violated you, gives you a
tissue to dry your tears.

Thanks, you said.

Thanks.

 

6.

You’re a different sort of ghost now.

Once,

you were quiet and harmless.

Just a shadow,

a memory,

a whisper,

A hider.

A spectral woman who weeps quietly in a child’s bedroom,

or the child, itself,

taken too young.

It doesn’t even know it should be angry.

But now you are different.

You know.

The thing that possessed you isn’t slipping in and out so
easily now.

It’s tearing holes where there were none.

It’s chewing through what’s left of you.

It’s biting at your feet and legs when you walk by the bed.

It’s digging at you with a blunt, broken nail, rolling up strips
of skin like wood shavings.

It’s slamming into you, full force, the second you close your eyes.

It slams out the same way,

a perpetual car crash.

You come home battered. You wake up bruised.

But there’s no assailant.

All anyone can see is you.

You are a different sort of ghost,

haunting yourself until you cross the borderline and die a
second death.

 

7.

One step.

You only have to take this one step.

Maybe it’s off a bridge, or maybe it’s out the door.

It doesn’t really matter—the outcome is going to be the same.

But you still believe there are greener pastures on the other side.

On the other side, you’ll feel better.

The poison will drain.

The canyon will become a lake, filled with water,

cold and clear from some (in)eternal spring.

Then the demon, the entity that possessed and poisoned
you does the second kind thing—

It tells you what a stupid cunt you are for believing there
was ever a spring,

or a pasture,

or anything other than the pain you’ve been hiding from
your entire life.

And that’s when houses start shaking, and walls start
bleeding, and screams start emanating from the cellars,
and you have to grab what’s left of your family and the
pets and run and run and run like hell.

You start praying to a god you don’t even believe in
anymore, all the while knowing that the scene unfolding
before you, threatening to destroy everything you ever
loved, was created by you.

Your creation.

You approached the Event Horizon.

You crossed the borderline.

And the real punch in the gut is

All that running you did—

When you never had to take more than one step.

________________________________________

Donna Lynch, Biography –

28340996_10213276704289733_1777809173_oDonna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). Her written works include Isabel Burning, Red Horses, Driving Through the Desert, Ladies & Other Vicious Creatures, Daughters of Lilith, and In My Mouth. Lynch’s poetry collection Witches was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. She and her husband live in Maryland.

Donna’s GoodReads page
Donna on Twitter

Choking Back the Devil, Info –

Pre-order HERE Choking Back the Devil from Raw Dog Screaming Press!

“Demons come in many forms
Some with teeth and some with horns
But none so vicious as the hordes
That came to be when you were born”

Choking Back the Devil is horror author and musician Donna Lynch’s seventh poetry collection and the follow up to her Bram Stoker nominated collection Witches (2018). This new collection explores the horror of losing control of mind, body, and autonomy through death, hauntings, violation, mental illness, violence, and the demons in our brains that terrorize and tempt us all.

Watch for cover reveal coming soon!

Thanks for joining us. 🙂 Also, if you want to keep reading, you can read more poetry from April and May over on my Poetry page.

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New Poetry and Writing on Mental Health Themes from Publisher/Author/Poet John Edward Lawson!

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In April for National Poetry Month, I featured ten poets plus their work and authors writing about poetry collections! It was a lot of fun and so much talent was showcased, both from veteran, award-winning authors to newly-formed writers. You can look back on that later at this link, but first I have new poetry!

I decided to try to keep the poetry posts flowing through out the year, and with this month being May and Mental Health Awareness Month, I invited author, poet, editor, and co-owner of Raw Dog Screaming Press, John Edward Lawson, to join us.

Mental Health Awareness

John Edward Lawson’s poetry has often dealt with themes of mental illness. From his first chapbook, The Scars are Complimentary, to his forthcoming collection Bibliophobia (a collection of poems about phobias), Lawson explores the way ideas can take root in the fertile fields of the mind and grow wild with irrational fear. His third collection of poetry, SuiPsalms, was heavily influenced by the poetry of Sylvia Plath and explored themes of suicide.

BOOKS-suipsalms

John is someone I consider a friend and a mentor – he makes me think, makes me laugh, makes me consider. He’s an activist and joy to engage with online. He’s a wealth of knowledge and vocabulary. And he’s a talented writer, editor, and publisher. I enjoy my time working in the PR/Publicity/Marketing realm at Raw Dog Screaming Press because of all of this and more. I truly admire him. He has a lot of mental energy!

He’s an advocate for mental health awareness and so I am thrilled to share poetry by John with you within this theme. He’s also been a finalist for the Stoker Award (2006, Superior Achievement in Poetry), the Wonderland Award for Bizarro Fiction (2007, collected fiction), has been nominated twice for Dwarf Stars Award, and received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, two for the Rhysling Award, and honorable mention for the 2015 Wonderland Award.

The first two poems below are previously published in SuiPsalms and the third one is first look at one of the poems within his brand new collection Bibliophobia, which will come out later this year!

Enjoy!

