Horror Writers Association Blog

Call for Submissions for the HWA’s Horror Poetry Showcase Volume 3


For National Poetry Month 2016, the HWA Poetry Page features an article by David E. Cowen, one of the judges for the Third Annual HWA Poetry Showcase and the Editor of the HWA’s Horror Poetry Showcase Volume 3!

Quick link:

The 2016 Showcase is open to HWA members only, and limited to one submission per member.

Submission guidelines and links to the HWA’s Submittable page can be found at https://horrorwritersassociation.submittable.com/submit/86302687-9b34-4149-8719-8020963ba374


In 1721 Thomas Parnell ushered in the era of the “Graveyard Poets” also known as the “Bone Yard Boys” with his poem A Night-Piece on Death, mesmerizing English readers with his dark musings on death:

When men my scythe and darts supply,
How great a King of Fears am I!
They view me like the last of things:
They make, and then they dread, my stings.
Fools! if you less provoked your fears,
No more my spectre-form appears.
Death’s but a path that must be trod

With their dark poetry these Graveyard Poets helped to usher in the Romantic Period which gave birth to the “dark and stormy night” during the volcano induced “year without summer” when Mary Godwin (Shelley) took her turn at telling a dark tale to her friends Polidori, Bryon and Percy (Shelley) on the banks of Lake Geneva. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and later Polidori’s The Vampyre, both inspired by that night, helped to popularize the literary genre known as “horror.”

From the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to Lovecraft’s Yule Horror (“There is death in the clouds”) to modern classics such as Bram Stoker winner The Four Elements, written by Linda Addison, Rain Graves, Charlee Jacob, and Marge Simon, dark poetry has walked side by side with dark fiction. To celebrate National Poetry Month the Horror Writers Association commissioned a new competition in 2014 called the Horror Poetry Showcase. Peter Adam Salomon edited the first two volumes which were both Amazon bestsellers in several poetry related categories.

Volume 3 of the Showcase is now open for submissions. This year only HWA members can submit. This presents an excellent opportunity for not only HWA poets but also fiction writers to expand their talents and find their poetic voice. The top five poems will be selected by jurors, David E. Cowen (also editor of Volume 3), Stephanie Wytovich and John Palisano, and featured in the Showcase.

Submission guidelines and links to the HWA’s Submittable page can be found at http://horror.org/2016-poetry-showcase-contest/

In no particular order, here are the four poems chosen to be Featured in the 2015 HWA Horror Poetry Showcase:

Children’s Ward, Witch Hospital  – Haunted Sanitarium Sierra Espuña, Spain (1917 – Present)

Maria, Rm. 109,
sits on the floor
playing with her eyeless
doll, hums a lullaby
the one her mother sang
before leaving her at the door

Duérmete niño, Duérmete ya…
Lillian, 8, is chained
in the basement her
lips stitched together like a
metal toothed zipper. They call her
a monster for biting Dr. Ganon
he doesn´t know bites
not like she does

Duérmete nino, Duérmete ya… 
Miguel plays the piano
though he’s not in tune
says he still smells the gas,
tires on fire burning through
the corridors. Now he doesn’t hear
a thing since the flames ate his ears

Que viene el coco, y te llevará.

Carmen tries to follow
the unsick home
believes they’ll accept her
as she is. But who wants half
a girl with no pigmentation,
smelling of sick and old clothes?
not anyone sane – they never come here

Duérmete nino, Duérmete ya… 

I’ve accepted I’ll never
get out. Sangre in my
lungs, they’ve prepared the
incinerators for when the
time comes. Or little graves
in the forest, no one will ever know

Duérmete nino, Duérmete ya… 

And now you’ve come here
to conjure and perform tricks,
makes us all dizzy as we watch you
float by

Hush — never tell! This is what
happens to children who say they
see witches: they’ll hang us from ropes
if we dare say a word

so we’ll sing our throats red:
Duérmete nino, Duérmete ya,
Que viene el coco
Y te comerá!

Spanish nursery rhyme: Duérmete nino/ Sleep my baby
Sleep my baby,
Sleep baby do.
The bogeyman´s coming
And he will take you.

Sleep my baby,
Sleep baby do.
The bogeyman’s coming
And he will eat you!

— Tausha Johnson   


Lot’s Wife

They forced her into the future
letting it tear her to shreds
before she could blink away
what was to come.
What she wouldn’t forget
if they stoned her to death.
A world without light
to keep the demons at bay,
more evil than anything
she’d screamed about in nightmares.
“Look ahead,” she was warned by
faces blank as sheets of parchment.
A belt around her neck
pulling her into fate.
Her eyes sewn open,
Dry as the desert.
“This is your tomorrow,”
But the truth was louder than their god.
There was no sun before her,
just shadows so gray
a beam of light couldn’t labor through.
Sand turning to snow,
wind kissing her lips until they bled.
Fingers turned to brittle bones
Until her ring slid off with her skin.
“Hurry!” they cried
dragging her closer to a room
without doors,
without hope.
Breaking free she knelt to the image of yesterday
drowning in her own sea of salt and tears.

— Michelle Scalise


Satan Without Hope of Spontaneous Remission

The ferryman cautions me ashore,
seeing I am no spirit of the lately fallen dead
nor any mortal man disgraced;
still, he does not know me anymore
though I am lord and his own master.
Lust has scarred all our visions so
and made from love perpetual disaster.
Once throughout all spheres rained divinest love
which swept spontaneous suns against our hearts
until we rose in wrath, in dark disease
and tried to overturn the limbs and source of light.
Now a shield of wrath forever frowns above
my every path and hastens hideousness
in those who bend below its horrifying night.
Make no mistake:  I cannot hunger for love;
I am stripped to lust and lust is all I know,
and every trace of memory lost in this abyss
erases another feature from my once most loved
angelic face.

— Vincent Miskell


The Cry Of Autumn Stars

The suppurated light of one cold star,
And all the aspen candle flames the moon
Evokes at midnight, cry to him in ways
That voices never could. The autumn calls
With gusts upon the hillside, where the shack
–His father’s father’s hiding place by night–
Creaks with rocking comments of its own,
Which he can hardly fathom.
But the heads
Nailed upon his rafters hear for him.
The strayers in these hills have lost enough;
He lets them keep their ears, and only seams
Their lids and lips against the fussing flies.
Now every parched arrival adds a mind
To this array of listeners
He waits,
Respectful of their silence, and aware
That minds are never open to his mind.
Life is isolation: let it spin,
A dying hornet on a dusty plank,
Deaf to any answer. If the cry
Of autumn stars remains a foreign voice,
A constant, prickling sadness in the dark,
He knows, at least, that he is not alone:
Unsutured ears have also heard the pain.
Should the rafters be too crowded, he has walls.
And he has never lacked for thread or nails.

— Mark Fuller Dillon

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