Tag Archives: dark poetry

#HookedOnPoetry: Sonora Taylor Reviews The Place of Broken Things by Linda Addison & Alessandro Manzetti + Update @sonorawrites @nytebird45 #poetry

First Some Updates on the Project –

I’m going to give a little update here on the status of the project, and then Sonora Taylor has a poetry collection review for us! The last week of April I started the #HookedOnPoetry project to highlight poetry for National Poetry Month in April and carry it through May and June. I ran it through four or five weeks in May with three to four posts a week both here and on Kendall Reviews, then I took a break before starting up again this week. I’ll be continuing the project throughout the rest of the year with a #HookedOnPoetry posts twice a month (more if I decide).

If you’re a poet interested in being featured, contact me anytime.

HookedOnPoetry

I apologize for all this website house cleaning in front of this week’s post, but I feel it needed to be said. I’m super excited for you to read this review and essay submitted by author Sonora Taylor today. I chose this one to feature first coming off the break as the collection she is reviewing here is co-written by one of the greatest black voices across several genres, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner Linda Addison. Sonora wrote this back in mid-April, and since then, the collection itself won a Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a poetry collection, we’ve been quarantined (or at least most of us have) for two to three months more, and life and the world seems to have HIT THE FAN. Amazing how much can change in so little time.

Without me rambling more, I’ll let Sonora take it away… enjoy!

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Broken Things in a Broken Time
by Sonora Taylor, author of Little Paranoias

When my brain is troubled, I find it comforting to dive into prose and verse that connects with its scattered fragments. After our current president was elected, I went through my days in a blur, one finally broken by a book called Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldana Paris. I laughed at a passage where the protagonist observes, “It’s unnecessary to start by describing the actions that make up my routine. That tedious list will come later. First, I’d like to state that my head floats about two inches above the top of my neck, detached from me. From that position, it’s easier for me to observe the irritating texture of the days.” I felt both amused and comforted to see my state of mind described so well.

It’s April 18, 2020; a little more than a month since we were asked to social distance and flatten the curve — meaning keep the number of infected and subsequent dead from COVID-19 as low as possible. My husband and I are safe. We have many blessings: both our jobs, a comfortable home, ample supplies, and the means to safely get supplies when we run low. Still, a day-to-day defined by doing our best to not die is one that takes a subtle toll on the brain. It can crack our psyches and make us lose sense of what day it is, what time it is, what’s safe and what’s not, who’s well and who’s not. We can only hope for the best when we text our parents or talk to our coworkers on Zoom.

 

place-of-broken-things

 

When I began reading The Place of Broken Things, the Stoker-nominated (upon reading) book of poetry from Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti, I thought of it as a piece to add to the books of poetry I’ve focused on throughout April, aka National Poetry Month. The first few poems were very good, but I found myself reading them with broken focus. I floated two inches above the book’s verses much like the protagonist’s head above his own thoughts in Among Strange Victims. My mind was also on today’s news, today’s Zoom hangouts, things I could bake, if the weather would be good for a walk, if I’d have more dreams like the one I had the night before, which included images of 9/11 as well as a fight with my husband.

Soon, the poems in the book — all about broken people — began to ground me, both in their stories as well as in my own mind. My thoughts stilled and my fragments stopped trembling. I found comfort in the quiet agony of the characters. In “Facing Olympia,” a man sees all kinds of women when he sees one woman, before realizing he sees no one, only his memories. In “A Clockwork Lemon Resucked,” the poets analyze what we sacrifice in order to not have to feel. “What We Have Become” asks the titular question in the context of minds and souls battered by fear. It closes with, “who remembers Before …” — a question many of us ask when we wake up each morning as of late.

As sad and broken as the individuals in every poem were, I still found The Place of Broken Things a comfort to read. Addison and Manzetti put into beautiful words and imagery what I’ve been feeling to varying degrees since this started — hell, since even before this started. I’d feel it in pebbles rolling throughout my life from rocks of anxiety, and situations like this pandemic have been a rock slide leaving me numb and stuck. The Place of Broken Things proves to be a beam of light shining between the cracks of those rocks, saying with its warmth, “I understand. I feel it too.” It’s a warmth that is very much needed, and I’m grateful for this book and the work of both Addison and Manzetti.

You can find The Place of Broken Things online at many retailers including BookShop.org.

The Place of Broken Things Summary –

place-of-broken-thingsBram Stoker Award winners Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti use their unique voices to create a dark, surrealistic poetry collection exploring the many ways shattered bodies, minds, and souls endure.

They created poems of visionary imagery encompassing death, gods, goddesses and shadowy, Kafkaesque futures by inspiring each other, along with inspiration from others (Allen Ginsberg, Pablo Neruda, Phillis Wheatley, etc.).

Construction of The Place started with the first bitten apple dropped in the Garden. The foundation defined by the crushed, forgotten, and rejected. Filled with timeless space, its walls weep with the blood of brutality, the tears of the innocent, and predatory desire. Enter and let it whisper dark secrets to you.

“Addison and Manzetti appear, here, as a songwriting team, certain tunes attributed to one, then the other, but regularly meeting, so that not only do we get to know where each great poet is coming from, but their electric union to boot. At turns gritty and aqueous, this book is totally alive. Addison and Manzetti have written a volume in which literally every line is worthy of being that book’s title.”–Josh Malerman, author of BIRD BOX

“There is no book of poetry quite like THE PLACE OF BROKEN THINGS! Linda Addison and Alessandro Manzetti spin dark magic! Highly recommended!”–Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-WARS and GLIMPSE

Linda Addison, Biography – 

Linda AddisonLinda D. Addison born in Philadelphia, PA is an American poet and writer of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Addison is the first African-American winner of the HWA Bram Stoker Award®, which she won five times for her collections Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes (2001) and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial (2007) and How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend (2011), Four Elements (2014), and The Place of Broken Things, written with Alessandro Manzetti (2019). In 2016 Addison received the HWA Mentor of the Year Award and in 2018 she received the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award.

