Donna is fast becoming one of my favorite people and poets. She has an honest way about her I really like and, whether she knows it or not, she’s taught me a lot about letting things go and being easy on self. She’s super funny, creative, and kind. She has some stellar work out there in the music, writing, and poetry world. Her last two collections Witches and Choking Back the Devil earned Bram Stoker nominations and both were worthy of wins even among the highly exceptional field of poetry in horror. She’s a beautiful lyricist and her words flow so smoothly and with such passion.
I asked Donna for a poem or a reprint and then…. in true Donna form, she writes this instead and asks me what I want to do with it. Ha! I just felt in this moment, that it was perfect. It explained exactly how I’ve been feeling about writing myself, even poetry, which sometimes breaks through when I’m blocked otherwise. These days I’m too stressed and tired. I want to clean too. It’s a weird thing. I don’t know if any of you other writers can relate to this, but I hope you can. We will all rise from this with some major emotional dumps onto the page eventually.
Thanks for the piece, Donna…. and readers, feel free to discuss in the comments!
This Was Supposed to Be About Poetry
by Donna Lynch, author/musician/poet
Are we tired of talking about the pandemic yet?
Yes, of course not.
“I’m so glad we’re doing this tonight because I really need a break from all the COVID-19 talk,” we say to our loved ones via the video chat platform of our choosing, then immediately start talking about COVID-19. Maybe not the virus, itself, but about our futures and our right nows.
I’ve probably told twenty people no less than thirty times how happy I am that my husband and I finally cleaned up our porch. The weather will be nice soon and now it’s like I have a whole extra room in the house, I say. I keep saying it. When people ask me how I’m doing, I tell them about the porch. I don’t feel like saying much else about how I feel. I’ve had a couple episodes of word vomit in regard to my feelings, which I immediately regretted, so now I’m just really fucking happy about the porch. That’s what I say.
This piece is supposed to be about poetry. I write horror poetry, and I’ve written a couple novels, a novella, and so on and so on. It bugs me that anytime I talk about being a poet, I can’t help but mention the novels, as though the poetry isn’t enough. That is, of course, bullshit. I’m a horror writer. That should be enough, right there. But right now, nothing feels like enough.
I’m envious of the 100+ writers I follow on Twitter, because they all seem to be making the most of this situation. For a horror writer, how much more firsthand material could you ever get access to than the realities of a world-wide, modern-day plague? I feel like they’re reading and writing and thinking and observing and taking advantage of this sudden, threatening, and unsolicited gift of time, meanwhile I’m staring blankly at a huge to-do list and an empty Word document each day, calling up friends around the country at 2am, while busting into yet another box of wine that smells like Lysol.
I don’t begrudge them their productivity. I’m happy for them. And I’m jealous.
The thing is, though, there’s nothing about me that makes me unique or exempt. There’s nothing about them that’s superhuman. They’re making themselves work through the stress and anxiety, I’m sure, just as I could be doing. But it’s harder than I thought, and I’m using my pre-existing hurdles as excuses. No sense in lying about it. Writers tell the truth, except when they’re lying their asses off and kidding themselves. Or maybe I’m projecting.
Here’s an issue that I can’t decide if it’s me kidding myself or not: Two of my most prevalent topics in the horror genre are body horror and existential dread, and a pandemic does a fantastic job of creating both, which has left me feeling paralyzed. Could Stephen King write The Stand right now? Could Josh Malerman write Bird Box?
Probably, because neither strike me as the type to make a lot of excuses, but maybe I need to hold on to the idea that, for me, Fear in the Time of Corona would be easier to bang out once we get a vaccine. So, I guess my workaround is to revisit my ghosts and witches and vengeful creatures, because I’m not afraid of them when I go to the store.
And there’s the punchline. I’m not having Imposter Syndrome about being a writer. I’m having it about being a horror writer, because now that we’re here, staring directly into the void I attempt to toss readers into through my poems—you know, to really make them face the things they fear the most—I’m suddenly speechless. I feel like I talked a lot of shit, and now I have to put my money where my mouth is.
Poetry. This was supposed to be about poetry, so I’ll share a tiny poem that I managed to write the other day inside of someone else’s journal.
Karma resigned / Do crime / But be kind
I don’t know what to say about it. It’s what was there in my hands when I picked up the pen. It was honest.
One bright light is that artists are truly being appreciated throughout this. I thanked a front-liner recently and they thanked me back, saying that if it wasn’t for books and music and Netflix series, they’d lose their mind. That was humbling to hear. The gratitude this past month has been the shiniest silver lining I’ve seen in a very long time, and with that I think about how that gratitude will be the thing that will make me sit down and face my fear. I will write. I will make music. I will use the gifts this monster inadvertently gives me and I won’t let it consume me. I will try to give back hope, or maybe just some distractions.
The truth is, I really have no choice. I don’t have another porch to clean.
Donna Lynch, Biography –
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).
Her written works include Isabel Burning, Red Horses, Driving Through the Desert, Ladies and Other Vicious Creatures,, Daughters of Lilith, In My Mouth, and her Bram Stoker nominated Choking Back the Devil and Witches poetry collections. She and her husband live in Maryland.
About Choking Back the Devil (2019) –
Donna Lynch’s poetry explores the horror of losing control of mind, body, and autonomy. Whether it be through death, hauntings, violation, mental illness, violence, or the demons in our brains that terrorize and tempt us all, no one is immune to the nasty surprises of life. Yet somehow we must go on. Choking Back the Devil documents the attempt to get through the worst of what life can through at us.
Choking Back the Devil by Donna Lynch is an invocation, an ancient invitation that summons the darkness within and channels those lonely spirits looking for a host. It’s a collection that lives in the realm of ghosts and family curses, witchcraft and urban legends, and if you’re brave enough to peek behind the veil, the hauntings that permeate these pages will break seals and open doorways, cut throats and shatter mirrors.
You see, these poems are small drownings, all those subtle suffocations that live in that place between our ribs that swells with panic, incubates fear. Lynch shows her readers that sometimes our shadow selves—our secrets—are our sharpest weapons, the knives that rip through flesh, suture pacts with demons, cut deals with entities looking for more than a homecoming, something better, more intimate than family.
It’s about the masks we wear and the reflections we choose not to look at, and what’s most terrifying about the spells is these incantations show that we are the possessed, that we are our greatest monster, and if we look out of the corner of our eyes, sometimes—if we’ve damned ourselves enough—we can catch a glimpse of our own burnings, what monstrosities and mockeries we’re to become.
So cross yourselves and say your prayers. Because in this world, you are the witch and the hunter, the girl and the wolf.
Praise for Choking Back the Devil –
“Lynch mixes in childhood fables with waking nightmares, the result is electrifying; sometimes in a few razor sharp words; sometimes in longer numbered verses counting down the cycle of a damaged life. The silent cries of souls tormented to healthiness by pills and poultices, force fed by imperfect humans, echo in the silhouette of these poems. I smiled at the shadows unexpectedly delivered by her words, as will you.”
—Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner
“This collection is not for the chronically disturbed, as fear is doled out in terse, potent portions. I got the shivers reading these unsettling poems.”
—Marge Simon, Bram Stoker Award winner, SFPA Grand Master Poet
Cover Artwork: Steven Archer
Find Choking Back the Devil, and her other works, HERE.
Enjoy yesterday’s poetry by Joseph Van Buren over at Kendall Reviews, then stop back by there again tomorrow for another poetry piece. That one will be by Stephanie Evelyn. Next week we’ll host more poetry on both sites, starting back here on Tuesday.
Keep sharing and spreading the word, please!