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Horror Poetry Perfect for Halloween

We all know the classic poems that become popular around spooky season. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". "The Witches' Spell" from William Shakespeare's from Macbeth. But we are living in a golden age of contemporary horror poetry. This little corner of the poetic world is flourishing and that is worth celebrating!

Here, we offer you ten contemporary poetry collections that set the perfect tone for Halloween.

Rivers in Your Skin, Sirens in Your Hair by Marisca Pichette (Android Press, 2023)

From the publisher:

"What will you bring with you down the path, through the hills and into the woods? Fragments, stories, living things? Echoes of the past, promises for the future? In fifty new and collected poems, Marisca Pichette celebrates myth, folklore, and memory. Her poems traverse landscapes both real and imagined, taking inherited tales and retelling them through a queer lens. From dusk into the night and out again at dawn, her work offers you a magical journey in speculative verse."

Bad Omens by Jessica Drake-Thomas (Querencia Press, 2023)

From the publisher:

"'Bad Omens by Jessica Drake-Thomas begets a canticle of death and resurrection, a spell for love and revenge, a bellow to claw your way out of the dark and back into this world with fire in your heart. Gothic and mystical, this occult collection drips with saccharine siren songs that tear you apart and inspire righteous anger. Readers will be haunted, enticed, and moved to be true to the darkness in their hearts and ‘let the wolves loose.''

—Grace R. Reynolds, author of Lady of The House

'… a seance, a collection of shadows. These poems are both plague and witch, a journey into the burning, a dance into the violent. Best enjoyed with a cup of black tea, readers will siphon the poison off these pages, kiss the death that awaits between each word.'

—Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning poet of Brothel. '"

Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell by Stephanie Parent (Querencia Press, 2022)

From the publisher:

"Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell is a collection that uses fairytale-themed poetry to express the modern-day struggle of women and their fight against oppression. The retellings lose none of the magic of the original stories but open up the reader's eyes to the darkness that has been lurking behind women all along."

The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti (Weasel Press)

From the publisher:

"In this dark poetry collection, witches escape stakes, wells, and other prisons with the help of their arcane saint. Girls dream of queer ghosts and carnivorous angels. Ghouls visit their lovers beyond the grave, while medical experiments seek a forever home. Bodies are dismantled and remade, despised and celebrated. Anti-heroines bare their blood-dripping teeth. In The Saint of Witches, there’s no telling who will sink, or swim."

The Withering: Poems of Supernatural Horror by Ashley Dioses (Jackanapes Press, 2020)

From the publisher:

"In these poems, Ashley Dioses evokes an unrelenting sequence of raw, carnal images sure to delight all fans of the morbid and the macabre. Down frightful corridors both internal and external, the poetess leads us through the cobwebs of the natural world, through the entrance to a realm of sorcery, demons, and the undead. Emerging from this twilight Otherworld, harrowed by haunting sensations, we find ourselves questioning sanity as we stumble upon a surgical suite filled with delectable selections of bloody delights. Treat yourself to some cemetery necromancy, or sit back and enjoy a nice cloying sorbet with The Withering."

Past the Glad and Sunlit Season by K.A. Opperman (Jackanapes Press, 2020)

From the publisher:

"K. A. Opperman conjures up a pageant of autumnal imagery sure to delight all fans of the Halloween season. Often recalling the charming rhymes on vintage postcards, these poems take us on a stirring journey deep into October’s heart, offering treats—and a few tricks—to those brave enough to follow the jack-o’-lantern’s orange grin into the night. Put on your costume, grab your pumpkin-shaped treat-bucket, and come discover what treasures are to be found past the glad and sunlit season, where both the dying year—and youth itself—confront what it means to face the darkness at summer’s end."

A Complex Accident of Life by Jessica McHugh (Apokrupha, 2020)

From the publisher:

"Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jessica McHugh’s debut poetry collection, A Complex Accident of Life, combines visual art and text to create 52 pieces of Gothic blackout poetry exploring the intense passion, enigmatic nature, and transformative pleasure of life, viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of a female horror artist."

A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2020)

From the publisher:

"A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng is an exploration of the darkness inside us, the shadow-self that screams and begs, forever fighting to claw itself out. It’s a siren song of transformation, an uncovered diary that bleeds fairy tales and dystopias, and it reads like a grimoire full of spells and curses that bring monsters and madmen to life.

Between these pages, readers will meet women who hide behind the taste of poison apples, who set themselves on fire, who weep at riverbanks, the taste of freedom too much to swallow, too heavy to bear. They will be whisked away to faraway lands and unimaginable worlds, the drip of fog-soaked dreams a steady flow down their throats while they choke on betrayal and bathe in the waters of tears twice cried.

Sng’s poems are a blend of dark fantasy and science fiction, both a changeling’s whisper and an ogre’s cry. They are both subtle and violent, and they weave themes of empowerment and strength through stars and earthquakes, forcing us to push away the rubble and look at what we’ve had to do to survive. They are the sacrifice in the forest and the haunting in the house, every gasp and ancient fear a reflection of the violence we’ve had to bury deep inside ourselves, all those battle cries and reimagined dreams we desperately try to forget. Here, Sng marries blood and magic, forever walking hand-in-hand with scar and ash, their imprints both a nightmare and a blessing, a dream and the truth.

Swallow them carefully. Once they’re inside you, there’s no getting them out."

Choking Back the Devil by Donna Lynch (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2019)

From the publisher:

"Choking Back the Devil by Donna Lynch is an invocation, an ancient invitation that summons the darkness within and channels those lonely spirits looking for a host. It’s a collection that lives in the realm of ghosts and family curses, witchcraft and urban legends, and if you’re brave enough to peek behind the veil, the hauntings that permeate these pages will break seals and open doorways, cut throats and shatter mirrors.

You see, these poems are small drownings, all those subtle suffocations that live in that place between our ribs that swells with panic, incubates fear. Lynch shows her readers that sometimes our shadow selves—our secrets—are our sharpest weapons, the knives that rip through flesh, suture pacts with demons, cut deals with entities looking for more than a homecoming, something better, more intimate than family.

It’s about the masks we wear and the reflections we choose not to look at, and what’s most terrifying about the spells is these incantations show that we are the possessed, that we are our greatest monster, and if we look out of the corner of our eyes, sometimes—if we’ve damned ourselves enough—we can catch a glimpse of our own burnings, what monstrosities and mockeries we’re to become.

So cross yourselves and say your prayers. Because in this world, you are the witch and the hunter, the girl and the wolf."

I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland (GlassPoet Press, 2018)

From the publisher:

"I Am Not Your Final Girl, a collection of feminist-horror poems about final girls, is now available. The poems confront the role of women throughout history in relation to subjects such as feminism, violence, motherhood, and sexuality. Each poem is based on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through violence and their own perceived monstrousness."

What's your favorite poem to read around this time of year?

[Image Credit: photo by Lucie Liz via Pexels]

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Pauline Verona
Pauline Verona
18 oct 2023

What a fabulous and haunting collection of poetry. A perfect Halloween gift.

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