She has published over 350 poems, stories and articles and is one of the editors of Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), an anthology of horror fiction/poetry by African-American women (HWA Bram Stoker finalist). Catch her latest work in The Place of Broken Things, written with Alessandro Manzetti (Crystal Lake Publishing) and anthologies Cosmic Underground (Cedar Grove Publishing) and Scary Out There (Simon Schuster). Addison is a founding member of the writer’s group Circles in the Hair (CITH), and a member of HWA, SFWA and SFPA.

Find Linda’s Amazon Page HERE.

Alessandro Manzetti, Biography –

AlessandroAlessandro Manzetti lives in Rome, Italy and is a three-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author, editor, and translator of horror fiction and dark poetry whose work has been published extensively in Italian, including novels, short and long fiction, poetry, essays, graphic novels and collections.

English publications include his novels Shanti – The Sadist Heaven (2019) and Naraka – The Ultimate Human Breeding (2018), the novella The Keeper of Chernobyl (2019), the collections The Radioactive Bride (2020), The Garden of Delight (2017), The Monster, the Bad and the Ugly (2016, with Paolo Di Orazio), and The Massacre of the Mermaids (2015), the poetry collections The Place of Broken Things (2019, with Linda D. Addison), War (2018, with Marge Simon), No Mercy (2017), Sacrificial Nights (2016, with Bruce Boston) Eden Underground (2015), Venus Intervention (2014, with Corrine de Winter), and the graphic novel Calcutta Horror (2019)

He edited the anthologies The Beauty of Death (2016), The Beauty of Death Vol. 2 – Death by Water (2017, with Jodi Renee Lester) and Monsters of Any Kind (2018, with Daniele Bonfanti). His stories and poems have appeared in multiple Italian, USA, and UK magazines as well.

He is the Founder & CEO of Independent Legions Publishing, an HWA Active member, and a former HWA Board of Trustees member.

Find him on his website HERE.

Thanks to Sonora for her wonderful review of the collection.

Sonora Taylor, Biography –

sonora-taylor-2019-headshot (1)Sonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was published in Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in The Sirens Call.

Her work has also appeared in Frozen Wavelets, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast.

Her third short story collection, Little Paranoias, is available on Amazon. Her next book, Seeing Things, will be available June 23, 2020. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Find out more about Sonora on her website.

Seeing-Things-Cover-Art-FrontSeeing Things  –

Featuring cover art by Doug Puller, the book will be available in e-book and paperback on June 23, 2020, on Amazon.

It will also be available in paperback through Bookshop.org and IndieBound.

Link to Pre-order (e-book only) on Amazon.

More on #HookedOnPoetry –

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and read about these wonderful artists and their work. If you are curious about the rest of the the poetry posts already featured this year, or in years past, you can find them all in one place on the POETRY page here on my site.

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#HookedOnPoetry: Award-Winning Latina Author Cina Pelayo Brings Us a New, Original Poem, “Scrying.” #poetry #latinxbookmonth @gjkendall

To start off the features for the #HookedOnPoetry project this week, I’d like to share a poem by someone who in many circles needs no introduction. She’s a powerhouse of smarts, wit, and kindness. I love Cina to pieces. If you DO happen to need an intro, she is an International Latina Book Award winning author and writes novels, short stories, poetry collections, and more. Her poetry collection, Poems of My Night, is published by Raw Dog Screaming Press.

She’s sharing with us a little about her poetry and writing below, and then we’re giving an original publish on a new poem by her, which will hopefully grace the pages of an upcoming collection of hers.  I absolutely loved it!

Take it away, Cina…

HookedOnPoetry

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I like to think of myself as both a poet and a fiction writer. I enjoy writing horror because I enjoy exploring this dance between good and evil. I also very much enjoy mystery writing because I enjoy working with puzzles and logic and clues. Then there is poetry where I feel I can be most creative in a short space of time. Writing poetry to me feels almost musical. I’m not a musician, but there’s something about a great poem and a great piece of music that seems so similar because I just physically feel both.

I have been focusing on some fiction projects lately, but I’m slowly plugging away at another poetry collection. Below is one of those poems.

I hope you enjoy.

Cina

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Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

Scrying

She searches for her futures in a smooth glass

Cobbled together by onyx and obsidian

The pendulum swings above her misfortune

Settling on those crumpled petition papers, black ink

The secrets in the candle wax are obscured by

Herbs, and bark, and the desperate bits of angelica root

Muddied tea leaves give no clarification

Tossed bones jumbled together and fail her as well

The runes laugh at her, the celestial bodies above remain silent

And the cards, how hopeless they are? The Empress is still

The Hierophant turns his head and ignores all earthly pleas

The Wheel of Fortune reversed, and the tarot card of the great

World slips into burning charcoal, erupts, and with that she has her answer

– Cina Pelayo

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Cina Pelayo, Biography –

Cina PelayoCynthia (Cina) Pelayo is an International Latino Book Award winning author. She has written LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, POEMS OF MY NIGHT, and multiple short stories, poems and articles.

Her upcoming novel, CHILDREN OF CHICAGO, will be published by Agora.

For more information or to contact or follow –

Website: cinapelayo.com

On Twitter where I’m most active: @cinapelayo

On Instagram: @cinapelayoauthor

Poems of My Night Poetry Collection

BOOKS-poemsofmynightCynthia Pelayo constructs a narrative in her poetry in response to the work of Jorge Luis Borges that examines the themes and subsequent consequences of insomnia, death, and blindness. There’s a visionary quality to her work that dances along the line between the present world that we inhabit and the other world that lingers beyond the veil. Her poetry folds back this blanket of darkness, and shows readers the quiet violence and beauty that hides beneath waiting to be exposed, experienced, and encompassed.

Pelayo showcases this scream of silence through an urban and metaphysical night as she reflects on the spiritual, the occult, and the everyday happenings that become extraordinary in their own rights. Her poems are sermons, prayers to the voices that surround us in the dark, and comforts to those who watch over us as we sleep. Her style is honest, raw, and her voice will leave readers asking questions about what waits for them in the beyond, and whether or not their sins and frustrations are trapping them in the here and now.

