Horror Writers Association Blog

HWA Poetry Showcase: An Interview With The Judges


At 9:59 AM on February 11, 2014 I wrote an email to Rocky Wood (then President of the Horror Writers Association), Lisa Morton (then Vice-President), and Board Member Marge Simon. For purposes of historical accuracy, here is the email in its entirety:

I was trying to think of something that the Poetry Page could do for future months and, in speaking with Marge who suggested tying one thought into National Poetry Month in April, I had an idea I was hoping to get board approval for.

I was wondering if we could do an HWA Poetry Page poetry contest for National Poetry Month. This would be open to both HWA and non-HWA members to try to bring the Poetry Page more attention. I was thinking that I could approach some previous Stoker winners (both for poetry and not) such as Marge (who already volunteered) to judge the contest and I could be a judge as well if needed. I was also considering approaching various outlets for poetry (webzines/magazines/publishers/etc, such as Dark Renaissance Press, Bad Moon Books, Elektrik Milk Bath Press, Chizine, etc) to ‘sponsor’ the contest. Prizes could be anything from posting winning poems in future HWA.org Poetry Page monthly posts to, if the ‘sponsors’ would be interested, publishing the winner(s) in their publications or perhaps I’d be able to approach Stoker winning poets to see if they would be willing to donate books for a prize.

As April is quickly approaching I’d like to start the process for this as soon as possible so wanted to ask you for your thoughts. Is this workable? Is this a good idea?


Within two weeks, the First HWA Horror Poetry Showcase was a reality. By April, it had taken on a life of its own, with almost 150 poets from around the world submitting the best of the best dark/horror poetry. Three judges: Marge Simon, Jonathan Maberry, and Peter Adam Salomon (that’d be me), had the distinct pleasure and honor of judging every entry.

In 2015, for Volume Two, more than 150 poets submitted and the judges were Linda Addison, Heather Graham, and Peter Adam Salomon.

For 2016, I decided to step down since poet David E. Cowen had graciously volunteered to take over the reins. It has been a tremendous honor and joy to see the Showcase continue on and I impatiently wait to discover where Volume Four will take us in 2017.

To celebrate the recent release of the third volume of this continuing anthology series (available on Kindle and in paperback), HWA Poetry Showcase Volume III, I’ve asked everyone who has served as a judge to talk a little about the experience.

Click here to purchase the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume III!

Marge Simon
Marge Simon

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

MS: Yes I do, many. Contemporary as well as those that came long before us. One favorite of those that I’ll bet most folks don’t know wrote poetry is Stephen Crane, who wrote The Red Badge of Courage. His short poems are sheer genius –highly speculative, and darkly ironic.

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because the lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the Battle-God, great, and his Kingdom –
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

— by Stephen Crane

Better that I don’t list contemporary dark poets –I might leave someone out, and it’s a long list of various individuals whose work speaks to me. Many, but not all, are HWA members.

HWA: Where do you see the state of poetry in the horror genre today?

MS: It’s alive and kickin’!

HWA: Where do you see it going in the future?

MS: With what some editors like Michael Bailey, Jason V. Brock and Jonathan Maberry are doing by including dark poetry or prose poems in the collections they edit, I’m hoping to see more of this. Poetry and prose, in the hands of a “Maestro Editor” is a like a full meal –totally satisfying and yet you still go back for more. Also, a poem following (or preceding) a story can work to enhance the tale itself. I’ve seen it done a number of times in the small press during the 90’s.

 Is there anything you’d like to see HWA do to promote horror poetry more?

MS: We are always open to ideas!

Marge Simon lives in Ocala, Florida and is married to Bruce Boston. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees.  She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award, 2010, the SFPA’s Dwarf Stars Award, 2012, and the Elgin Award for best poetry collection, 2015. She has won the Bram Stoker Award ® for Poetry, the Rhysling Award and the Grand Master Award from the SF Poetry Association, 2015.  She has work in Chiral Mad 3 and Scary Out There anthologies, 2016, a story and poems in YOU, HUMAN, Dark Regions Press, 2016. Please visit her website at www.margesimon.com

Stephanie Wytovich

Stephanie Wytovich

HWA: Please share some thoughts on the judging, on the submissions, and on the Showcase.

