Horror Writers Association Blog

HWA Horror Poetry Showcase III: Featured Poets


For the first time the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase was reserved strictly for members. Despite some nervousness that a more limited field would yield limited results, there was a tremendous breadth of themes and styles. The poems detail horrors on a scale from the cataclysmic down to the ordinary turned malicious and twisted. While honored that many of the great poets of the genre submitted entries, I am equally proud of those entries from authors who had never previously published a single poem.

I want to thank jury members Stephanie Wytovich and John Palisano for the joy and energy they gave to this year’s Showcase. At the outset we all agreed on one basic premise. The poems we selected for including in the Showcase had to be good poetry. There is no “pass” for genre, only a reward for good writing. Picking the top poems amongst so many fine submissions was difficult. After a number of exchanges between us it is my pleasure to announce the five Featured poets for the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase.

In order to give you a brief glimpse of their experiences, I asked fellow Judge, Stephanie Wytovich, about the past month of reading the submitted poems:

“It was refreshing to see the amount of submissions that we received, especially from writers who were experimenting with poetry for the first time, and I was pleased that both the new and familiar voices in the genre were strong and beautifully haunting.”

I also asked fellow juror John Palisano, a non-poet, to give me a sample of his thoughts as well.

“I was delighted by the amount and quality of work submitted exclusively for this collection, and am excited to see the blossoming of modern horror poetry. Bravo!”

Finally, as with the past two volumes, the HWA will publish an electronic and possibly, for the first time, a physical edition of the chapbook of the poems selected for the Showcase. This is a very good volume of poetry, not just good genre poems. We are very proud of the results of this year’s Showcase.

Finally, as my first year as editor I have to thank Peter Salomon both for his great work in Volumes I and II, and for his guidance and counsel in getting this done. I would have likely floundered without him.

–David E. Cowen
Editor, HWA Poetry Showcase Volume III



Tea for Two
–By Kathryn Ptacek

I didn’t mean it.
really, I didn’t.
not at all.
the poison, that is.
we were kids
tea party and all that.
I was so literal.
so we couldn’t have pretend tea.
I had to mix something.
there was this bag.
I didn’t read what it was.
I was a kid.
kids don’t read directions
or warnings.
I scooped some granules out
into the little teapot.
it was green.
the teapot.
the granules were white.
I poured a little water in.
I stirred and stirred.
then I poured the tea
into our green plastic cups.
and I told you, sternly,
don’t drink this.
it’s poison.
you looked at me
and smiled
and drank.
you always were a fool.
even when we were kids.
you didn’t feel well after that
and ran home.
you had to go to the hospital.
to have your stomach pumped.
I told him not to drink it,
I said to my parents.
they nodded.
you were still my friend after that,
and we grew up
become lovers.
we lived together for years
then you drifted.
I cried.
you smiled.
I begged to you to come back.
you smiled.
we talked, and I cried more
and you returned home.
and it was all good
except for when it wasn’t.
I always thought you were the fool.
it was me.
you knew then you could do anything
anything to step on my heart.
I would beg you
beg you to come back.
I did.
time after time, year after year.
you’re back again.
until the next time.
let’s celebrate being together
because we are civilized
we can talk about anything, right?
have some tea.
here in this bone china cup
so delicate, so beautiful.
and I’m telling you now.
don’t drink this tea.
you’re smiling again.
but so am I.


Kathryn Ptacek’s novels are now out as ebooks from Crossroad Press and Necon Ebooks. Her first collection of short stories, LOOKING BACKWARD IN DARKNESS, was released by Borgo Press in 2013. Also, she has short stories in three recent anthologies: FRIGHT MARE, EXPIRATION DATE, and FRIGHT MARE-WOMEN WRITE HORROR.

Kathy lives in rural northwest New Jersey and shares her old Queen Anne home with lots of books, the requisite author cats, unusual teapots, and the occasional visiting mouse. She can be reached at gilaqueen@att.net or through her Facebook pages.



–By Corrinne De Winter

The scent of absinthe incense lingers
From Brazil.
Of course I am a witch, raising the dead.
Come, I say, pulling at their clothing,
Wiping dirt from their bones.
They are no less alive than I.
Always lilies arrived from a stranger on a day of heartbreak.

It was the season of resurrection
When my mother passed away.
The demarcation of sweet earth blooming,
Forsythia, cherry trees, magnolia
Against the pale horse of Death.
Always Spring arrived in a day of heartbreak.

I wait in a mirror for my mother to come,
Write a message in response with lipstick or eyeliner.
Always music dissolved me in days of heartbreak.
Always the black and white keys nailed me down.


Nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, Corrine De Winter’s poetry, fiction, essays and interviews have appeared worldwide in publications such as the 
The New York Quarterly, Yankee, Sacred Journey, Fate,
and over 900 other publications. She has been the recipient of awards from 
Triton College of Arts & Sciences, Writer’s Digest, The Esme Bradberry Award, The Madeline Sadin Award, The Rhysling Award, The Bram Stoker Award, and has been featured in Poet’s Market 1995-2016.

