Why Horror Poetry?
Written by S P Oldham
I have a special fondness for poetry. I am aware that I am not well-versed (pardon the pun) in the technical aspects, that I know next to nothing about metre and so forth. I simply enjoy the flow of words, the pleasing alliteration, the enigmatic metaphors and fluid rhythms. I don’t for one moment, therefore, dare to call myself ‘a poet.’
But I don’t let that put me off dabbling in the art, so to speak, from time to time. I write and enjoy many kinds of poetry with many different themes, yet I have to say that there is something especially alluring about Dark Poetry.
I think this is in part due to the brevity of a poem in comparison to a short story or a novel, for one thing. You can get your fix of horror and chills in one brief read, when there is not time to sit and devour a longer piece. That is only one factor, though
I think that the very form lends itself quite beautifully to horror. You can evoke a genre merely by choosing the form. Short, choppy words, even a list poem, might lend itself quite nicely to a slasher/killer theme, for example:
Handle, slick, knife, blade
Run, quick, slip, slayed
Hack, chop, cut, gash
Sharp, sever, rip, slash
Carefully crafted, intriguing sentences might be just the thing for creating a creepy atmosphere, a frightening ambience, something like this:
There was a light, out in the hall; its flame burned bright, burned bold and tall
That light beguiled, that sweet flame beckoned, and so I answered to its call
Yet when I stepped upon the stair, that amber glow receded, died
As the darkness wrapped its cloak about me, I understood that light had lied
Lengthier verses might perhaps be perfect for telling a haunting story.
They talk, the people, of a place
They speak of it in whispered tones
They nudge and look, that glance a warning
Stay away! Don’t go near! Always knowing
That to a stranger, such a prohibition
Is as good as invitation
They spoke, the people, to the man
They whispered it in waiting ears
He heard and shook, took in their glances
Went anyway. Hid his fear. Never knowing
They would be the very last to see him
That goodbye a requiem
Like I said, a long way from perfect, not technically correct in any way, I just wanted to provide an example. As I said, I am not a poet in the true sense of the word. Why not have a go yourself, see what happens.
That is another thing I love about poetry. You can get away with rich language and flamboyant phrasing; just as you can in prose, I think. In a story there is not such licence for heavily descriptive language. Too much description, too much ‘floweriness’ puts the reader off and distracts from the plotline. Not that you can go too crazy in poetry either, but there is certainly more room for it in that medium.
Another thing I love about writing poetry is the opportunity to be a bit clever. Not too much so – no one wants to have to work that hard when they are reading a poem. This is the perfect time to introduce something just slightly cryptic, to make the reader pause and think, only for a moment or two, before they get that ‘Eureka!’ moment and realise they get it; they understand what the author means here. That, hopefully, they can identify with, too.
The flip-side of this reader-realisation is yet another aspect of poetry I truly enjoy and that I find supremely interesting. The reader may or may not pick up on what the poet was alluding to, but they do come up with an interpretation all of their own. Something completely different and far removed for the original meaning, that is nonetheless valid for all that. I have had some interesting conversations, even debates, with authors and readers alike on this subject. It is amazing how many scenarios and meanings can be derived from just one well-crafted or compelling sentence, and how an individual’s experiences, backgrounds, expectations etc… can inform how they read a poem. Fascinating!
But why horror poetry in particular? The answer for me, is that I find the combination of the lilting, sometimes deceptively gentle medium of poetry, coupled with the sinister, half-hidden, shadowed world of dark writing is nothing less than completely seductive. When combined, the two can result in a piece of writing that you find yourself mulling over time and again, perhaps even reciting a line or two aloud or in your head. It is deeply alluring, and it can also be shocking. It carries impact, as much as any other form of writing in the horror genre.
It is a personal thing, and another aspect of poetry I have had many interesting conversations about over the years, but I see no reason why horror poetry cannot also be rhyming poetry. I like both rhyming and non-rhyming, whatever the subject may be. Yet I have known people who are adamant that rhyming verse does not belong in horror. I have also known people who insist that rhyming poetry is a thing of the past, and only non-rhyming verse deserves to be called poetry. Each to their own but I have to say, I disagree with both. Who knew poetry could be so controversial?!
I will finish with a spooky little poem of my own. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to drop in on me on any of my social media platforms, or on my website, if you happen to like what you read. Thank you and have a great Women in Horror Month!
In the depths of the woods, where nothing good goes
A twisted tree, gnarled and ancient, grows
Its spindly boughs reach out, like arms
To bear the weight of its eerie charms
For the rotten limbs of this forsaken tree
Are the purpose of the Suspendery;
Here hang things that twirl and spin
That rock and twist; that spit and grin
Here a bloodied horse tail whips
Frowning beneath, a brace of lips
See over there: that shred of lace?
That mourning veil still hides a face
A withered nerve rotates an eyeball
Like some gory Christmas bauble
And over there, a wreath of hands
Makes signs that no one understands
Bunting, made from blackened hide,
Strings tinsel-like all round the side
Whilst down the trunk in dark, wet trails
Blood oozes like the slime of snails
There is a fence of teeth and bones
A gate of skulls, a bell of moans
A ‘Welcome’ sign, with the ‘L’ scratched out
A warning to the wise? Or word to the devout?
Yet no one knows who visits this spot
Who hangs the offerings; who leaves to rot
The flesh of the dead, the parts of the defiled;
Who glories in what should be reviled
All you will discover, should you be fool enough to go
Are words clawed into the bark, many moons ago:
“You are come to the Suspendery; weary traveller, bear in mind;
That ere you go from this place, you leave part of you behind…”
S P Oldham
S P Oldham
S P Oldham lives in the beautiful Sirhowy Valley in South Wales. She has always enjoyed writing and has recently ventured into self-publishing, Although she writes mainly horror and dark fiction, she likes to dabble in other genres from time to time. She is also an avid reader.
S P Oldham currently has five horror fiction books available on Amazon. Three of these make up The Mindless Trilogy – The Zombie Apocalypse: Where a Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing.
The other two books are short story collections. Hag’s Breath: A Collection Witchcraft and Wickedness, and Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales. Wakeful Children is also available in paperback.
You can find me on the following platforms:
On my website, So Lost in Words: https://solostinwords.com/
My Amazon book page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01N2LSUMX
S P Oldham https://www.facebook.com/solostinwords/
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