SW: I was very excited to be asked to help judge the showcase this year as I’ve been a supporter—and a contributor! —to the anthology since its beginnings. In the past, the anthology has been open to the public, but this year, it was only open to members of the HWA. At first, this was concerning to me because I thought that we wouldn’t get as many submissions, but I was pleasantly surprised. Our members are so talented and it was especially refreshing to see how many fiction writers tried their hand at the art form.

Working with John and David was a blast as well, and I feel like I learned a lot from them when it came to the process of critiquing, editing, and bringing the project together as a whole.

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

SW: My favorite poem is “The Moon and the Yew Tree” by Sylvia Plath, and while it’s hard to pick a favorite poet, a few that I love to read are: Edgar Allan Poe, Ted Hughes, William Butler Yeats, Anne Sexton, Charles Bukowski, Charles Simic, Nick Flynn, Patti Smith, Zachary Schomburg, Natalie Diaz, and Nick Cave.

The Moon And The Yew Tree

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness – blackness and silence.

— by Sylvia Plath

HWA: Where do you see the state of poetry in the horror genre today?

SW: I think horror poetry—and speculative poetry, in general—is becoming more accepted in the general marketplace, although I do still notice a definite negative stereotype attached to it when I’m around predominately literary writers…which is funny to me because so much of what I find to be read and published in those venues/houses tends to be speculative; people just don’t want to call it that.

On the flip side, I’ve noticed more people writing poetry, more markets accepting it, and more professional associations, like the HWA, striving to include and teach it more. It’s really refreshing to see poetry get some life again, and I’m excited to see how the marketplace continues to evolve.

HWA: Where do you see it going in the future?

SW: I would like to see other professional associations take note of it as a category for their awards because there are so many great speculative writers that deserve the credit and nomination for their work. The HWA naturally includes and welcomes poets when it comes to the Bram Stoker Award, but it would be nice to see the World Fantasy Awards and the Shirley Jackson Awards take note of poetry as well.

HWA: Is there anything you’d like to see HWA do to promote horror poetry more?

SW: I think the HWA is really doing a great job with promoting and including horror poetry, and if you would have asked me five years ago if I thought I would be doing half of what I am doing now, I would have laughed at you. It’s such a welcoming group that is willing to mentor, teach, market, and support the craft that I immediately feel at home. I do think that there is a growing curiosity about poetry though, so I think as long as the HWA continues offering mentoring for it and offering workshops, panels, readings, etc., that we will continue to see it grow and flourish in the future.

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an Instructor of English by day and a horror writer by night. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. 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-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel can be found at www.rawdogscreaming.com, and her debut novel, The Eighth, will be out in 2016 from Dark Regions Press. Follow Wytovich at stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com and on twitter @JustAfterSunset

David E. Cowen David E. Cowen

HWA: Please share some thoughts on the judging, on the submissions, and on the Showcase.

DEC: When I was told that the HWA would limit the Showcase to members only I was very worried. I thought that my only job would be to cull out those few poems which, for whatever reason, were simply not publishable. I was afraid that only a handful of people would submit. My goal was to not give a “pass” to any poem just because it was a “horror” or dark poem. The poems had to stand on their own. I did not want the volume to be thin or to herald an end to the Showcase.

I worry too much.

The poems we received were many and of very high quality. I think the poems in this volume met my standards. I was also pleased that so many recognized poets submitted as well as those who are just beginning in their careers. The opportunity this Showcase offers to HWA members, poets and non-poets, is invaluable. My hope is that someday we get most of the fiction writers to try their hand at dark poetry. Dark poetry has a long history and even pre-dates the novel. We need to keep it alive.

I truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with two fine writers whose skills I hope to someday even come close to matching – John Palisano and Stephanie Wytovich. They were an absolute joy to work with.

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

DEC: Yes. There are two or three poets in Volume III that are publishing their poetry for the first time in their career. I won’t mention names because I want their work to stand equal with the others since you cannot tell from reading them that this is their first publication. I’ve been involved with poetry groups in Houston, even now the President of a group with over 80 members. I am always proudest of those who, with the encouragement of their peers, score that first publication. Those first time poets become my favorites and I’m most proud of being allowed to be part of the beginning of their career in poetry.

I consider these poems the most influential in my early years of writing poetry. I still go back to these poems to recharge:

O Captain, My Captain — Walt Whitman
Song of Myself — Walt Whitman
A Man Said to the Universe — Stephen Crane
Acquainted With the Night — Robert Frost
Sympathy — Paul Laurence Dunbar
Harlem — Langston Hughes
The Hollow Men —  T.S. Eliot
Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock — T. S. Eliot
Buffalo Bill ’s — E. E. Cummings
The Raven — Poe
El Dorado — Poe
The Bear — Galway Kinnell
Mr. Tambourine Man — Bob Dylan
Sadie and Maud — Gwendolyn Brooks
America — Allen Ginsburg
To An Athlete Dying Young — A.E. Housman
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night — by Dylan Thomas
The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales — Geoffrey Chaucer


I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

— by Paul Laurence Dunbar

HWA: Where do you see the state of poetry in the horror genre today?

DEC: I think that currently there are only two genres of poetry that have the potential to attract an audience not comprised solely of poets listening and reading to each other – Slam Poetry and Speculative Poetry. So there is promise. Economically, poetry is not a financially viable genre for most publishers. It’s probably not ever going to be again given today’s economic realities. Online presses and online publishing companies at least allow small presses to publish poetry as an act of love without taking huge financial burdens.

One of the great things about the HWA is that they have stuck with poetry, recognizing its contribution to Horror and speculative literature. With such solid support I think we have the opportunity to build a greater audience. Also, with the muscle the HWA brings to the publishing field many horror, fantasy and Sci-Fi e-zines and magazines will pay for poetry. In mainstream poetry you pay them to read your work and they, maybe, give you a copy if they accept the poem (keeping your money of course). An anthology like the Showcase, with mainstream poetry magazines, would generally demand a $12-$20 “reading fee.” The HWA battles this. I am not aware of any other organization with the ability to make a difference that will take on and call out publishers. Even though the fees are small, poets need to be compensated for their artistic contributions just as any graphic artist or fiction and non-fiction author.

HWA: Where do you see it going in the future? 

DEC: I don’t see the economics changing. Fiction is having the same problems. You sort of wonder why anyone publishes at all – but then you realize that there are lovers of fiction, poetry and the genre who want to keep it alive. That always allows for hope.

Creatively I have seen more “themed” works in poetry over the past few years. These are poetical works where the poems have a common theme and are even tied together. I think there’s an interesting cross pollenization of fiction and poetry mixed in. I would love to see graphic novels in poetic form. That would allow for even more mixing of medium. It also may herald a rebirth of narrative poetry which sort of started the whole fiction and fantasy thing – see the Illiad and Beowulf for examples.

HWA: Is there anything you’d like to see HWA do to promote horror poetry more?

DEC: The HWA is very good to poetry from the beginning of the group. None of the other speculative literature groups which include fiction appear to recognize poetry and its contribution to their respective genres. So my wish lists — Poetry contests. Official podcasts with authors reading their works; poetry, fiction and non-fiction. More poets reading – even if in short spurts of “Random Acts of Horror Poetry”  — at future StokerCons.