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Concrete Operational Thinking
(from SuiPsalms)

To be boring is a kind

of raucous self-murder

slowly stalking one childhood

dream after another, binding

teenage aspirations to the

steel table in Freud’s basement

Tracing a ruby Y along the svelte

torso of adulthood’s jubilant

release, from the authority

of parents and instructors

with the scalpel of truth:

That we cannot relinquish our

grasp on concrete limitations

no matter how cold or deep

the flow of life gets

_____________________________________________

Seventh (Healing) Circle
(from SuiPsalms)

Spring’s breath aches through the nettles far removed

from prying eyes and mouths that can meddle

Those who went before remain unsettled

and scattered, their chalky frames ground to dust

If there is peace it is found in all rest…

be the bed consecrated or unblessed

_______________________________________________

Amaxophobia
from Bibliophobia (coming in October 2019)

The police in the station

are blank-faced, cold

like the sickly green-cast light

and another suspect’s distant wailing

Sitting across from interrogators makes

you feel somehow old

Even in silence you reach

for this conversation’s brakes

Staring at the photo your chest is tight

You were captured by traffic

cameras, lens after lens creeped

after you as the driver, but…

“Who’s the boy?” you ask, concealing panic

and you learn that he’s gone

missing, leaving behind all his belongings and some blood

You’ve never seen him so the photos are wrong

They have to be, you’ve been alone all along

His visage is sullen, resigned

as if he has already died

But perhaps that explains the cold spot on your right

and the exonerating idea blossoming in your mind:

for them to review the patrol car footage

and discover an unseen passenger coming along for the ride

in the back seat next to you, and later

staring into the interview room camera

on footage that will be “lost in the evidence room”…after all

how can you be expected

to control who hitches a ride with you

after their demise?

Amaxophobia: excessive fear of being in, meeting in, driving in, or riding in certain kinds of vehicles; or of vehicles in general.

______________________________________

Purchase or Add to GoodReads –

SuiPsalms

Find info on GoodReads

You can pre-order Bibliophobia now at the link below:

http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/bibliophobia/

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John Edward Lawson, Biography – 

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John Edward Lawson is the author of 16 books of fiction and poetry, and numerous chapbooks. Over 500 of his poems, stories, and articles have been published in magazines, anthologies, literary journals, and newspapers worldwide. He has been called “The forgotten black man of horror,” but he also regularly publishes science fiction, bizarro, mystery/thrillers, and literary fiction.

John was a winner of the 2001 Fiction International Emerging Writers Competition; in addition to being a finalist for the Stoker Award (2006, Superior Achievement in Poetry) and the Wonderland Award for Bizarro Fiction (2007, collected fiction), other award nominations include two for the Dwarf Stars Award, the Pushcart Prize, two for the Rhysling Award, and honorable mention for the 2015 Wonderland Award.

John is also a founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, recognized by the Horror Writers Association in 2019 with their Specialty Press Award. He spent four years as editor-in-chief of The Dream People online literary journal of bizarro fiction and poetry. Other editorial projects include three print anthologies, four e-anthologies, and freelance work for such companies as National Lampoon and Double Dragon Publishing.

His hobbies include travel, games of strategy, and collecting Hong Kong comic books. He has an intense interest in films. During the 1990s he kicked around in the DC industrial-electro-goth scene in the band Dead Letter Office and owned Rack and Ruin Studio. He has been involved in the production of numerous short films, including award winners Party Girland Uberman: An Experiment in Consciousness. Director Jayson Densman has collaborated with John for years spawning a trilogy of PoVids derived from his poetry.

John currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. Please follow him at his BookBub page for updates about his new releases and discount deals. Visit John’s Amazon author page or find him on social media at the links below:

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If you’re interested in Raw Dog Screaming Press, go to the website. For info and giveaways sign up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/yhfCX

Thank you for joining us!

 

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National Poetry Month: First Look at New Poetry from Author Steve Stred #poetry #poems #western

Welcome back again for the final installment for my National Poetry Month project. I meant to have this posted Friday but I had a computer mishap, so here we are… but it’s always a good day for poetry, right? Today I have a never before published poem by author Steve Stred, which he plans to include in his second poetry collection. I love Steve’s use of history, western, and action in his poetry. I first read Steve’s poetry when after being inspired by reading my own collection, Breathe. Breathe., he took up the pen again toward poetry and wrote his first collection (which is now out – see below). You can read about that here.

I was not only humbled but excited for Steve. He’s a terrific writer with a lot of passion for EVERYTHING he touches. He writes some wonderful stories but more than that he’s a cheerleader for so many other authors and such a sweet soul for anyone who is trying to accomplish anything at all or is going through a rough time. Steve is a wonderful person and friend. So I am very happy to offer a look at his poetry to you today.

Enjoy!

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Six Shots (To Redemption)

I,

(Put the smoke to my lips)

(Inhale deeply feeling the burn)

Look at the gathered faces.

(Exhale forcefully)

(Grin spreads wide)

Seeing their dirt covered cheeks,

(Toss the smoke to the ground)

(Grind it with my boot heel)

Makes me glad it’s going down like this.

(I spit a thick gob to the dirt)

(I hear the Sheriff bark an order)

I wheel and crack off five shots,

(My heart pumps but my nerves are calm)

Three lawmen go down, followed by that whore who turned me in.

(Sheriff’s taken cover, he ain’t so dumb after all)

I roll and spin and shot six ends the life of a man rushing me.

(Before all hell breaks loose)

I crouch and rush to the horse.

(I’m reloading as I go)

(I spot the Sheriff moving. He’s mine)

I cock the hammer and squeeze rapidly.

(Six shots of redemption)

The Sheriff’s brain paints the sky.

The Mayor’s face implodes.

The Banker loses his life.

The Bar Owner’s throat opens like a plant in bloom.

The Preacher meets his Lord.

(I’m doing the Devil’s work, is what he always said)

And shot number six takes out that bastard coward of a partner.

(He ain’t even take his pistol out of his belt)

The crowds gone silent.  Still as night.

(I got six more bullets, I tell myself)

I take off my hat and give a wave.

I put my ex-partners bags into mine.

I mount the horse and kick its sides.

(Gonna be a nice retirement up in those hills)

A gunshot echoes through the town

(Gonnnnn beeee aaa niissshhhh)

My horse keeps riding.

Carrying

(Reeettiiaahhhhmmmiiinn uuppppp nnnnn)

My

(Dddoooosss hhhhilllszzz)

Dead body.

My redemption is opened from behind.

Still six bullets left.