She shows us that all too often, there is nothing to be scared of when the sun goes down, but that sometimes, we have every reason to be afraid, especially as we enter her world of blackness and decay, of smudged fingerprints and burnt pictures. These poems are cautionary tales for those who choose not to cover their eyes, warnings for those who refuse to find the light. And when our dreams come to roost, when our sleep eases us in, Pelayo shows us what nightmares are made of, and why there are some stories we can never escape.

Order direct at Raw Dog Screaming Press

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Take a peek at the last posting here and be sure to check out tomorrow’s poetry by Joseph VanBuren over at Kendall Reviews. You can see all of them in the series and from the past projects here as well. We’ll be sharing poems each week in May, or as long as they last, in celebration and awarness of poetry! Please share and spread the word!

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#HookedOnPoetry: Thought-Provoking Poems by Madison McSweeney #poetry @MMcSw13 @gjkendall

Today as part of the #HookedOnPoetry project, I want to introduce you to Canadian poet Madison McSweeney. Madison submitted her work to me in an open call for this project and I’m delighted she did so because it allowed me to get to know her and her work. Her poems are ethereal and rhythmical. She’s very talented and I hope you all will appreciate her work as much as I do.

Below is an original poem first published here with Hook of a Book as well as two reprints, all which will give you an idea of her wonderful style. Of course, I’m not only excited as my great-grandparent’s name last name was Sweeney (haha), but because I really enjoy featuring new-to-me poets (and therefore maybe new to you as well). Madison, however, has been published in some cool magazines and anthologies so you can check out more of her work there.

If you’re new to the project as a whole, you can read all about it here in this introductory essay or here on this page. It was started to celebrate National Poetry Month in April, but will carry throughout May too.

Enjoy!

HookedOnPoetry

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Holy War

He did not have the heart        to burn down his favourite building

but he was curious to see        how the alcohol

would mix with the flame       this

tempting isolation, with a lighter and a bottle

and the stench

of burning plastic panic          in the distance

burning dreams

why should this castle stand

when a thousand fantasies of wonder and lust

turned to dust              on a parking lot pyre

why should his persecutor

have a place to call home

and why must this distant smoke        be permitted

to drive me mad?

no sense to blame the bricks   for the man

nor the windows                        for the fog

nor the turrets                            for the bullets

let it stand.

may this place be a prison for you.

A companion piece to The Forest Dreams With Teeth, a sword-and-sorcery/folk horror story set during the heavy metal panic of the 1980s.

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 Cemetery Way

 Walk with me

along cemetery way

where one day we may rest

securely locked away and topped

with white marble

(white like orchids, white like bone) lest

we stir in our sleep and seek

to claw our way towards the

sun   is so lovely today

as we walk along cemetery way

where we may rest

for a moment, on the wrought-iron

bench erected in honour

of a fine local citizen

long lost

what bliss is this

your hand

so warm in mine

your eyes shine

like marble

(like funeral orchids, like bone)

“darling,” you say

“your hand”

(in yours)

“it’s so cold”

(like marble)

like bone

 Originally published in Truly U Review, Halloween 2019

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The Last Poem

 Keep the books from the children –

They may want to read them

the Librarian said, with the world-fearing concern

she had learned

in her years on the job

watching far too many minds

erupting with horrible thoughts, borrowed

from those tomes;

Shut the windows –

There’s darkness outside.

 

Lock the cabinets

Hide the folk tales with the poisons and the fetal pigs

our dears will know a world

with no fear.

they will know flowers

and fairies – the good kind;

and boyish adventures controlled and quickly resolved

with a minimum of risk.

Lock the doors –

A stranger may knock.

 

We will do all we can

To restrain the world from them

they will not know pain,

or death,

until it comes for them

in the flower garden

and they will blink, for they do not recognize a skull and scythe

and try to hand the Reaper a rose.

Disperse, darkness!

Until such time as you are too deep to see through.

Originally published in Truly U Review, Halloween 2019

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Madison McSweeney –

Author Photo1Madison McSweeney is a Canadian author and poet interested in the macabre and fantastic. Her poems have appeared in Rhythm & Bones, Pussy Magic, Cockroach Conservatory and the Twin Peaks themed anthology These Poems Are Not What They Seem. She has also published horror and fantasy stories in outlets such as American GothicCabinet of Curiosities, Unnerving Magazine, and Zombie Punks F*ck Off. 

She lives in Ottawa, Ontario and graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in Political Science and Communications. She was an arts and culture contributor to The Fulcrum campus newspaper, and has written music-related articles for Bravewords, Music Vice, Hellbound and Ginger Nuts of Horror.

 She blogs about genre fiction and the local music scene at www.madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets from @MMcSw13.

Instagram: madisonmcsweeney.13

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Check out yesterday’s poem from the amazing Ashley Dioses over at Kendall Reviews and join us back next week on both sites for some more poetry celebration!

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#HookedOnPoetry: Poems with Award-Winning Poet Marge Simon #NationalPoetryMonth #Poetry

Yesterday I announced in an essay the start of my HOOKED ON POETRY project, in celebration of National Poetry Month. It was posted here on my site and at Kendall Reviews, who is partnering with me to host and share pieces I’ve accepted and curated. If you missed it, you can find it here. This will be running now and throughout May, which will also allow us to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month with some poetry. Please join me in sharing things on social media with the hashtag #HookedonPoetry. We have outstanding reprint poems from collections, original poetry, review and articles on poetry, and more coming everyone’s way throughout May.

HookedOnPoetry

I’m excited to start off the HOOKED ON POETRY project with poems by Marge Simon. These are two wonderful poems featured in some of her collections. Marge serves on the HWA Board of Trustees and the Speculative Literary Foundation.  She was the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few.

Enjoy!