David E. Cowen is the author of “The Madness of Empty Spaces,” (Weasel Press, November 2014) and the upcoming “Seven Yards of Sorrow” (Weasel Press, September 2016). His volume of non-genre poetry is entitled “Sixth and Adams” (PW Press 2001). His work has appeared in the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Horror Writers Association’s Horror Poetry Showcase and his poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in a number of journals, anthologies, e-zines and other venues worldwide. David is the president and a lifetime member of the Gulf Coast Poets Chapter of the Poetry Society of Texas. He is the current editor of the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase Volume III. His website is at www.decowen.com.

Peter Adam Salomon

Peter Adam Salomon

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

PAS: I grew up a T.S. Eliot fan (especially ‘The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock’) with a side of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (especially ‘Kubla Khan’) thrown in. More recently I’ve found myself gravitating to fiction writers like Jacqueline Carey and Elizabeth Haydon who capture a poetic feel in their prose. Carey, especially, writes such lush, haunting, poetic works that have all the lyricism and beauty of poetry. There are so many contemporary poets that I admire and adore it’d be hard to list them all, which is a good thing.

The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?  

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, 
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say, “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

— by T.S. Eliot

HWA: Where do you see the state of poetry in the horror genre today?

PAS: There is a tremendous vitality and energy in horror poetry now, with numerous small- and micro-presses releasing a steady stream of new and established poets. The sheer variety of poetry collections, from bizarro-horror to erotic-horror to science-fiction/speculative-horror and beyond is amazing to be a part of. There is an audience out there hungry for poetry and starving for horror/dark poetry in particular.

HWA: Where do you see it going in the future?

PAS: With the proliferation of e-readers, the market for chapbooks and other short poetry collections that can be downloaded and read over and over again is booming. In addition, there are so many places now that are looking for poetry, from websites specializing in Lovecraftian poetry to literary journals wanting poems about any number of esoteric themes and so many more, this is a wonderful time to be a poet. In the future, while there is always going to be turnover and churn as markets fold or merge or morph into different styles of presentation and delivery, I can see the audience continuing to grow, perhaps wanting even more specialization (imagine something like Patreon, a patron-based art/creative support website, that enables an audience of one reader to buy a poem, or even an entire poetry collection, directly from the poet about a theme of their own choosing). That type of niche marketing is coming I think, if it’s not already here in one form or another.

HWA: Is there anything you’d like to see HWA do to promote horror poetry more?

PAS: As evidenced by the HWA Poetry Showcase and the Stoker award, HWA has fully embraced poetry as a horror literary field. Which I suppose is only fair since the oldest known literature (‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’) is horror and, of course, there’s always Poe to contend with.

Also, since I brought it up, Bram Stoker did write poetry. Only a handful were ever published but they’re worth seeking as a number of them are available online.

Going forward, I hope HWA continues to support horror poetry, and with Volume III of the Horror Poetry Showcase about to be released, including the first hardcopy publication, I feel confident we’ll see Volume IV soon enough.

Peter Adam Salomon’s debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, was published by Flux in 2012. His second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, published by Flux in 2014, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction. Both novels have been named a ‘Book All Young Georgians Should Read’ by The Georgia Center For The Book.

His poem ‘Electricity and Language and Me’ appeared on BBC Radio 6 performed by The Radiophonic Workshop in December 2013. Eldritch Press published his first collection of poetry, Prophets, in 2014, and his second poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners, was published in 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press. In addition, he was the Editor for the first books of poetry released by the Horror Writers Association: Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes I and II.

Please visit his website at www.peteradamsalomon.com

John Palisano John Palisano

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

JP: Helping to judge the poetry submissions for my first time was revelatory. There are so many outstanding poets. I was pleasantly surprised at the caliber of work we received. I learned of several new poets I’ve since tracked down. Poetry is vital. It is a form that still can seep inside in wonderful ways.

I wouldn’t single out any works. To me, poetry of all written forms is terribly subjective. It’s similar to asking what kind of music you like, or what favorites a favorite singer plays. I think there’s plenty in the book that could really mean something profound to those who read them.

