10 Dark Recommendations for National Poetry Month 2022
Dark poetry came along and welcomed me into the world of lyrical prose. Previously, I felt shut out of poetry. It wasn't accessible to me as a reader. I didn't feel like I was the audience for it because whenever I tried to read it, I couldn't make sense of what the author was saying. At the same time, I didn't feel like the author cared if I understood. Poetry can be so intimately written; so personal, its meaning isn't easy to relate to—at least that was my experience. Then, as I began reading everything horror fiction had to offer, I eventually discovered horror poetry. Dark poems. Suddenly everything made sense! I could read whole collections and feel a sense of belonging—a right to be there...I understood. Finally.
Here are some of my poetry recommendations—some I have already read, collections I'm buying, and ones that are on my "to be read" list.
Description: Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, author of La Belle Ajar, brings you a horror poetry collection with mortality, murder, and muerte oozing from every one of these terrifying verses.
My thoughts: I had the incredible honor of reading this early and writing the introduction. Adrian's poetry is identifiably his; poems that are intimately shared in a way that makes you, the reader, feel like they are just for you.
Description: Black Spot Books’ inaugural poetry collection spotlights women in horror, centering on the concept of the body, and featuring work from Bram-Stoker award-winning and nominated authors, as well as dozens of poems from women (cis and trans) and non-binary femmes in horror.
My thoughts: To be perfectly frank, I have a few friends with poems in this book and I want to support their work as well as everyone involved in this project. I love the whole idea of it. The cover is beautiful.
Description: You’ve heard of country girls, and city girls, but what of the forgotten girls from the in-between space of the county? Confronting the things too wild for urban areas, and too methodically malevolent for the countryside, girls from the county are often dismissed by popular narratives, left to solve riddles of grief and rage for themselves. Known for weaving folk horror with confessional poetry, unflinching true crime approaches with myth and fable, contemporary appetites with gothic literature, award-winning author Donna Lynch has composed a lyrical reconstruction for readers to navigate the lives—and deaths—of girls from the county.
My thoughts: I read Choking Back the Devil by Donna Lynch and absolutely fell in love with her voice and style. I'm anticipating this collection to move me in a similar, unsettling and emotional way.
Description: In Pelayo’s new poetry collection, Special Agent K is called to the discovery of the skeletal remains of a child located in a forest. As the investigation unfolds, memory and grueling present are at conflict throughout this poem told in narrative verse, inspired by the classical styles of epic poetry of heroic journeys. Names, dates, people, and events are told in minimalist styles in Crime Scene, as placeholders for all the uncertainties and unknowns which occur during a missing and murdered person case.
My thoughts: I love Cynthia's poetry and storytelling. Her collection, Through the Woods and All the Way Through from last year was an incredible read. I've read about a dozen poems from this collection and I can say with confidence that this one is going to hook even more new fans. I love how Cynthia relentlessly gives a loud voice to victims of violence. Her poetry speaks to the yearning in my heart for justice and closure.
Get Crime Scene at Raw Dog Screaming
Description: Raw Dog Screaming Press is thrilled to announce a book deal for Writing Poetry in the Dark, a craft book for speculative poets, by speculative poets. Edited by Bram Stoker award-winning author Stephanie M. Wytovich, with a foreword by one of the genre’s most celebrated authors, Tim Waggoner, this book meditates on craft, genre, style, and form as acclaimed SF/F/H poets come together to talk about their process, outlook, and approach to writing and incorporating the speculative into their poems.
My thoughts: Stephanie Wytovich is one of my favorite voices in poetry. I feel like a book breaking down the craft and the mechanics of writing poetry might unlock its secrets even more for readers like me that struggle sometimes but enjoy venturing into it now and then.
Get Writing Poetry in the Dark at Raw Dog Screaming
Description: Exposed Nerves continues the explorations into dark poetry by Stoker Award winner and Shirley Jackson Award nominee Lucy A. Snyder, pairing the author’s sly wordplay and imagery with grim introspection. By turns challenging, wryly amusing and gut-wrenching, Snyder’s work plumbs bittersweet catharsis and maps a survivor’s path through dangerous worlds, both the real and the horrifically imagined.
My thoughts: I’m glad I got to read this before the voting ballot comes in a few days! So many of these poems I read several times before I felt ready to move on to the next. My favorite section was Part II, dealing with health issues and the emotional trauma that can visit upon us (especially specific to women and our struggles).
Description: A formidable collection of poems that deconstructs the notion of "otherness" through folklore and myth. An unflinching shapeshifter, Beast at Every Threshold dances between familial hauntings and cultural histories, intimate hungers and broader griefs. Memories become malleable, pop culture provides a backdrop to glittery queer love, and folklore speaks back as a radical tool of survival. With unapologetic precision, Natalie Wee unravels constructs of "otherness" and names language our most familiar weapon, illuminating the intersections of queerness, diaspora, and loss with obsessive, inexhaustible ferocity — and in resurrecting the self rendered a site of violence, makes visible the Beast at Every Threshold.
My thoughts: The promise of deconstructing otherness through folklore and myth sounds perfect for me. I love finding new voices. I'm optimistic that Natalie Wee is going to be new favorite—I'm ready to fall in love with this collection!
Description: Winner of the Wren Poetry Prize selected by Ada Limón, Caitlin Scarano’s collection wrestles with family violence, escaping home, unraveling relationships, and the complexity of sexuality.
My thoughts: I read this about Caitlin Scarano: "Scarano’s imagination is galvanized by the South where she grew up and by the Pacific Northwest where she now resides—floods and wildfires, the Salish Sea and the North Cascades, and the humans and animals whose lives intersect and collide there." I found this alluring since I live in the Pacific Northwest too. This collection expresses themes of family trauma against environmental violence. I'm interested.
Description: Sun Yung Shin calls her readers into the unknown now-future of the human species, an underworld museum of births, deaths, evolutions, and extinctions.Smashing the hierarchies of god and humanity, heaven and hell, in favor of indigenous Korean shamanism and animism, The Wet Hex layers an apocalyptic revision of nineteenth-century imagery of the sublime over the present, conjuring a reality at once beautiful and terrible.
My thoughts: I'm interested in the way this collection promises to explore Korean myths infused with themes of femininity and smashing the patriarchy. It sounds enchanting and powerful.
10. "Eros & Thanatos: An Anthology of Death & Desire" edited by Cassandra L. Thompson, Damon Barret Roe (Feb. 2022)
Description: Freud once theorized that human beings are subject to two drives: love (Eros) and death (Thanatos). While his psychoanalytic theory has long been expanded upon, no one can argue how fundamental love and death is to our existence. Within this collection are twelve stories that explore the fine line that exists between the two concepts. Featuring a diverse group of authors, these stories seek to intrigue, inspire, and—since it is a Quill & Crow anthology—haunt you, too.
My thoughts: I follow one of the editors, Cassandra L. Thompson, on Twitter, and learned about her Quill & Crow publishing house as well as many of the poets who are in this anthology. I'm looking forward to reading a variety of poems from different people so I can find new poets to follow. The theme appeals to me.
Happy National Poetry Month, everyone! Let us know what you are reading.
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