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Daddy’s Little Girl

It’s a 4th of July evening

sundown coming slow,

lawnmowers drone distant,

& crickets’ choruses rise and fall

between the spaces of human noise.

 

Someone is cooking on the grill,

delicious smells waft through the trees,

down the block to your back yard.

 

Convertibles pass, radios blasting

the rhythms of the holiday,

teens high on being young,

 

but not you, plain and shy,

doomed to spend this magic night

alone with your books & a silly doll

that Daddy bought for you.

 

Your special gift from him today,

to defray the teenaged tears you cry;

you are his darling one and only —

though you’re much too old for dolls.

 

As for Mommy, she left long ago.

Daddy says she went to hell, but he is wrong.

She visits you in murky dreams,

whispering what to do while Daddy sleeps,

 

something about her old meat cleaver,

in the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet.

Your pretty doll agrees with her,

for after all, Daddy doesn’t understand,

you’re not his little girl.

– Marge Simon

crescent moon

Small Spirits
This poem is from the collection SMALL SPIRITS.
Small Spirits is another of the poems-for-art duets by Bram Stoker® Award winning poet Marge Simon and artist Sandy DeLuca. These unusual poems involve dolls of many sorts, including legends from countries all over the world. You will find small spirits of the wicked, the damned and the beloved. Be prepared for the mystical, magical and often misanthropic dolls in this colorful collection

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The Southern Lady

With death, there should be dignity but there is none here,

the men in dusty blue uniforms continue to pass by,

my precious roses trampled, bleed their perfume into the soil,

and those half dead are brought to my parlor,

soaking my fine couches with their Yankee blood.

 

Cow and calf alike they shot for practice up in Charleston,

by the time they got to ours, they wanted bread and butter,

with pitchers of fresh milk to wash it down;

some seem surprised there’s none.

They’d burned our fields, there was no feed,

did they think our livestock lived on love?

 

I dreamed I was a giant cat,

sitting on a wounded soldier’s chest

watching him quietly while he slept,

then I leapt on his face and clawed out his eyes.

 

But he rose up, playing “Aura Lee” on his harmonica.

One by one, his companions joined in singing,

and we danced all around the room.

Beyond the window it was raining blood.

– Marge Simon

crescent moon

War

This poem is from the collection WAR with Alessandro Manzetti
(Elgin Award Winner, 2019).

Look in my eyes. My bronze skin reflects the flames of the battles.

I feed on bullets and shrapnel.

I have trenches instead of veins and a bombardier’s whirring plays my favorite symphony inside my big head. This is my story, with some of my best camouflages and disguises, and you should expect your peace plans to fail. Because that’s what I do for living.

Look at my million golden teeth necklace. Ring any bells? Maybe you’re too young. I probably should have mentioned the fireworks over the Baghdad night sky, my new friend, or the live broadcast of two great skyscrapers disintegrating. You know what I’m talking about, right? So, you can call me by one of my many names: Great General, Lock-box of the Powerful, Red Rain, Lord of Steel or, more simply, WAR.

I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.

Amazon

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Marge Simon, Biography –

Simonphoto-208x258Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees.  She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

She has a daughter, Melle Tillison Broaderick, and two lovely granddaughters. She married a longtime friend and colleague, Bruce Boston, in 2001. Besides being a fantastic conversationalist and the love of her life, he has taught her a great deal about writing top notch poetry and fiction, for which she is grateful.

In addition to her solo work, she has written collaborative poetry and fiction with Bruce Boston, the late Charlee Jacob, Mary Turzillo, Alessandro Manzetti and Bryan Dietrich.

You can view Marge’s fiction, poetry, and art, and contact her for freelance art assignments on her website.

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Thank you, Marge!

I look forward to readers joining us for many more posts and poems here on my site and at Kendall Reviews. Watch my Twitter feed (@ErinAlMehairi) for updates and posts or follow my site by subscribing in the box at the right!

– Erin

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The Night Crawls In Collection and Info on Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writers Grant Inspriation + Free Poetry and a Drabble

Hey all! I’m a little late here as summer was winding down I had a ton on top of the ton I usually have going on because of my kiddos back to school, travels, and then catching up on work – oh and my birthday! I’m behind on blogging but I hope to have some great stuff for you soon again as Fall and Winter approaches us. Today, I still wanted to get this information to all the female writers out there about this grant in partnership with Ladies of Horror Fiction and author Steve Stred. Please check it out and consider applying by September 1 (edit: the recipient has been chosen but keep in mind for next year) and order a copy of Steve’s dark poetry book because the proceeds are what is funding the grant now and in the future! Steve is a wonderfully supportive author to others and especially the women writers out there who need amplification. The LOHF group is doing an astronomical job of helping out women writers in horror too. I also appreciate his shout out to me below. THANKS!

Now let’s get to it…

The Night Crawls In Poetry Collection and the Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writer’s Grant Information and Inspriation (+ Free Poetry and a Drabble)

By Steve Stred, author of Dim the Sun

It’s getting close!

September 1, 2019 will see the arrival of my collection The Night Crawls In. Featuring thirty-three drabbles and seventeen poems, the collection was created specifically to help fund the First Annual Ladies of Horror Fiction Writer’s Grant.

The grant is open for applications until September 1, with the winner announced September 15. ((Edit: The recipient has been chosen.)) For full details, click HERE!

lohf_headers_lohfwritersgrant

Now that the official stuff is over – let’s chat about the why and the how.

Why?

Good question. This guest post is kindly being hosted by my friend Erin. There really are two people responsible for this collection happening. Erin and Miranda. As I mentioned in the blog post over on Miranda’s great site, while me and her were chatting, she convinced me that releasing a collection for charity each year was a great thing to do. I spoke with my sister a bit about what charity I should focus on, and through chatting with Jodi, I decided to scrap the charity idea. Instead, I wanted to make sure that the funds raised were directly going to someone rather than an organization. And what better way than to help support fellow authors and creative types?