Ms. De Winter is a member of HWA (Horror Writer’s Association), and the founder of SMALL WORLD FUND FOR CHILDREN.

De Winter is the author of 9 collections of poetry & prose including Like Eve, The Half Moon Hotel, and Touching The Wound, which sold over 3000 copies in its first year, “The Women At The Funeral”, winner of the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in poetry, and “Tango In The 9th Circle.”



–By Bruce Boston

When the surf turns to galloping steeds
thundering up and down the beach,
their pounding hooves throwing clots

of sand skyward, sending sunbathers
and families swollen with children
scurrying scared to their shiny cars,

when the arms of night are filled
with predatory birds who have
developed a taste for human flesh,

perched on church steeples, capitol
domes, mail boxes, parking meters,
awaiting those who prove unwary

enough to venture into the dark,
when trees from pole to pole and
continent to continent kamikaze

themselves on power lines and
pipelines, roadways and railway
tracks, leaving us shivering or

sweltering in our four walls,
when locusts swarm, plagues
thrive and mutate, typhoons

wail, oceans rise and overflow,
when nuclear reactors meltdown,
plastering the landscape with

a storm of radioactive debris,
when the Net collapses, virused
to oblivion, never to rise again,

when the Four Horsemen of
the Apocalypse come riding
out of the clouds, their ghastly

skulls bared and grinning,
scythes and swords flashing,
then at last we understand

that Earth has had its fill of
profligate madness and our
turn at the wheel has passed.


Bruce Boston is the author of more than fifty books and chapbooks, including the dystopian sf novel The Guardener’s Tale. His poems and/or fiction have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Analog, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, The Nebula Awards Showcase and Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. His poetry has received the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov’s Readers Award, the Gothic Readers Choice Award, the Balticon Award, and the Rhysling and Grandmaster Awards of the SFPA. His fiction has received a Pushcart Prize, and twice been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award (novel, short story).  For more information, visit his website at www.bruceboston.com



–By Chad Stroup

if a mushroom sprouts from the ground
                      and stretches like a cloud
          does the blast still make a sound?

we relish in the contoured flesh
rough like a relief map
every crevice a newly excavated cavern
we decipher back braille
burns like brittle bark
professional prosthetics
we peel rubbery layers away
scrub off adhesive
rub the meat raw

our lips caress the burns
fallout numbs the nerves

fingers welded
hair                     floating
        falling and
sculpted by male pattern baldness
ravaged by

rub the meat raw

crack and roll the tightened knots
bodies moaning like old ghosts
hopeless mutations, united in war
hollowed out husks of living char

are you my hometown

your one sullied eye
begging for a spoon to be
                                           dipped in it
                                           scooped in it
let me taste your

in the aftermath
the uncountable gray
we are
in spite of sterility
            of infertility
in honor of these newfound blessings


Chad Stroup received his MFA in Fiction from San Diego State University. His work has been featured in anthologies like Splatterlands and Creature Stew, and his poetry also appeared in the first two volumes of the HWA Poetry Showcase. Secrets of the Weird, Stroup’s debut novel, is forthcoming from Grey Matter Press. Visit Subvertbia, a home for some of his short fiction, poetry, and reviews at http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/, and drop by his Facebook page as well at https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter.



The Trappings of Poetry
–By Michael Arnzen

My keyboard is a trigger pad.
I wait for just the right moment
and punch Ctrl+Alt+M —
capturing my goddess
of inspiration in a bear trap
made of whittled down typewriter keys
as sharp as a fistful of shanks
she tries to crawl away
like a leg-broken dying dog
crooning something pained and panicky
like a clown blubbering bad poetry
but the chain keeps her pegged
and she can only mope all bloody
spinning around in tedious circles
of increasing exhaustion going nowhere
and after a while she finally gives up
and just glares at me, breathing heavy
like she can’t dream without movement
and we get into this staring match
that lasts as long as disease
and I’m surprised she doesn’t even try
to chew her own leg off
or trick me into approaching
she’d rather die
than give me any thrilling ideas now
but I know I can outlast her
and soon she blinks to sleep
like an animal that’s just been injected
and as I pensively watch her
beautiful body jerk to death
splashing spastically in
the inky puddle of her
muse ooze
I get this concept all over me
and I write.


Michael Arnzen holds four Bram Stoker Awards and an International Horror Guild Award for his disturbing (and often funny) poetry, fiction, and other literary experiments.  He holds a PhD in English from University of Oregon and teaches in the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.  Raw Dog Screaming Press recently published the 20th Anniversary edition of his first novel (Grave Markings, along with a decade-long collection of his micropoetry (The Gorelets Omnibus), and will be releasing his new nonfiction study, The Popular Uncanny, this October. See what he’s up to now at gorelets.com

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