One bullet was all that was needed.

_________________________________

Steve Stred, Biography –

Steve StredSteve Stred is an up-and-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles, and two collections of short stories—Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick. He’s also released the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

Steve also loves reading and reviewing and is part of the team at Kendall Reviews. Steve has a number of works on the go and enjoys all things horror, occult, supernatural, and paranormal and is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada, where he lives with his wife, his son, and their dog OJ.

Find him online at his website.

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram – stevestred

Dim the Sun, Poetry Collection

Dim the sunDim the Sun is a collection of 14 dark poems and one bleak horror short story.  Focusing on pain, fear, anger, depression and anxiety Steve Stred brings you deep into his mind to share some truly unnerving moments.

This is Steve Stred’s first collection of poetry he has released.

Purchase  or Add –

GoodReads

Amazon

Thank you, Steve! And thank you readers for joining us!

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National Poetry Month: Two New Poems from Claire C. Holland – Tackling Motherhood in Horror Films in Next Collection #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry #horror

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It’s May 2, but I’m still celebrating National Poetry Month this week. And why not? Poetry is to be celebrated and highlighted at any time. The week started with April and poetry, so it’s going to finish with poetry as well. And furthermore, even though I’ll be closing the National Poetry Month project soon, I’ll share poet and poetry throughout the year as well.

Today I’m very excited to showcase a friend I adore – Claire Holland, author of the poetry collection I Am Not Your Final Girl that busted onto the scene last year as her debut work. Claire makes me laugh, chuckle, and smile and is always so kind, but she also is really cool too. She empowers me as a woman. Her poetry is biting and raw and real.

Featured below are two poems by Claire that will be upcoming in her NEXT collection (get excited). Prepare yourself for an emotional ride with these as in this one she tackles motherhood within horror film females.

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Motherhood and Following up I Am Not Your Final Girl
by Claire Holland

First off, I’d like to thank Erin for being kind enough to invite me on her blog for National Poetry Month! I’m so happy to debut a couple of poems I’ve been working on for my next book, a follow-up of sorts to I Am Not Your Final Girl. As you may be able to tell from these two poems, I’ve been thinking about motherhood a lot lately – how impossible it is to do “perfectly,” the expectations piled on women whether they choose to pursue motherhood or not, and also what it means to be the daughter of a strong woman. These probably aren’t the poems you’ll want to break out on Mother’s Day, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless!

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Medora 2

Medora

We fucked like animals the night before—

 

Just like before, barbed bodies all nail and scratch,

our eyes torches in the wild dark.

 

Your tongue wrote a line down my inner thigh, and

when you kissed my lips I could hear your thoughts

 

like they were mine.

 

I’ll find your tooth lodged in the soft skin of my neck,

later. Hold it there like a vow.

 

Still, you were gone in the morning.

 

All you left me with: this land that stretches, stretches

too far and not enough, this warping gray sky,

 

this child with torch eyes.

 

My body, wanting.

 

Does nature know forgiveness? I could never ask.

 

My love, I’m so sorry

 

I only wanted you.

 

_______________________________________

Toni C

Annie

Hereditary (2018)

How many ways are there to ruin a child?

Sweetie, that land is boundless.

You can lop off their heads

one by one, reach down their reedy necks and pull

out what’s inside. Sift

through the pulp and grue

til you’re covered in it. You still won’t know

what they really need.

 

And am I culpable?

For giving birth? They say

you always have a choice, always,

no matter how horrible it sounds, it’s the woman’s

choice—

but there was no choice.

Show me where I went wrong. Show me how

I could’ve knocked that crown off

 

his head once they decided to put it there.

Because there never was a choice,

and all your self-righteousness, all of this

blame

won’t change a damned thing.

I’ve tried. I tried. I try.

Your children aren’t your children,

didn’t somebody say that once?

_________________________________________

Claire Holland, Biography –

Claire HollandClaire is a poet and freelance writer from Philadelphia, currently living in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading or binge-watching horror movies with her wonderful husband and her Wheaten Terrier, Chief Brody (yes, like from Jaws).

Her debut book of poetry, I Am Not Your Final Girl, is available now on Amazon.

Claire and her work can be found on Twitter at @clairecwrites or on her website.

About I Am Not Your Final Girl

IANYFGCoverFrom Claire C. Holland, a timely collection of poetry that follows the final girl of slasher cinema—the girl who survives until the end—on a journey of retribution and reclamation. From the white picket fences of 1970s Haddonfield to the apocalyptic end of the world, Holland confronts the role of women in relation to subjects including feminism, sexuality, violence, and healing in the world of Trump and the Me Too movement. Each poem centers on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through their own perceived monstrousness.

Purchase –

Amazon

GoodReads

Photo credit: Thrillist and DigitalSpy

 

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National Poetry Month: “Unforgiven” – A Poem from Miranda Crites #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

National Poetry Month April

Today for National Poetry Month I welcome Miranda Crites! Miranda is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia. I met MJ virtually sometime last year in her role as a book reviewer, but I came to be friends with her as well with our mutual interest in writing, photography, nature, and raising our kids. She’s so very creative and a bundle of energy that makes my days online so much better each time I see her beautiful photos or stories or hear from her. She’s also been a great supporter of indie authors as well as my own prose and poetry, so when she told me she’d like to try her hand at sending me a poetry piece, I was thrilled because I love supporting writers who want to come of their shell with their work.