Erin is probably the biggest reason any of this came about. Last year I read her brilliant collection Breathe. Breathe. Not only were the short stories amazing, but her phenomenal poetry kicked my butt into motion and got me writing poetry again. Without her amazing collection and her constant support and reassurance, I’d never have made the leap to writing poetry again. So thank you Erin and Miranda!

How?

The how was actually super easy on my part. I took a look at the writing community and the horror community and everything led me to want to support a great and fantastic group of writers who frequently deal with the short end of the stick. Truthfully, I don’t think I’m smart enough to accurately describe the frequent marginalization that women horror writers have to deal with. Heck, I might even be using that word incorrectly within my own statement. To be pointed – they have to work way harder than most to have their books read, reviewed, and taken seriously. Shameful.

So I reached out to Toni and the wonderful Ladies of Horror Fiction group and after some secret back room, dark alley Twitter conversations, we got the ball rolling!

So, click the link above and check out how to apply! Good luck!

As I’ve been doing on the other wonderful guest posts sharing/promoting The Night Crawls In, I’ve been giving previews of some drabbles and poems!

The Night Crawls In

Please enjoy these two poems and a drabble from The Night Crawls In:

Summers. (A Poem)

Remember how grass used to feel between your toes?

Long summer nights under the moon’s tender glow.

Evening thunder storms down the valley ahead,

The rattling boom after the lightning had led.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leading the way

Taking us to a special place at the end of the day.

We’d hold hands sitting under the stars,

Talking ‘bout love that wouldn’t leave us with scars.

Ours bodies snuggled up, keeping the other warm

A tender touch that would help us transform.

The memories of how life used to be

The days we now chase, while we wish to be free.

END

______________________________________________________

Worms. (A Poem)

They live just below our feet.

Crawling, slithering, trying to latch on.

We go about our normal days,

Oblivious to the horror three feet below.

Our feet create vibrations,

Bringing them ever closer.

The worms, oh the worms

Ascend from below.

In waves they come, they slurp and they gulp,

And in the end

We should have known.

END

 ______________________________________________________

The Safe. (A Drabble)

 It should’ve been simple. Straight forward.

Walk in, tell everyone to get down, demand they put all the money in the bag, then get them to open the safe.

We got our matching president masks, we stole a car and junked the plates, putting fakes ones on in place.

We parked out front, car running, getaway driver waiting patiently for us to return.

Everything went according to plan, until they opened the safe and me and Davey rushed in.

The lights snapped off as we entered and the tentacled monster that lived there, began to feast.

We didn’t last long.

END

 __________________________________________________

So a bit of background on each piece!

“Summers” just might be the single best piece of anything I’ve ever written. In my opinion at least. Each line and each image transports me back to the summer’s growing up in Burton and now, how, I chase the ghosts of how life used to be.

“Worms” is based on my son’s reaction to seeing worms, haha! He’s inspired so many of my stories, just form his innocent reactions or from playing with him and seeing how he processes stuff. As of typing this, he turns three on Monday and I’m hoping he says “ewwwww, worms!” for the rest of his life.

“The Safe” is a cosmic monster story about some bank robbers trying to rob the wrong bank. I’ve always been utterly fascinated by the massive banks of federal reserves, the ones that are locked down to everyone. So I had a thought, what if they secretly are also storing some of the world’s secrets?

Thanks to Erin for hosting this!

Ordering

Pre-order links are now up – every pre-order goes towards funding the grant. Every sale after September 1 goes towards funding future grants!

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Steve Stred, Author Biography –

Steve StredSteve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.

Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, 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, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

On September 1, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the First Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

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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.

_________________________________________

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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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.

H._H._Holmes.jpg

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

Purchase on Amazon

Add to your GoodReads

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National Poetry Month: Poetry from Bram Stoker Award Winner Stephanie Wytovich #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

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 so stop by often. Yesterday, 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.

Today, please enjoy some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich. I dare you not to feel.

Thanks for sharing with us, Stephanie!

crescent moon

Surgical Fantasies of the Past Ten years
Originally Published in Yes, Poetry

I tattoo incision lines on my stomach,
dream about surgically removing my ugliness.

At sixteen, the girls put laxatives in my peppermint tea,
laughed at me in the mirror when I tried to scream away my calories.

At 26, I cried in the shower when my skin didn’t fall off,
vomited the memories of my ex telling me I was diseased.

Inside, my lungs are a crawl space filled with candy wrappers,
my ribs broken from too many bathroom breaks ending in blood.

There are 206 bones in the human body,
Tell me, how many are in a monster?

 

____

 

Emergency Masturbation Fantasy
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

I masturbate to an empty chair

My hand moving up and down

like yours never did

I try to see your face

Scream your name

But     I       can’t

And I wonder if you exist

If my memories are from photographs of people I never met

Whose stories I don’t know

I climax to your eyes

Taste the saliva on your lips

But       I           don’t

Because you’re an empty chair

And my box is broken

Like yours never was

I should stop blaming myself

Quit bleeding for sport

But       I           won’t.

 

___

 

Post-Traumatic Spiders
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

My doctor scribbled in her notepad,

“What do you want to talk about today?”

I was already crying

I ate all the cough drops on the table when she wasn’t looking

Her dog was asleep on my foot

I just left my one-night stand in the parking lot.

Frustration wore on her face like the foundation she forgot to wear

“Are the nightmares back?”

I spun my ring around my thumb

I thought about how you said I wore too much jewelry

I tongued the scar on the inside of my cheek

The tarantulas are everywhere.

Her right foot tapped against the carpeted floor

“You know it’s okay, right? That none of this is your fault?”

I didn’t believe her

I felt its legs crawling up my shoulder

I watched it watch me.

I could have stopped it. I could have said no.

 Fifty minutes passed like fifty seconds

“Same time again next Wednesday?

I nodded my head

I picked the spider off my cheek

I swallowed the web it had spun around my mouth

The silk tasted like semen and blood.

Stephanie M. Wytovich, Biography –

Wytovich Headshot_4Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog and on twitter @SWytovich​.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare is her most recent collection. Read about it here!

