Tag Archives: Sara Tantlinger

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!

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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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#NationalPoetryMonth: Five Ways Poetry Can Strengthen Your Prose by Sara Tantlinger

In celebration of National Poetry Month this April, I’m doing a small series featuring poets/poetry. Yesterday, Christina Sng stopped by and shared three of her fabulous poems! Today, Sara Tantlinger is here to discuss how poetry can help strengthen your prose writing.

I really appreciate her offering this piece, because I can’t believe how often I tell other writers that poetry, if not read for enjoyment, at the least, can be a great asset in blossoming lengthier writing. It brings me great pleasure to know that other poets out there feel the same and that she, as well, plays with words and poetry to assist with things such as character development. I’ve only met Sara online this year, but she’s a wonderful and talented human being and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her. I am super excited for her next release later this year, which is a collection of poems inspired by H.H. Holmes (you all KNOW I love me some serial killer anything).

And now, take the advice of this informative, mentoring post! Will you try poetry today?

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5 Ways Poetry Can Strengthen Your Prose

by Sara Tantlinger, author of Love for Slaughter

1) Let’s talk about purple prose vs. poetic prose. Purple prose is a term most often used to describe exposition that is “too much” in some way. Perhaps it is dripping with adverbs or excessive adjectives, or maybe the language superfluously describes a tree for two pages. Writing is such a stylistic and subjective field that what is “purple” can be difficult to pinpoint.

For example, the following would most likely be considered purple prose:

“The summer day was bright and warm; the sun beat down with scorching rays, heating the river up to a sizzling temperature. Occasionally, a gust of wind would blow violently through the trees, shaking the sun-soaked leaves onto the rippling water’s surface below.”

Okay, we get it. The day is warm, the sun is bright, the wind is blowing. Let’s boil this down into something more concise but keep the language strong. After all, poetry itself is all about how to say a lot with a little, how to wield language as a powerful tool. It only makes sense that this should translate well into prose.

“The sun beat down with scorching rays, heating the river despite the occasional gust of wind. Speckled leaves from the surrounding woods broke free and cascaded onto the rippling water.”

The description of the sun is enough to let our readers assume it is summer without being told. The descriptions of the heat and wind have been significantly reduced to something more concise, but the meaning is just as clear. The language paints a strong image but does not use superfluous or repetitive descriptions to achieve that objective. The more you write, read, or study poetry, the more natural and easier it becomes to spot these repetitions or “purple” bits in your exposition, thus allowing you to tighten up your prose while keeping it poetic in description.

2) Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Hearing the words better allows you to listen to the rhythm and cadence, to feel the way each word forms in your mouth. Poetry is something to be savored and tasted, and prose should be the same.

As with the above example, concision and strong imagery are the building blocks for poetry. Practicing this in prose can significantly empower the exposition. Adding cadence into the mix can strengthen those descriptions too, but I do caution not to overuse this in prose since it could potentially exhaust the reader if you’re writing like the lovechild of Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Joyce (though I love them both). So, read your prose aloud. Hear it, find the rhythm in the words that make each sentence something wicked or gorgeous or both.

3) Poetry can help immensely with sentence length, sentence variety, and the use of punctuation. With poetry, every punctuation mark, every line break or stanza shift is significant and purposeful. E.E. Cumming’s “Buffalo Bill’s” piece is one of my favorite examples of how to play with spacing. Obviously, most prose isn’t going to do quite that unless you’re getting very experimental, but writing poetry can strengthen your sense of how powerful punctuation, pauses, paragraph breaks, and other structural elements are.

4) One of my favorite exercises is to write a poem from the point of view of different characters when I’m writing prose and feeling stuck with a character. Would your protagonist and antagonist write the same poem if they were forced to write poetry? Probably not, but maybe they would. Maybe they’re more similar than you thought. Maybe they enjoy writing poetry!

Playing around with things like this is a great way to get to know your characters better. It can also help to write a poem about a particular scene or setting to help get the language flowing and translate it into prose later.

5) And finally, poetry is one of our oldest associations to human emotion and is strongly connected with traditions of oral history. Being a verbal art, it was sung and recited, made into chants and hymns to help pass on important stories and information. From Greek epics to contemporary slam poetry, the evolution of words has continued to impact us deeply. Whether the poem is beautiful, haunting, romantic, frightening or something else, poetry has a way of reminding us how much we may have in common with a stranger, of how art itself can break down barriers.

The lessons poetry teaches us about the range of human emotion and the amazing power of words is something we can all continuously learn from, for both our writing and for our mission to live fulfilling lives.

Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Sara Tantlinger

Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of the dark poetry collection Love For Slaughter, and her next collection, The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry inspired by H.H. Holmes will be out later in 2018.

She is a contributing 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. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at her website.

Love for Slaughter, Synopsis –

LFS

This debut collection of poetry from Sara 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.

Amazon Link

LFS back

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