Horror Writers Association

HWA Announces the Top 3 Poems for the Poetry Showcase Volume V


It is with great pride and admiration that I can now share the top 3 poems and two honorable mentions chosen by the jury for the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V. — David Cowen*

HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V is edited by multiple Stoker nominee and Stoker winner for poetry Stephanie M. Wytovich, MFA.

The top 3 chosen poets are:

  • R J. Joseph is a Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of of her life: horror and black femininity. When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one of various sprouts or sproutlings from her blended family of 11…along with one husband and two furry babies. R. J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:
    • Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
    • Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
    • Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
    • Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
    • Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
    • Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com
  • Donna Lynch is a novelist, poet, and musician currently living in Maryland. She is the co-founder along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer, of the industrial/ darkwave band Ego Likeness. Her first novel ‘Isabel Burning’ was published in 2008 by Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her other written works include the poetry collections ‘In My Mouth’ (2000) ‘Ladies & Other Vicious Creatures’ (2007), and ‘Daughters of Lilith’ (2010); a novella, ‘Driving Through the Desert’ (Thunderstorm Books 2012), as well as several short stories. ‘Isabel Burning’ will be republished in German through Voodoo Press (EU) in the winter of 2012, and her second novel, the prequel to ‘Isabel Burning’, ‘Red Horses’ (RDSP) will be released in the US in early 2013. She is an active member of The Horror Writers Association.
  • Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She holds an M.F.A in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Some of her work can be found in publications such as Page & Spine, The Literary Hatchet, Liquid Imagination, The Five-Two, and the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume II. When she’s not writing, Sara enjoys drinking coffee, photographing graveyards, and rereading Poe for the hundredth time. Find her at saratantlinger.wordpress.com and on Twitter @SaraJane524
  • The two Honorable Mention Poets are:
    • Peter Adam Salomon is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, the International Thriller Writers, and The Authors Guild. His 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 short fiction has appeared in the Demonic Visions series among other anthologies, and he was the featured author for Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition. He was also selected as one of the Gentlemen of Horror for 2014. 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, PseudoPsalms: Prophets, in 2014, and his second and third poetry collections, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners and PseudoPsalms: Sodom, were published 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. He served as a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest and for the Royal Palm Literary Awards of the Florida Writers Association. He was also a Judge for the first two Horror Poetry Showcases of the Horror Writers Association and has served as Chair on multiple Juries for the Bram Stoker Awards.
    • Cynthia (Cina) Pelayo is the author of short story collection Loteria and the young adult mystery and suspense novel Santa Muerte published by Post Mortem Press. Her short stories and poems have appeared in Danse Macabre, Flashes in the Dark, Seedpod, Static Movement, and more. She is the Publisher/Gravedigger of Burial Day Books and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, a Master of Science in Marketing and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. You can find her on Twitter at @cinapelayo or at cinapelayo.com.

The chosen poems are:


By Donna Lynch

I let the madmen practice on me

How far can I stretch

How deep do I go

How well do I hold under certain conditions


I let them work out their raw energies

Their mothers

Their preachers

Their sex and frustration


I can’t curse or complain

My mouth is sewn shut

Filled with rags

And the hair of the girls they once loved


I can’t see what comes next

I’m blinded and bound

Branded and broken

Skinned and de-gloved


Sometimes they cry

And sometimes they come

They see just how much

they can tighten the belts


They dress me in pearls

From dead grandmothers’ necks

I’m both victim and muse

And I’m glad I can help



So She Burns It All Down

By R. J. Joseph


The grown-ups stare at the burned circles, perfect in shape.

There is no smoking car.

No cigarette butt telling how the grass on a freeway incline caught

aflame without anyone seeing.

They didn’t know. I know.


I see her, many nights, stalking through the projects.

The giant, dark woman cries,

big, silent tears that flame brightly. Sometimes the tears fizzle out.

But when she weeps plentiful,

molten angst hits the cracked pavement or the sparse patches of grass

around the broken bottles along the gutters.