Sheet Music Front CoverSheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, Info –

Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.

These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about it, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.

Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.
Listen to them carefully.

They very well might save your life.

Find it on GoodReads to Add or Buy.

Stop back tomorrow for a post from Sara Tantlinger. Then, join us next week when we highlight a bunch more wonderful poetry. Have a great week!

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National Poetry Month Celebration: Welcome Bram Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon on Illuminating Dark Poetry #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

PoetryMonthGraphic

April is National Poetry Month and I do so love to highlight this type of writing I love to do, and also showcase other poets and work when I get the chance.

I hope to change more people’s minds about genre or dark poetry, in addition to poetry as a whole. I think if you’re one of those hesitant readers, give it a chance you’ll find it different these days than what you’re thinking of (being stuck back in high school classes). There is much to celebrate and appreciate!

For the rest of April I’ll be hosting original and re-print poetry, guest articles, interviews, and reviews from some poets I know and love, mostly in the dark poetry or horror poetry categories. If I have time, I hope to write some articles talking about poetry as well  such as diversity in poetry, feminist voice, dark poetry, favorite poets, but if I don’t get this latter done, I will happily feature them at other times during the year. Poetry never dies.

poetry and books quote

I’m proud to begin my celebration of poetry over the next two weeks with none other than veteran genre poet, Marge Simon! Fittingly enough, in her article she also encourages you to give poetry a try and lay the stereotypes to rest. And stay tuned from some poetry examples from her as well.

Perfect post to begin with….thank you so much, Marge!

Marge Simon is a writer, poet, and illustrator living in Ocala, Florida. She edits a column for the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees. A Grand Master Poet of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, her stories appear in Daily Science Fiction, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, and anthologies such as Chiral Mad 4 and Tales from the Lake 5.

Simon has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award.

Illuminating Dark Poetry

by Marge Simon, Award-winning Poet and Artist

“I hate poetry.”

“Poetry is nice, but I’d rather have a cookie.”

“Poetry is stupid. I wrote one for my girlfriend and she dumped me.”

I’ve actually had people comment like this to me over the years. In fact, most recently, at a Stoker convention, an author looked straight at me while I was signing a poetry collection and informed a bystander that he hated poetry. “Except for limericks,” he added. “Limericks are fine.” Sure, it was rude, but what can you say to that, other than “to each, their own”?

When I’m pressed by people as to what I write, I say “poetry,” but I’ll hasten to add, “It’s genre or speculative poetry, not what you are thinking of as poetry.” And then I change the subject, because I’m sure they don’t know what I’m talking about, and they don’t ask, and they really don’t care. I tell myself that I’m absolutely certain they are just being polite – and that is why I thought I would never write this article. But later, I got to thinking how there is poetry AND poetry. There is poetry for the general public appreciation, and there is also poetry that appeals to the literary community; there is poetry that those who appreciate both formal and speculative dark poetry.

Still what is so wrong with poetry, anyway? Most of it rhymes and is pleasurable to read if you are in the mood. We have these heavyweights of history to thank for poetry in our lives today – bet you have heard them quoted time over:

Shakespeare

Shelley

Byron

Keats

Kipling

Coleridge

Tennyson

Houseman

Not to mention Poe, C.A. Smith, and of course H.P. Lovecraft. You need to check them out – all of them. Take your time. You’ll find elements of darkness within a number of their works. As well, there are non-rhyming poems – poems with interior rhyme, or poems contrived to look like an object, and so on. How about poems that address the human condition? Speculative is my choice.

Here’s a variety of my stuff for examples.

A poem about familial relationships:

Latch Lock & Chain

I follow the stream into the greenwood,

Old Dozer knows the way, I smile as he

veers off, going deeper into the foliage, where

a last burst of sunset falls on the brick hut,

the same I’d built alone decades ago,

crumbling now, the whitewash almost gone.

 

How pleased I’d been that day to add that sign,

“KEEP OUT”, now buried in a pile of leaves.

I should complete my mission before dark,

for the bastard’s sake, as he’ll be waiting.

 

At first at odds, I determine to convey

the truth, not guise it all in falsehoods.

“There’s been enough bad blood between us.

I’ll set you free, if you promise to forgive.”

From inside I hear a croak of assent.

But Dozer growls, looks at me. Whines.

 

“Mother hated you, she believed my lies.

The mine we co-owned is worthless,

I sold the deed to our land years ago,

and I killed that whore you fancied.”

 

The latch is rusted, but the lock still holds.

My key won’t work, I smash it with my torch.

With trembling hands, I free the chain.

Impossibly thin fingers claw around the door,

pushing it open a crack at a time …

Note: this poem actually concerns the relationship between a man and his dog.

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A dark poem through a child’s eyes:

Sooner, Later

In the canyon

above a stream

corpse of a lynx,

her foot in a bear trap,

six kits spread dead

in line at her dugs,

and all you say is,

just as well

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

I was a kid,

so I thought like a kid,

thought how she might

be thirsty, starving,

thought maybe she

could have eaten

them all, one by one

just to say alive,

but that didn’t happen

and you’d said just as well,

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

But you were my brother,

bigger than me,

so I didn’t argue,

and I didn’t cry.

Note: this speaks to those who look up to older siblings, realizing in the end that you need to draw your own conclusions about life and death

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A poem through an alien lover’s eyes:

He Promised Me the Moon

I came here hoping

this world would suffice,

but all I met were flimsy ghosts

playing with fractals and logistics,

as meaningless as gossip –until him.

 

He hired me as his model,

even promised me the moon

before his wife’s death.

I wasn’t planning on this,

to know such human feelings.

 

He begged me to move in, after.

But he sits now, staring at his paintings.

He won’t even let me touch him.

Her flowers shrivel in their pots,

for want of her special love.

 

She was from Orlando,

a crowded, touristy place

of slender women, cocktails

at four, fashion-wise and empty-

headed as the rest of their lot.

 

But I don’t leave him. I can’t.

