Horror Writers Association

In May, “Second HWA Horror Poetry Showcase: Featured Poems”


With almost 150 submissions from around the world, the Second HWA Horror Poetry Showcase has come to an end. There was an astounding breadth of subject matter and themes and styles and all of them had one thing in common: the desire to scare the reader, to shine a light into the darkness. It has been a tremendous honor for all those poets to trust their poems to us.

I wanted to thank Linda D. Addison and Heather Graham for their incredible dedication to the Showcase. Many hours were spent discussing these poems and I’m thrilled to finally be able to announce the four Featured poets for the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase.

These four poems went through an intense debate and, in the end, we are incredibly proud to have them represent the Showcase.

In order to get a little behind the scenes view, I asked fellow Judge, Linda D. Addison, about the past month of reading the submitted poems:

“Reading poetry for the HWA Poetry Showcase has been inspiring work. There was a tremendous number of quality poetry, which made judging difficult in the best way. It was all easier because of the other judges who worked without ego and high energy.”

Finally, there will, indeed, be an electronic chapbook of those poems we thought worthy of publication by the HWA. Some of these poems were serious contenders to be Featured and all of them show the incredible talent, creativity and brilliance currently writing dark horror poetry.

In no particular order, here are the four Featured poems:

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

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 niño, 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 niño, 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 niño, 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 holds an M. Litt. in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) and a Baccalaureate in English & American Literature from UC Berkeley. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in various online and print publications, most recently Danse Macabre and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. She lives a quiet life in Spain, though she often surfaces as the Program Director for The Horror Writer’s Workshop in Transylvania, Romania.

For more information: www.workshopwriters.com, Twitter: @TaushaJohnson1 and www.facebook.com/tausha.johnson.94

Lot’s Wife
by Michelle Scalise

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.

Since 1994 Michelle Scalise’s work has appeared in such anthologies as Unspeakable Horror, Darker Side, Dark Arts, The Big Book of Erotic Ghost Stories, Best Womens Erotica and such magazines as Cemetery Dance, Crimewave and Dark Discoveries. She was nominated for the 2010 Spectrum Award which honors outstanding works of fantasy and horror that include positive gay characters, the 2000 Rhysling Award for poetry and the Elgin Award for her poetry collection. Her fiction has received honorable mention in Years Best Fantasy and Horror. Contributing Editor and Senior Reviewer for SFSite chose her first collection, Intervals of Horrible Insanity, as one of the top ten books of 2003. Her fiction collection , Collective Suicide, was published by Crossroad Press in 2012. In 2014 Eldritch Press published a collection of her poetry, The Manufacturer of Sorrow in paperback and ebook. It became a bestseller in the category of women writers on Amazon. She has fiction and poetry appearing soon in the anthologies Discoveries: Best of Horror and Dark Fantasy (The Best of Dark Discoveries), Our World of Horror, Twice Upon a Time and the magazine Space And Time. Michelle is married to bestselling author Tom Piccirilli. Visit her online at www.MichelleScalise.com.

Satan Without Hope of Spontaneous Remission
by Vincent Miskell

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 is an adjunct faculty member at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, FL. His poem “Screen Savior” was nominated for a Rhysling Award, and his humorous SF poem “Our Canine Defense Team” won second place in the Best Poem category in Asimov’s Science Fiction The Twenty-Fifth Annual Readers’ Awards. His poetry has also appeared in Star*Line, TLJ, The Lyric, Mobius, Scavengers, Aoife’s Kiss, and From the Asylum.

His Humorous Parodies & Even Verse is available on his Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Vincent-Miskell/e/B001K8RFXQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

He is also the author of Godspeed Inc.: A Naomi Kinder SF Adventure and the follow-up novel Rescuing the Future. His short fiction has appeared in Rosebud, Millennium, Frontiers, Eclipse, InterText, and in the paperback SF anthology The Age of Wonders.

The Cry Of Autumn Stars
by Mark Fuller Dillon

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 lives in Gatineau, Quebec. He has had stories published in Barbara and Christopher Roden’s ,All Hallows, in John Pelan’s Alone on the Darkside, and in Weird Fiction Review #4. These and other stories can be found in his second ebook, In a Season of Dead Weather. He can be reached through his website at http://markfullerdillon.blogspot.ca/

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