It was a complete joy to work with her on this piece and she took my editing advice and ran with it, quickly turning this work into a refined piece of beauty that captures so much emotion, and for me, made me feel like I was floating. And maybe a little less alone. The photo is also one of her own. Thanks so much, Miranda!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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raven

Unforgiven
by Miranda Crites

I sink into sludgy, blackness

The iciness of the lake seeps into my bones, slowing my movements

I trudge along the muddy bottom; it pulls at me

I push toward the barely visible light above

 

Only my eyes break into the bleak day

Ancient pines dance in the brisk breeze

Snow-capped mountains beckon to me in the distance

But I can rise no further

 

My lungs plead for a breath of raw, pine-scented air

Blood races through my veins, pounding forcefully in my ears

The darkness below gently tugs

The oxygen I crave is merely an inch away

 

I swim harder, reaching the water’s edge

Vengeful blades of grass slice through my fingers

I rip them out by their roots as I try to save myself

I claw through dirt and rocks

 

I am restrained, a tethered dog

Bubbles tease my cheeks as I scream away my last breath

Deeply in my chest, a torch is lit

A voice within the darkness whispers: “forgive”

 

A rope of fiery vines bites at my ankle

My fingernails rip off as I try to break free

“Forgive,” repeats the inky blackness

I don’t have that ability

 

My world explodes

Shooting stars burst behind my eyes

The torch expands its flame

Fireworks light the dimness above, the blackness below

 

Release

Relief

No more pain, only ephemeral sadness

I float to the surface, finally unconfined

 

Lightning rips open the gray cloth above

The darkness below feeds on my light, my aura

A single crow lands on my chest, pecking at my eyes

Fish and unknown creatures nibble the remaining soggy meat of my fingers

 

Wolves sprint to the water’s edge

They drag my body onto the shore

Their pack devours most of my flesh and bones

Vultures clean up the last remaining pieces of me

____________________________________________

Miranda Crites, Biography –

MirandaMiranda Crites is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia.

Miranda has always enjoyed reading, photography, and writing. She received her first camera as a gift when she was nine years old.

The writing bug bit her at a very early age too, when she won the young writers’ contest in first grade and never stopped writing.

 

Find Miranda Online –

You can follow Miranda on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Her photography can be found on her dedicated Facebook page at MJ Creations.

She reviews for Kendall Reviews, as well as her own site, Miranda Crites Reads and Writes.

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry, women in horror

National Poetry Month: Talking about I Am Not Your Final Girl and Feminine Anger by Sonora Taylor #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry #metoo

Today, I am thrilled to welcome my friend Sonora Taylor to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for the National Poetry Month project. I virtually met Sonora after she picked up and reviewed my own collection, Breathe. Breathe.. Afterwards, I found out we were both submitting pieces to the monthly ladies of horror flash project and we realized we had all sorts of similar interests and became friends. I’m excited she’s here to talk about her reading of the poetry collection I am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland and how things that happens to us in the world as females build pent-up anger that can no longer be held inside.

This is a great piece – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. May we all stay mad.

PoetryMonthGraphic

Stay Mad: “I Am Not Your Final Girl” and Feminine Anger
by Sonora Taylor, author of Without Condition

When you’re a woman, you spend a lot of time being angry. Or maybe not angry, but certainly upset, perturbed, maddened, or otherwise disturbed. It starts when a boy hurting you on the playground is dismissed as “him having a crush,” to being told to dismiss the sexist insults laid in your ears as just words, to learning to just walk away and forget it when a grown man yells to you and your teenage friends that “he smells p*ssy,” even though you hear it in your mind long after it happened.

Even when it’s not so blatant, there are little annoyances every day that come with being a woman. Being spoken to by strangers without any prompting, being overlooked at work or dismissed in group discussions, being frowned upon for the choices you make for yourself. Even when it’s not directly happening to you, you see what everyone thinks of you when you open a paper, turn on the television, or log on to any number of social media sites. “Slut” and “bitch” are interspersed with people who can’t believe women are this, can’t believe women said that, can’t believe women just are.

This isn’t to say that all who see women’s existence as an injustice want them to no longer be. Most want their survival, but they want it in the face of being able to hurt them. A woman’s role is to survive a never-ending barrage of wounds to her body and soul. In a sense, women are almost always the final girls of the horror movie of their life, taken piece by piece until they lay battered and broken.

But the beauty of the final girl is that she takes her damage and uses it to fight back. She claws at assault, defies the order of monsters and men by surviving for herself and not for their sadistic pleasures. It’s why we love these characters in horror films, why women keep coming back to these stories — even though we see violence against our bodies and souls, we see ourselves emerge triumphant by the end.

I-Am-Not-Your-Final-Girl

Such inspiration drives the spirit of a wonderful collection of poetry by Claire C. Holland. “I Am Not Your Final Girl” features poems named for several final girls, both well- and lesser-known, but all legendary in horror. From Halloween’s “Laurie” to Antichrist’s “She” (one of my favorite films), each poem dives into the emotional core of the titular final girl, a core that sometimes goes missing in their respective original stories. Even the best horror films sometimes eschew the emotional impact in favor of blood and guts, and stories that get into the emotions still cannot dive into one’s mind the way that prose and verse can.

she-antichrist

She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist

Holland fills in these gaps with both the character’s canonical emotions and her own imagining of what the characters are thinking — as well as her response to what each woman goes through. “Thomasin” (from The Witch) shares the story of a girl who tried to do right, but was only rewarded when she did right by herself. “Selena” (from 28 Days Later, my favorite horror film) delves into the struggle of a woman who fought tooth and nail to save a society that, in the end, wanted to survive by harming her and other women. Every woman’s story, and every woman’s subsequent poem, is different; but all are united in that they survive the barrage that is all too familiar to the feminine spirit.

selena-28-days-later

Selena (Naomie Harris)  from 28 Days Later

Holland opens the collection with an essay about her ongoing anger since 2016. I’ve felt the same anger since 2016, felt shades of it before 2016, have felt it in various degrees throughout my life. When I picked up her collection, I was especially mad at the dismissal of several qualified women candidates for president in lieu of another white, cis-male face. I read Holland’s words and felt my anger manifesting into something better, something I could cradle and use to keep my fight up as opposed to keeping my spirits down. That feeling continued as I read her recounting of the final girls that fought and clawed their way to the bloody end. I plan to make it to whatever comes next — and I plan to stay mad.