It makes me wince, knowing

I can assume a liquid form,

a creature foreign to this world,

from a planet of endless storms.

 

Perhaps tomorrow he’ll be aware,

pick up his palette, have me pose.

I don’t care how painful or how long,

I only want him to undress me,

kiss me in familiar places –

 

I’ll find us a moon of our own,

far from Earth.

Note: His wife was from Orlando, bringing this into a realm you can identify with – she could be from any city on earth, actually.

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A poem through an ensorcelled puppet’s eyes:

When Again I Feel My Hands

My wooden hands

hang idle on the strings.

Master’s drunk on Holland gin

& sleeps beside the wench

who takes my place.

 

Half human, half wood,

in a world deprived of joy,

I am the fool’s scepter,

a reprieve from tedium,

my simple plays enhanced

by classical compositions.

You cannot know how dear

the price of mirth.

 

With his dark eyes, he wooed me

& with his magic, he prevailed.

Father swore, mother wept

as he swept me in his arms

& then away to foreign lands.

 

Soon he’ll tire of her,

& cast a spell to change her form

as did he mine, to suit his needs.

She’ll bob & bow as I do now,

and he will set me free–

or so he promised, long ago.

 

When again I feel my hands,

I’ll rip away these strings

& as he sleeps, I’ll pull them taut

around his bearded throat,

claim his magic for my own.

 Note: this poor young woman is a victim of falsehoods, a timeless warning.

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 Lastly, a poem about your next door neighbor:

               the decaffeinated man

awake, I wander outside,

hearing screams from neighbor’s house,

move close to their bathroom window;

I see the obsessive man

has tried to clean the filth

from his rectum with Drano, and

not to be outdone, his compulsive wife

has just botched a Clorox gargle

for fresh breath and sparkling white smile.

Note: sometimes you just want a really sicko laugh.

Open your mind to the many other realms of dark poetry. The perspectives are countless! Thanks for inviting me, Erin!

Marge Simon, Biography –

Simonphoto-208x258Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees.  She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award,
and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer, and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

She has a daughter, Melle Tillison Broaderick, and two lovely granddaughters. She married a long time friend and colleague, Bruce Boston, in 2001. Besides being a fantastic conversationalist and the love of her life, he has taught her a great deal about writing top notch poetry and fiction, for which she is grateful.

In addition to her solo work, she has written collaborative poetry and fiction with Bruce Boston, Charlee Jacob, Mary Turzillo, Alessandro Manzetti and Bryan Dietrich.

You can view Marge’s fiction, poetry, and art, and contact her for freelance art assignments on her website.

Here is but one of her collections –

Satan's SweetheartsSatan’s Sweethearts
by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo

Satan’s Sweethearts is an evil collection of poetry. Meet the macabre history of villainesses as Ching-Shih, Dephine LaLaurie, and Lizzie Borden.

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WAR
by Marge Simon and Alessandro Manzetti

Look in my eyes. My bronze skin reflects the flames of the battles.

I feed on bullets and shrapnel.

WarI have trenches instead of veins and a bombardier’s whirring plays my favorite symphony inside my big head. This is my story, with some of my best camouflages and disguises, and you should expect your peace plans to fail. Because that’s what I do for living.

Look at my million golden teeth necklace. Ring any bells? Maybe you’re too young. I probably should have mentioned the fireworks over the Baghdad night sky, my new friend, or the live broadcast of two great skyscrapers disintegrating. You know what I’m talking about, right? So, you can call me by one of my many names: Great General, Lock-box of the Powerful, Red Rain, Lord of Steel or, more simply, WAR.

I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.

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My pleasure having Marge on Hook of a Book! Stay tuned this week for posts featuring Bram Stoker Award winning poet Stephanie Wytovich and Bram Stoker nominated poet Sara Tantlinger, with more to come next week from some other awesome poets.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry, Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized, Usborne and Kane/Miller News

Valentine’s Day Writing and Book Choices: For Love, For Readers, For Writers, For Healers, For Dreamers

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m about to present some poetry and prose surrounding dark love! But first, I must say I am looking forward to a special Valentine-themed dinner tonight with my family! I’ll be making homemade pink alfredo sauce to top tortellini, which both of my daughter’s adore, salad with strawberries cut into hearts, and a decadent dessert. Probably chocolate, of course. What are your plans?

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Valentine’s Day feels a bit different to me this year. It’s the first year in fifteen years I haven’t been helping at least one of my three children make individual, homemade Valentines for their classmates, valentine boxes, cookies for the party. It’s actually hit me somewhat hard – I always enjoyed this time with them.

I’m also missing my son very much who is away at his first year of college, but he will be able to pick-up a little box filled with love from home soon (hopefully the mail room at George Washington University will begin to actually give students their mail in a more timely fashion). After years spending time solely as a family, or my son sometimes cooking us dinner while the girls were our waitresses, Tim will be taking me out for our own date this weekend and I’m looking forward to that too.

My middle daughter, who is now fifteen, is having fun working on costumes and make-up with her high school’s production of West Side Story, which was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet of course (which she’s also reading in honors English 9), both tales of love so right and gone so wrong.

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I am so happy to have a family like mine, as they understand love gone wrong, and how much healing I’ve had to do, but also they know love done right.

So now on to reading and writing….!

In February (as a whole) we talk about love, don’t we tend to? Even love gone awry? I suppose we can talk, read, and write about it any time, I know I do, so it’s always a good time in my book and today is no exception (and well, IN my own writing love is not always a good time). Whether you spent Valentine’s Day happy in love, alone and happy, or crying, it takes on many forms and is often fodder for writers like me to explore. I wrote a sad poem about someone in unrequited modern love this year, but it was rejected by the literary site I submitted it too. Rejection – happens in love and writing. I still love the poem and will find it a home. Until then, there are some other of my writings you might enjoy!

valentines-day-candy-hearts-4014974I did have a story accepted by The Horror Tree for their Trembling with Fear series, which is online but also will be made into a print anthology. This short story, “Sinking Hearts” was titled by my 11 year old, though don’t let that fool you, it packs a punch.

