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Poets of the Dark: Interview with Hillary Dodge


Hillary Dodge is an award-winning editor and author of several speculative short fictions and poetry, as well as three nonfiction books. She spends a good deal of time traveling, going places that are forbidden, and eating. She once had tea with a Roma in a cave in the mountains of Spain. Another time found her eight hours from civilization in the heart of the Atacama with a mad desert hermit. She has been published in online magazines, podcasts, and print anthologies, including Pseudopod, the HWA Poetry Showcase, Space Squid, Hellbound Books, D&T Publishing, & Hex Publishers. She is a co-editor of Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas (Hex Publishers, 2021), which was awarded the 2022 Colorado Book Award in the category of Anthology.

What sparked your interest in horror poetry? Was there a particular event or work that inspired you to delve into the darker side of poetry? 

I have always found poetry to be challenging and mysterious which is part of its draw. Although I hesitate to call myself a Poet, I do write dark poetry. I like the form because it allows for different levels of exploration within a theme or topic. A poem enables word and voice play and gives a platform for the sound of emotions and experiences.


Can you describe your creative process when writing horror poetry? Do you have any rituals or techniques that help you tap into your darkest fears and bring them to life on the page? 

I usually start with an emotion and tie this to imagery via a larger metaphor or story. Balancing the sounds of words with double meanings is always a bit of a puzzle which I find intellectually stimulating and a heck of a lot of fun. Like my fiction, I begin most poems with a fully formed line that I build upon. I don’t always keep that opener, but it does provide a doorway to finding the rest of the poem.


How do you balance the need to be evocative and disturbing with the constraints of poetic structure and form? Are there any particular strategies you use to create tension and build suspense in your horror poems? 

This is absolutely a balance that must be tended to with intention. I think stronger poets think this through and try out different iterations before finding what works. I’m still learning how to do this, so I enjoy reading the works of other poets and playing with imagery and form in my own work. I rely heavily upon the sounds of words to build tension and evoke emotions – alliteration, assonance, anaphora, cacophony – all the tricks!


Who are some of your favorite horror poetry inspirations? Are there any authors or poets whose work you admire and draw inspiration from when crafting your own dark verse? 

I take a lot of inspiration from the romantic poets of the 18th century. I remember discovering the concept of the sublime in college and it was like having the floor taken out from beneath me – limitless possibilities. One of my favorite poems of all time is Poe’s “City in the Sea.”


Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring horror poets who want to explore the genre? Are there any particular challenges or pitfalls they should be aware of, and how can they overcome them to create truly terrifying poetry? 

Read, read, read, read, and then read some more. And read all kinds of poetry and fiction, read them aloud and with different accents while wearing costumes. Bath yourself in the sounds of words.

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