Sonora Taylor, Biography

sonora-taylor-2.jpgSonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Wither and Other Stories, and Please Give. Her work has appeared in The Sirens Call, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven. She’s currently working on her next short story collection, Little Paranoias: Stories. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband. Visit her online on her website.

And check out I am Not Your Final Girl – 

AI-Am-Not-Your-Final-Girl timely collection of poetry that follows the final girl of slasher cinema – the girl who survives until the end – on a journey of retribution and reclamation.

From the white picket fences of 1970s Haddonfield to the apocalyptic end of the world, Holland confronts the role of women in relation to subjects including feminism, violence, motherhood, sexuality, and assault in the world of Trump and the MeToo movement.

Each poem centers on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through their own perceived monstrousness.

Find it on GoodReads.

Photo Creds –

“Selena (Naomie Harris)  from 28 Days Later. Photo: joblo.com.” https://www.joblo.com/movie-news/why-it-works-28-days-later-167-02
“She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist. Photo: IMDB.” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870984/mediaindex?ref_=tt_pv_mi_sm

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Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts, poetry, women in horror

National Poetry Month: Read Kim Wolkens Poem “For You, My Tether” #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Today, I welcome Kim Wolkens to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are publishing an original poem by Kim below and I am so excited! Kim has been a great support to my own writing and I am so happy she’s trying her hand at writing poetry, and I believe she’s hiding some other writing away, so I hope we can see her submitting and writing more each day. She does so much for indie authors reading and writing reviews on her own site Down in a Book or on Ginger Nuts of Horror, and it’s time we give back and support her too. Since meeting Kim online I’m very happy to call her a friend.

Happy Friday. Enjoy!

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For You, My Tether

It hurts too much to breathe,

but I do it anyway.

For you…for you.

I want so much to slip away into nothingness,

but I hold onto the rope.

For you…for you.

 

It’s hard to get out of bed sometimes,

but I do it anyway.

For you…for you.

The abstract is much kinder,

but I face concrete facts every day.

For you…for you.

 

I put one foot in front of the other,

but I know not why I do.

For you…for you.

Food has no taste and I’m bored to death with life,

but I try to hope for something new.

For you…for you.

 

Without you, I’d be gone.

_________________________________

Getting to Know Kimberly – 

Kimberly love for writing began at a very young age, around five or six. Her first short story was dictated to her parents, who wrote the words on lined paper, and she did all the illustrations. It was called, “The Girl Who First Saw Snow,” and was about a five-year-old girl who saw snow for the first time.

Kimberly kept writing through elementary school and early middle school. She wrote a few chapter books that involved herself and some best friends. Two other books centered around a girl who found a necklace with a unicorn pendant which housed an evil witch. She dabbled in writing a small bit in high school, but her creative writing pretty much took a hiatus in high school and college.

About a year ago, she rekindled her love for writing. She wrote short stories and poems published by Lonesome October and Rhythm & Bones, and these first acceptances encouraged her to keep writing. She has the first draft of a novel completed and hopes to revisit it soon for re-writing and editing. Short stories are the main result of her writing, but she also writes poetry. Her poems have been published most recently by Nightingale & Sparrow and Marias at Sampaguitas.

A short story was recently published in Blood from a Tombstone anthology, and another story will be published in an upcoming Don’t Open the Door anthology. She has recently started writing what she hopes will become a poetry chapbook with a dark theme, possibly centered around abandonment and loss.

Most of her inspiration comes from fear (what is the scariest thing that could happen to someone?) and also from abandoned buildings which carry a special kind of beauty for her.

Kim Wolkens, Biography –

Kim WolkensKim Wolkens is a marketing coordintor by day and an American author of short stories and poems by night, who is a huge 90s Grunge music fan and loves reading and writing suspense, horror, and sci-fi.

She’s a team reviewer at Ginger Nuts of Horror and also serves as the Social Media Manager for Nightingale & Sparrow. She is a devoted wife, sister, and aunt, enjoys playing around on the piano, rustic camping, and lives with her husband in beautiful rural Michigan.

You can find her on Twitter: @up_north_h1ke.

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National Poetry Month: Bram Stoker Award-Winning Poet Linda D. Addison Shares Three Poems with Us #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

Today I am so honored to welcome poet Linda D. Addison to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Linda is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s also authored many collections with others, edited anthology projects, and more. Since she was here last year, I’m proud to say that we shared a table of contents in an anthology together called Dark Voices, which is all-female charity book published by Lycan Valley Press, with proceeds going to Breast Cancer Research projects.

I’m honored that she once again agreed to be part of my 2019 National Poetry Month project and have given us three poems to read, two published here for the first time. She’s a shining, bright light across the web and to all her know her, with an enormous smile and a kind word for all. Plus, she insanely talented!

About the Poems Featured –

“Surface Tension” is previously unpublished and inspired by memories of her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, “Coming Home” was published in the Bram Stoker Award nominated Dark Duet collection written with Stephen M. Wilson, and “Fear and Loathing in the Writer’s Den” is also previously unpublished. In these poems, I think Linda tackles emotions we can all relate to on some level, whether the decline in a loved one, or as a writer, the constant struggle and pull. I hope you will enjoy Linda’s work as much as I do!

Enjoy!

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Neurons

Surface Tension

As your neurons fade
you write notes to yourself, to God
on the surfaces of your life,
thoughts and prayers
scattered like fine dust on
table tops, counters, refrigerator door
every flat surface, decorated by your hand.