The monster is sad.

I share her grief. And I am angry.


Trees don’t grow well here, between the broken concrete,

hidden by the empty buildings and smog and garbage.

Even the sun has abandoned us.

I pretend the sound of her feet mask the gunshots and

is the sweet sound of crickets.

It doesn’t drown out the mother’s wails.


I am sad.

She shares my grief. And she is angry.


I watch as she sucks the life from the man who gives candy

to all the kids before he touches them,

invading his body the same way.

She impales the heart of the woman who punches

her toddler in the chest repeatedly.

Ending her life as his threatened to end in her onslaught.


We are both trapped in this place, bound by the eternal injustice

and heartbreak strangling us all.

Destined to creep out at night,

unseen, unknown,

with desperate, drowning tears trying to burn away the despair.


We want to destroy it all.

Kill everything.

So she burns it all down.




By Sara Tantlinger


The howls in your belly won’t stop,

you slice every lupine cry

out of your gut’s cobwebbed cave,

but all those howls, each one swallowed

for a past life, for a sister’s life,

they won’t stop.


Your intestines refuse to release the wolves,

you keep hold of the nausea, regurgitate

as you bleed out, as your organs breathe in

the fresh air of the woods.


Muzzles, pelts, fangs, hackles

spill from your lips

pool into a stew of warm chunks,

lumps of fur, spine, paws

unstick from the bile.


Your vomit coagulation

dances to the howls, reattaches

wet ribbons of steaming meat.

The wolves sew themselves together

with the help of your marrow, eyes,

teeth, hair, and turn the flesh jigsaw

back into a pack of ravenous sisters.


Look at your reflection in the lake’s shimmer.

The moon grows fatter overhead,

you grow hungrier.

Ignore the nausea,

bite into yourself again.


You can keep gnawing the heads

from wolves, but they’ll claw back out,

that same regurgitation

will birth bodies from your lips, again, again,


and again, until you understand,

until you are complete

in this synthesis of wolf and woman.

Honorable Mention


I Am

By Cynthia Pelayo


I learned I was a witch when I cursed my ex-boyfriend beneath my breath

That night his new girlfriend died mangled in a car accident

I tightened my rosary beads around my hand and begged for forgiveness

I prayed aloud hours – Our Father, Hail Mary, The Lords Prayer

But Virgin Mary’s beads snapped in my hands, her pearls crashing onto my floor

I went to confession for my sins, but I still burned my spell candles anointed with

Firey Wall of Protection, Van Van, Come to Me, and Death Unto My Enemy oils

I said Amen as the Father placed the Eucharist on my tongue

While I burned a black candle, praying for the death of a man who spoke to me out of turn

I knelt in front of a suffering Jesus during Good Friday’s Station of the Cross mass

Yet, I sprinkled red brick dust and black salt around the perimeter of my home for protection

I dabbed Holy Water on my forehead as I entered and exited my Catholic Church

And then I burned a bonfire for my sister’s who rode with the Devil on Walpurgis Night

I stood at the lectern, the Bible before me as I read the Gospel aloud to the congregation

Then I inscribed my signature on Marie Laveaus’ tomb asking for Momma Mambo to bless me

I am Jesus’ daughter. I am Voodoo’s child. I am Satan’s lover.

I am neither a Christian nor a Satanist

I am neither a White Witch nor a Black Witch

I am neither a Pagan nor a Santera

I am a Witch, and I bend the fabric of the universe to my desires, demands and to my design



Honorable Mention



By Peter Adam Salomon


Shroud me in a shallow grave
Bury me with wildflower seeds
In an ancient forest
For while life was only rarely beautiful
I want to be a garden

* David E. Cowen is the author of Bleeding Saffronn (Weasel Press 2018), The Madness of Empty Spaces (Weasel Press 2014) and The Seven Yards of Sorrow (Weasel Press September 2016); Editor HWA Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes III (2016) and IV (2017)

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