My gateway into poetry were modernists like Burroughs and the beat crew. I love Bukowski and enjoy punk poets like Henry Rollins. I do love the classics, such as Pound and of course Poe.

Fear And The Monkey

Turgid itch and the perfume of death
On a whispering south wind
A smell of abyss and of nothingness
Dark Angel of the wanderers howls through the loft
With sick smelling sleep
Morning dream of a lost monkey
Born and muffled under old whimsies
With rose leaves in closed jars
Fear and the monkey
Sour taste of green fruit in the dawn
The air milky and spiced with the trade winds
White flesh was showing
His jeans were so old
Leg shadows by the sea
Morning light
On the sky light of a little shop
On the odor of cheap wine in the sailors’ quarter
On the fountain sobbing in the police courtyards
On the statue of moldy stone
On the little boy whistling to stray dogs.
Wanderers cling to their fading home
A lost train whistle wan and muffled
In the loft night taste of water
Morning light on milky flesh
Turgid itch ghost hand
Sad as the death of monkeys
Thy father a falling star
Crystal bone into thin air
Night sky
Dispersal and emptiness.

— by William Burroughs

HWA: Where do you see the state of poetry in the horror genre today?

JP: The state of poetry is stronger than I’ve seen it in a long time. Only a few years ago I could count the number of true dark poets on one hand. Now there seem to be dozens just in the sphere of the HWA, and countless we’ve yet to reach. This is fantastic.

HWA: Where do you see it going in the future?

JP: The future looks busy and will be growing, as far as dark poetry is concerned. I also feel the length of poems should make them well suited for our ever busy world.

HWA: Is there anything you’d like to see HWA do to promote horror poetry more?

JP: To promote poetry more, I’d love to see some fun and innovative ways to do so. Perhaps a weekly email showcasing one poem, classic or contemporary. Things of that nature could truly help us plant the seeds and water those already growing.

It’s been an honor helping to usher this along.

John Palisano is a writer whose non-fiction has appeared in FANGORIA and DARK DISCOVERIES magazines. He won the Bram Stoker Award© for excellence in short fiction.

He’s got a pair of books with Samhain Publishing, DUST OF THE DEAD, and GHOST HEART. NERVES is available through Bad Moon. NIGHT OF 1,000 BEASTS is coming soon.

John Palisano’s short stories have appeared in anthologies from PS Publishing, Terror Tales, Lovecraft eZine, Horror Library, Bizarro Pulp, Written Backwards, Dark Continents, Darkscribe, DarkFuse, Dark House, and many more.

Say ‘hi’ at: www.johnpalisano.com and http://www.amazon.com/author/johnpalisano  and www.facebook.com/johnpalisano and www.twitter.com/johnpalisano

Heather Graham

Heather Graham

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

HG: The Raven!

I am a tremendous fan of Edgar Allan Poe, and therefore…

The Raven.

Creepiest, oddly most melodic, and, of course, sad and lamenting poem ever.

There is something about cadence, and that beautiful–haunting, if you will!–melody in the words that seems to make poetry perfect for horror.

Let’s face it–true horror is not in buckets of blood. It’s in the mind. Poetry lends towards twisting into the dark corners of the mind with amazing finesse.

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;–vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore–
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door–
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”–here I opened wide the door–
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”–
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is and this mystery explore–
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;–
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore–
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning–little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door–
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered–
Till I scarcely more than muttered: “Other friends have flown before–
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore–
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never–nevermore.'”
But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore–
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!–
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted–
On this home by Horror haunted–tell me truly, I implore–
Is there–is there balm in Gilead?–tell me–tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us–by that God we both adore–
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting–
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!–quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted–nevermore!
— By Edgar Allan Poe

HWA: Where do you see dark poetry going in the future?

HG: As to the future? The wonderful will win out!

We have something called Silver Knight awards for high school achievement in Miami. I’ve judged in the English category (sometimes feeling like a terrible fake as I’ve just wrestled with a comma!)