As your neurons die
pictures in albums & frames
crowd every surface of your life
children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren
silent guests watching you wander
a lost empress in a misplaced kingdom
losing connections every day.

As your neurons fail
you are never alone
surrounded by silent hymns,
and tiny flat people
in strange books,
appearing each morning
on unfamiliar tables of a place
others call your home.

______________________________________

murky .png

Coming Home 

Returning
from exile
the {fairy} warrior
tried to forget
the zombie criminals
rustling in
the night bushes,
as well as the
unspeakable evil
growing under the grass
of the Great Castle. 

Crimes of the past
bruise innocent wings,
truth should heal, but
the foul wind of ego
still blows sand
into closed minds. 

The {fairy} warrior
dissolves wings
fills with disbelief
disenchantment 

d I S 

        e 

    v
          e 

            r 

             y 

           t 

         h

        i 

     n 

g 

to embrace the three
shadows of night,
to
forget
open
wounds
rustling in
murky bushes. 

– from “Dark Duet,” music inspired poetry, written with Stephen M. Wilson

_________________________________________

writer room

Fear and Loathing in the Writer’s Den

To write or not to write
she couldn’t find the words to start,
“Come, let’s play” her lover pleaded
while her characters fell flat.

She looked down at delicate furry feet
no fingers clutched the wrinkled paper,
this wasn’t right – not at all
this story was not coming together.

Perhaps she should just write the outline
if only she had an beginning,
tapioca pudding lapped at her paws
there was a snap of leather behind her.

Her lover chirped at her
maybe a little diversion would help,
she pulled at the satin corset,
this might not be the novel to start her career.

_____________________________________________

2017 LindaAddison closeup selfieLinda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She has published over 300 poems, stories and articles and is a member of CITH, HWA, SFWA and SFPA.

Addison is one of the editors of Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), a Bram Stoker finalist anthology of horror by African-American women. In 2018, she was the editor for the Rhysling Award Anthology. Catch her latest work in anthologies Cosmic Underground (Cedar Grove Publishing), Scary Out There (Simon Schuster), and Into Painfreak (Necro Publications).

As of the start of this year, a film inspired by her poem, MOURNING MEAL, is being made by award-winning producer and screenwriter Jamal Hodge. Watch the first trailer of Mourning Meal with Linda voiceover.  They are raising funds for final shoot days in April 2019. Donate any amount to Mourning Meal from Poem to Film. 

Find out More About Linda and Her Works –

Website

Amazon page

Twitter

Thank you for joining us, Linda!

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National Poetry Month: Brian James Lewis on Why He Writes and How He Got There, Plus Read Three of His Poems #NationalPoetryMonth #poetry

PoetryMonthGraphic

Today my National Poetry Month project continues as I welcome Brian James Lewis to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Brian is a disabled poet, reviewer, and writer with a friendly and helpful spirit and a talented pen. I found it so interesting reading his post about how he came to writing and why it means so much to him. He’s also shared three of his poems with us below!

Enjoy his pieces and be sure to say hi in the comments or on twitter. Brian enjoys talking writing with others. He’s been a very big supporter of my own work as well as that of my client’s and so I am very thankful for his kindness.

On Why Writing Poetry Gives Me Life

By Brian James Lewis

Happy National Poetry Month everyone! My name is Brian James Lewis and I am a disabled poet, writer, and book reviewer who thinks that writing is as important as breathing. Not in a silly way, but to have a decent quality of life and be a contributing member of society. While I’ve dabbled as a writer for most of my life, I got serious about it when my previously very physical life got put on ice by severe spinal injuries. All of a sudden getting around became a major issue and I was in constant pain. That led to depression, anxiety, and becoming a danger to myself and others. I feel really fortunate that I found a “second life” as a writer.

In 2013, I began sending out stories and poems for publication. Trajectory Journal published my first poem Puppeteer in 2014. Since that time, I’ve been published in Third Wednesday, The Iconoclast, Aphotic Realm, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and the Econoclash Review. Most recently, my poem about a blues club, Blues, is in this month’s issue of SLAB. And my poem Hey Can Lady is in the current issue of The Hickory Stump, a cool online literary zine! I also felt very honored to have my poem Home Sweet Hideaway included in the Unnerving anthology Haunted Are These Houses, released in October of 2018.

Garage Sense was my first “hit” of a poem. It originally appeared in Trajectory Journal issue #13 and in the Editor’s Picks section of their website. A lot of people were like, “Wow! I didn’t know poetry could be like that!” which was exactly what I needed to keep moving forward. For a good couple of years, I wrote a lot of poetry about how frustrated I was and how much pain I was in. Amazingly enough, most of those poems were not picked up by anybody (ha!). Later, I was able to make things a bit smoother and give people a real picture of what it feels like being disabled. Walking After Midnight is a really good example of that without shouting in everyone’s face. Currently, I am expanding more into horror and somewhat Lovecraftian poetry. This recent effort Spellbound Centurion is about a creature that must write itself into being every night or become dust

Many of you might be more familiar with me as a reviewer of speculative fiction and dark poetry, which I started doing in 2016 for the JournalStone sites Hellnotes and Horror Review. I also started my own site Damaged Skull Writer and have guested on Aphotic Realm and Gallows Hill Magazine, a venture I’m hoping will grow into a regular gig! I have met a ton of really great people through reviewing and enjoy being a part of the writing community. Currently I am a member of the SFPA and hope to join the HWA in the near future. I love independent horror and all the really cool people involved! Thanks to everyone who has said a kind word or guided me to a more efficient way of doing things. I appreciate the editors who’ve read my poems and stories and took the time to make a few suggestions. Ideally, I’m hoping to find a paid position working for a magazine, publicity agency, or publisher in the future.