This is total love gone wrong and what revenge might unfold. It’s FREE to read in honor of Valentine’s Day on their Love is in the Air (or not) series, right HERE!

My poem “Chained by Love,” was featured in the February 2018 issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. My gothic-themed poem showcased the love between moral Raymond and sea serpent/mermaid Melusine in medieval France folklore. You’ll see their happiness takes a different turn. You can read it for free in the magazine HERE. I’d like to again say thanks to them for choosing my piece to publish and for putting out such a gorgeous edition.

“A beautiful, tragic fairy tale.” – Author R.J. Crowder

“Very powerful, Erin. I loved it.” – Bram Stoker Nominated Author Jeremy Hepler

“Well done. Enjoyed it!” – Illustrator and Writer Michael Mitchell

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I had a story called “The Heart of the Orchard” featured in the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which released from Unnerving in December 2017 (but perfect read for February). It was widely reviewed, shared on social media with positivity, and I’m pleased that my story has been doing quite well too. My story is like a crime/serial killer/revenge story wrapped up with a fairy tale vibe. It’s a little bit of something I’ll always do to have a bit of the feel of grim fairy tales in my work. I grew up with Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and other folklore inspiring me and it’s not unusual it transferred into my work. The darker the better, but for me, it’s a way of dealing with trauma and fears. It’s totally the dark side of relationships and what they can lead to…

In this anthology there are all types of stories from love that hurts, to love gone wrong, to weird love, to the love of something unusual, to the loss of a loved one, but always each will get you feeling. Here is the synopsis:

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row (and Bram Stoker Nominated Author) and more. Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

Praise for my story in Hardened Hearts, “The Heart of the Orchard” –

“The Heart of the Orchard by: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – Loved, loved, loved this one—the setting, the tone, the writing—all of it was great!” – Literary Dust

‘The Heart of the Orchard’ by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is another of the strongest works in the anthology. A dark fairy tale focussing on a young woman with a scarred past who is offered help in her quest to succeed with her fruit orchard by a character known only as The Orchard Man. She gratefully accepts his assistance in the form of herbs for her sleeplessness and fertiliser for her peach trees.” – This is Horror

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim.” – Char’s Horror Corner (in listing the tales that stood out for her)

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – This one deserved its own book also! A+” – Book Dragon Girl (in listing her favorite stories)

I was also thrilled that for some, my story resonated, or they found it worthy of special mention. I know that my story, besides having some fantastical components, can also be unsettling because it’s based on some trauma I experienced in my own life. I channeled this into my character. I think it is the ultimate in hardening a heart and it was what propelled me to write it to match the theme.

You can check it out HERE! 4.18 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.

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In my dark poetry and fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., being in relationships is explored because I wrote my emotions about living in a domestic violence situation for many years into some of my poems. If you like love gone wrong, stories about domestic relationships, whether to connect or get a bird’s eye view or for suspense, and you like books like Gone Girl, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, Big Little Lies, and other such, you may want to give some of the poems and stories in my collection a try. For the stories, I’d especially recommend my “Vahalla Lane” mini-series of fiction.

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Other Suggested Titles

You might also check out my friend Sara Tantlinger’s poetry collection Love for Slaughter, which is not for my faint of heart readers (it has lots of bloody verse). It’s gritty, dark, undigestible but unputdownable too. It’s intelligent but gory in the details, messy as in love and life. It’s very hard to look away.

This debut collection of poetry from Tantlinger takes a dark look at all the horrors of love, the pleasures of flesh, and the lust for blood. For discerning fans of romance and the macabre, look no further than Love for Slaughter.

Find it on GoodReads HERE.

Love for Slaughter

If you’re healing from love gone wrong, you might try DragonHearts, which is a new release from three of today’s best-selling poets: Nikita Gill, Amanda Lovelace, and Trista Mateer. They weave an empowering tale in their collaborative poetry collection through the combination of prose and poetry, use fairy tales and myths to create something that is both timeless and extremely relevant to present-day issues, such as the #MeToo movement, reclaiming your voice, feminism, and the shared power of self-love and solidarity. This book is a reminder that romantic love does not need to be the main plot of your story, sometimes friendship is.

Another set of poetry and words that tears out your heart, puts band-aids on it, makes you feel and weep, and makes you feel alive and real.

Check it out HERE!

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For my other followers, friends, and fans who don’t read as much poetry and prefer novels, but still want some gothic and historical reads, pre-order HERE for yourself or your Valentine The Lost History of Dreams by my friend Kris Waldherr, coming in April from Atria! Kris is a fabulous artist and writer, who puts words on the page like she inks color on a canvas.

Check out this pre-blurb: Wuthering Heights meets ‘Penny Dreadful’ in Kris Waldherr’s The Lost History of Dreams, a dark Victorian epic of obsessive love, thwarted genius, and ghostly visitations. Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor.” – Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK and THE HUNTRESS

The Lost History of Dreams

Or if you can’t catch West Side Story yourself somewhere, and don’t want to delve into the language of Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet, you can read the tragic love story of Abelard and Heloise through The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones! Find it HERE!

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

You can see my past review of it HERE.

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Or if you just like your romance on the dark thriller side, read YOU by Caroline Kepnes. This totally an example of love done wrong, gone wrong, but gives you all the suspense you need to eat an entire box of chocolates. It’s a favorite of mine from Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

From the cover copy:

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

You can find it HERE.

YOU book

If you don’t have time to read the book, check out the series of same name on Netflix, which is stellar. It’s was of the my favorite shows I’ve watched in some time. It’s great for a weekend binge and those chocolates… maybe wine… with or without someone to share it with!

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Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, however or with whomever you celebrate! At the least, buy yourself a box a chocolates, and better yet, A BOOK! LOVE is the universal language. 

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Filed under Book Announcements, Breathe Breathe, Feature Articles, My Writing, poetry, women in history, women in horror