I have seen exceptional poetry come from those young people. In fact what most of them want to write is poetry.

Here’s to the future Poes! I believe they are among us, and I hope HWA will continue to support all of remarkable authors exploring the music, mayhem, and mind-altering universe of poets in the horror field!

New York Times and USA Today best selling author, Heather Graham was born somewhere in Europe and kidnapped by gypsies when she was a small child. She went on to join the Romanian circus as a trapeze artist and lion tamer. When the circus came to South Florida, she stayed, discovering that she preferred to be a shark and gator trainer.

Not really.

Heather is the child of Scottish and Irish immigrants who met and married in Chicago, and moved to South Florida, where she has spent her life. (She has, at least, been to the Russian circus in Moscow, where she wished she was one of the incredibly talented and coordinated trapeze artists.) She majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over one hundred and fifty novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, horror, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages, and has had over seventy-five million books in print. She has been honored with awards from Walden Books, B. Dalton, Georgia Romance Writers, Affaire de Coeur, Romantic Times, the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA and more. Heather has also become the proud recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts the Vampire Ball and Dinner theater at the RT convention raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile Players”, presenting something that’s almost like entertainment for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.

Linda Addison

Linda Addison

HWA: Please share some thoughts on the judging, on the submissions, and on the Showcase.

LA: When I judged it submissions were open to any poet, not just members. I was very impressed with the quality of work that came in (no doubt that is also true now that submissions are from members only). I’ve always been inspired reading other poets work so it was a pleasure being a judge. There have been three Showcases published (2016, 2015, 2014) and they each are filled with strong, entertaining, thought-provoking poetry.

HWA: Do you have any favorite poets (or poems)?

LA: More than I can list, but some of my favorites genre poets I’ve read with new work this year: Michael Collings latest poetry collection, Corona Obscura, is a hypnotic and inspiring book of sonnets, he has invigorated a form most people think of as old-fashioned. Sheree Renée Thomas has a new collection this year, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, that sings of the dark and light mythos lying under the guise of every day life. Two poets, Bruce Boston & Alessandro Manzetti, I enjoy greatly have a gritty collaborative poetry novella, Sacrificial Nights, out this year that I loved. Btw, I enjoyed Peter Adam Salomon’s book, Pseudopsalms, that came out this year also.

One of my favorite poems from Sleeping Under the Tree of Life by Sheree Renée Thomas is Original Sin.

Original Sin

The sweetest thought must be 
a pomegranate seed 
or a plump fig, inside gold and pink 
outside, purple and green 
vines twisting and humming 
with a dream, the sparkle 
of tiny sharp teeth
— by Sheree Renée Thomas

HWA: Where do you see the state of poetry in the horror genre today?

LA: The recognition of poetry is growing in its presence in horror genre. In the past, dark poetry got a big bump by HWA allowing poets to become active based on their poetry sales, and the introduction of a HWA Bram Stoker award in the poetry category. It is this kind of acknowledgment that will inspire an increasing release of the dark poetry collections going forward (I hope).

HWA: Where do you see it going in the future?

LA: I don’t have a magic view of the future, but it would be great to see the number of published collections increase. The continued support of genre poetry in magazines.

HWA: Is there anything you’d like to see HWA do to promote horror poetry more?

LA: HWA is doing some excellent work to promote horror poetry now. We have the Dark Poetry Scholarship, the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase gives exposure to poets in HWA, also the newsletter has a wonderful column, Blood & Spades, written by Marge Simon with interviews of poets. Having worked on the scholarship committee, I would like to spend more time getting the word out about it: http://horrorscholarships.com/dark-poetry-scholarship/

Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, including ‘How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend,’ and the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award®. She has published over 300 poems, stories and articles and is a member of CITH, HWA, SFWA and SFPA. Catch her latest work in the 2016 anthologies ‘Scary Out There’ (Simon & Schuster) and ‘The Beauty of Death’ (Independent Legions Publishing).

Please visit her website at: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com.

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