Writing and doing reviews has helped me be a part of things without my disabled body being as much of an issue. Most importantly, it makes me happy and alive. I was a really good mechanic and proud of that. For a while I would introduce myself as the guy who couldn’t do mechanical work anymore. Not real fun for either end of the conversation. Now, I introduce myself as a writer and book reviewer, and that feels just right. Very big thanks to Erin for inviting me to do this. It is an honor!

________________________________________

Enjoy some of Brian’s poetry!

GARAGE SENSE
First appeared in Trajectory Journal, Issue #13

Nobody would be likely to steal my old Chevy truck, I guess.

Unless they were a fucking idiot. Which is quite possible around here.

Smashed, dented, broken, and leaking everywhere.

It is impossible to start, and even more difficult to keep running.

Unless you know the combination of moves required.

To make the ancient smoking motor roar and growl.

Sure as hell not something they teach you in school.

You learn it all the hard way, by doing it yourself.

People frown on that sort of thing today.

Claiming how unsafe old vehicles are…

“No daytime running lights? No anti-lock brakes?

No airbags? No low tire pressure light?

Call the police, the governor, the president!”

Not trusting what they don’t understand

Modern life is built on fear of everything

From bug bites to flat tires, old cars and grease fires

Then you have the ridiculous new cars and trucks…

With safety features galore, and cup holders

Up the wazoo, along with back-up cameras, DVD

Players, speed sensors, and cars that park themselves

Hell, there’s probably a sensor that knows when you fart

So it can roll down the windows and crank the AC

But, it’s all just a flashy, computerized trap

You can talk to your Aunt Mabel in Ohio

Just speak clearly into your dashboard, and

You can hear all about the boils on Uncle Carl’s ass

While you laugh, and then crash… fatally

Into a huge gravel truck that didn’t even feel you

Mashing yourself and the family into

bloody pulp on his bumper, or better yet,

shaving the roof off your robotic, hypnotic,

super-safety machine, along with your heads

While Aunt Mabel drones on about corn prices

Your car will call the police so that they can

Come scrape what’s left of you and your

Technologically advanced family

Off of route 49 because you got fooled

Meanwhile a drunk guy in an old truck

Backs into a telephone pole

Maybe even knocks it down

Then laughs and drives away without a scratch.

_______________________________________

WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT

I liked to walk after midnight
with my dog on city streets

We’d go so far – blocks and blocks
neither of us afraid

Because the dog protected me and
I did the same for him

Which might sound funny or puzzling
but it’s just the honest truth

Both of us saved each other many
more times than once

I kept him from being run down by cars
He saved me from muggers

But now, I’m disabled and it’s hard
just to walk down the hall

My dog is hobbled by arthritis and
we’re both in a medicated fog

Yet, at night during sleep we both dream
that we’re walking after midnight

We walk for miles, just he and I, going on
until we’re woken by the cruel sunrise

_________________________________________

SPELLBOUND CENTURION

When the dawn comes
my body shrinks away
from its effervescent light
that pokes at my tired eyes
like white hot laser beams
meant to destroy my vampiric body

I only live for the nights
spent mostly alone and cursing
this balky typewriter and what
you fools think of as a life
Pah! Tis but a mere hour
to this ancient centurion

The city I reside in is perfect for
what I do inside its crumbling walls
of wasted post-industrial buildings
Abandoned hulks housing squatters
engaged in depravity known only
by the lowest creatures

Who are my favorites by the way
because they make such easy pickings
yielding up the whisky, wine, and heroin
polluting their bloodstreams into mine
offering a lovely high and sustenance
that fulfills most of my desires

It always starts with the words
that escalate into spells
enrapturing me and waking
my ravenous hunger which
turns me back into my true form
a twisted nightmare creature

Burnt flesh sprouts wings
of skeletal flapping parchment
that fly into others’ dreams
causing hellish fever and pain
driving even the most rational
of people deep into madness

Hunched and shaking
they whimper and scream
Music to this old beast’s ears!
Minds melting as they see
something they refuse to believe
but there’s no denying the truth

So I am allowed to exist
Dismissed by “sensible” folk
and fervently worshipped by
those blessed with imagination
and the ability to see our world
of gauze wrapped shapes in the fog

Undead creatures hidden
in your world until the spells
that we must write ourselves
pull our false coverings away
and send us out into the night
to feed and collect life essence

The key is to never take too much
or overstep my boundaries
Unless I wish to die yet again
at the hands of Christian
torch-bearing folk who know
the secrets of my immortality

I am not the Devil
and most certainly not a god
my lineage is closer to that
of the gargoyles or gryphon
but without sacred blessings
So I am a monster

Savoring a smorgasbord
city during the hot nights
when the windows are open
Allowing me to just blow in
on the fitful breezes or
be sucked inside by a fan

But I never touch animals
those trusted spirit guides
into the next world
They are true innocents
and take too much abuse
from their “masters” as it is

Nothing in any world
can be totally evil or
every atom to the good
I have my purposes
but it is rare for anyone
who sees me to listen

A pity, but not my problem
that people are so set
on what reality should be
Meanwhile, I drink blood,
stay alive, and clear the streets
of dead men walking

Now my eyelids grow heavy
The spells only last so long
which means that it’s time
to draw the curtains and
transform so I may sleep
until the darkness calls again

_____________________________

Brian James Lewis, Info –

Flannel author pic

Brian James Lewis is an emerging disabled poet and writer, for whom writing is as important as breathing. After an accident left him with spinal injuries and mental health problems, Brian turned to writing as a way to feel better and channel energy positively. He writes in a wide variety of styles has appeared in Bards And Sages Quarterly, the EconoClash Review, Aphotic Realm, and the Haunted Are These Houses anthology of poetry and stories published by Unnerving. Brian is also a member of the Journalstone and Gallows Hill book review teams, SFPA, and the Academy of American Poets. When he has time, Brian repairs vintage typewriters and uses them for first drafts.

Contact or find more infomation on Brian James Lewis at his site Damaged Skull Writer or follow and talk to him on twitter: @skullsnflames76.

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry

National Poetry Month: Sara Tantlinger Brings Us Poem on the 1893 World’s Fair and a Discussion on Involvement of Serial Killer H.H. Holmes #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more by writers I admire and adore, and also some new poetry writers as well, so stop by often. Tuesday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here and yesterday we read some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich, which you can enjoy here.

Today, Sara Tantlinger joins us with a poem from her Bram Stoker Award nominated recent collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which features poems surrounding serial murderer H.H. Holmes. We are able to read the poem below as well as a discussion by Sara about the themes and locale of the piece – the 1893 World’s Fair – and H.H. Holmes and his involvement in it. As some of my historical fiction friends know, I am a World’s Fair and carnival fanatic. I love anything revolving around it!! Mix that with my obsession with true crime, you’re making me shiver in delight. That means I really enjoyed Sara’s poem and article – I hope you do too!

Thanks, Sara!

crescent moon

An H.H. Holmes Poem Analysis
by Sara Tantlinger, author of The Devil’s Dreamland

Thank you so much to Erin for hosting some poetry fun on her website for National Poetry Month! I am excited to contribute with a poem from The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and to provide a little backstory and history on the poem. The piece is titled “World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)”, referencing the very fair that helped make serial killer H.H. Holmes famous.

Without further ado, please enjoy the poem!

World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)

1893, we celebrate the 400th anniversary

of the barbaric slaughtering

Christopher Columbus brought

unto a new world,

but you will find no anger

toward his history here

as the fairgrounds take form, as visitors

flock in droves to taste the excitement

flickering in the air like pixie dust

 

People keep dying,

workers falling from buildings

accidents in the form of skull

fractures and electrocution

all this death contained within

designing the great fair,

 

yet a madman paces inside

his castle, creating spaces

where supposed accidents

will swallow visitors whole

 

a madman forges his dreams

into piping hot realities

where his World’s Fair Hotel

promises spectacular service

so very close to the fair itself

 

Opening Day comes upon the city

in jovial bursts of color,

mouthwatering scents of exotic

pastries and delicacies from themed

exhibits stationed around the park,

thousands of visitors holding their

breath for President Cleveland

to push a button that ignites

a hundred thousand

glowing lamps across the fields,

illuminating neoclassical figures,

the work of men named Tesla

and Westinghouse

 

Dr. Holmes turns away men at the door,

citing reasons of already being booked

to capacity, yet the young women

stroll right in, are welcomed,

intoxicated by their own freedom

blushing at the handsome doctor

who offers great prices,

who offers warm touches

 

they do not see how excitement alerts

trembles into his fingertips,

eager to taste innocence, summon

screeches from their tender tracheas

lick away saccharine death from dying lips,

listen to the snapping of a windpipe,

 

hungry to snuff out light from

wide eyes,

hungry to cut the lights open,

sever the heart to see how it beats

beneath such fine skin,

glowing like the thousand lamps

across the enchanted fairgrounds

(Originally published in The Devil’s Dreamland, StrangeHouse Books, 2018).

About the Poem –

The fair of 1893 was a magical time. The undertaking and thus construction of everything the fair needed to be successful was an exasperating project. I wanted the poem to reflect the enchantment this exposition offered. After all, people arrived in the thousands during the fair’s run – people from all across the globe. Over 20 million people ended up attending the fair altogether!

This was Chicago’s chance to show the world how beautifully they recovered from the Great Chicago Fire. Gone was the soot and wreckage of the fiery aftermath, and in its place stood a gleaming white city, warm and inviting. However, the poem also needed to honestly reflect what the fair organizers and architects didn’t want anyone to see….

1893 Worlds Fair

While the shine of the fair easily put forth its best face, a true darkness lingered beneath the food, exhibits, new buildings, rides, and everything else the celebration displayed. Construction workers died during the assembly of the fair. A fire broke out in July killing over a dozen fairgoers and firefighters. The White City was a fairytale. Outside the fair, animal corpses rotted on the streets. Stockyards and factories filled Chicago with smoke and filth. Garbage piled up along roads. Poverty and disease were no strangers here. And of course, a madman paced inside a castle fit for Bluebeard himself.

While it’s unlikely H.H. Holmes is responsible for hundreds of murders, he evolved into a tall-tale of someone who invited hundreds of women to stay at his hotel where he supposedly killed them all. This has never really been proven. While the fair showed great strides in science (like Tesla’s work), forensic evidence was not quite evolved enough to give us the solid facts we need to know everything Holmes might have done. However, we are quite sure he did take Minnie Williams and her sister Anna to the fair (I have more poems about their fates in my collection). So, for this piece, I took both fact and fiction, truths and exaggerated ideas, and spun them into a version that fits the Holmes of my book. Either way, this is one fair I think we should all be glad is far in the past.

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Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Tantlinger_ap2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter and the Stoker-nominated The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, both released with StrangeHouse Books. 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 debut novella, To Be Devoured, will be published in July 2019 with Unnerving. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

The Devil’s Dreamland, Info –

The Devil's Dreamland full rezH.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer.

In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspiration from accounts and tales which spawned from the misdeeds of one Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Fact and speculation intertwine herein, just as they did during the man’s own lifetime.

There’s plenty of room in the cellar for everyone in The Devil’s Dreamland.

“…chilling poetry…” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

“…morbidly creative and profound crime documentary…one of the best works of horror poetry I’ve read in years.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Grave Markings and Play Dead

“…fascinating and absolutely riveting…powerful and vivid prose…will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.”—Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

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