Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Horror of Poets at GreyDogTales interviewed by John Linwood Grant

I was recently interviewed by John Linwood Grant, editor of the amazing Occult Detective Quarterly, along with two other poets, Angela Yuriko Smith and Anita Stewart.  You can find the interview on the greydogtales blog.

(This is awesome!)

The Poets Speak

Greydog: We’ll start with a political statement. John Barr, President of the Poetry Foundation, once wrote:

“…different kinds of poetry don’t communicate, don’t do business with one another… The advocates of each know what they like, and it’s definitely not what the others are doing. The result is a poetry world of broad divides, a balkanized system of poetries with their own sovereign audiences, prizes, and heroes. The only thing they share is the word poetry, and that not willingly.”

Is that something you recognise when writing and disseminating your work? Is horror or dark poetry an even tinier corner of the Poetic Balkans?

Angela: No, I don’t agree with Barr on the divisiveness in poetry. Yes, we tend to stay close to the genre closest to our hearts. As a child, I read Poe. When I started writing, of course I tried to mimic him. I have remained close to that vein. I didn’t know what genre was, I just knew what I liked.

I don’t see poets as divided as much as just different. I view poetry the same way I see nationality and race. No race or culture is better than another. Rather, the diversity is complimentary. The best culture and poetry cross-pollinates.

Lately I’ve been borrowing elements from science fiction and romance as well as trying out new poetic forms. The wonderful thing about poetry, and art in general, is the experimentation.

Anita: Certain things appeal to certain people of course, but enforced divides seem a bit silly and unnecessary to me, and I rarely pay attention to those partitions. I write poetry. Period. I write about different ideas in different ways, but it all comes from me. Sometimes I’m in the mood to pen fantasy or sci-fi verse, sometimes it’s all about the emotional angst. And sometimes I just need to raise the undead or let the serial killers wax poetic. It’s all about the whimsy of the muse with me. My books are usually a poetry mishmash, my volumes of horror haiku being the exception.

Ashley: That’s definitely something I recognize when submitting my work and I do think genre poetry (speculative genre) is in a tinier corner. There seems to be a clash of metrical poetry and free verse and then restricting that further by making it horror themed.

Greydog: And when it comes to reading poetry for pleasure, rather than writing it, are you more a classical or a modern enthusiast? Is there a particular period which enthuses you, or do you regularly flit across the borders?

Angela: I’m very fickle in my reading and tend to read whatever is in front of me. Even badly written work is good to spark ideas and new perspectives. I do have poets I tend towards. I admire the work of both Ashley and Anita. Recent new favourites include Marge Simon, Bryan Thao Worra, John Reinhart, Linda Addison, Bruce Boston and new poet Laura Duerrwaechter.

My comfort poetry, however, is usually classic. I adore Edgar Allen Poe. I have read “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes still makes me swoon and wish I had long black hair to plait dark red love knots into. I also like Frost, Bradbury, Carroll… and anything irreverent, in poor taste or rude.

Anita: Although I’m game to read most any poetry whatever the style, I’m more of a classical gal at heart. I lean towards the Romantic Era and poets like Coleridge, Poe, Byron and Shelley, as well as Victorian Era poetry and writers such as the Brownings and Tennyson. I do like a lyrical, flowing style as reader, more so than the often irregular rhythms used by more modern poets.

Ashley: I tend to read more classical poetry than modern for it seems you can find more formal verse in the classics than in modern poetry. Victorian era to the 1930’s, roughly.

Greydog: What do you see as the virtues of writing poetry, as opposed to prose? Does poetry bring freedom, or discipline, for example?

Angela: I see poetry and prose as facets of the same jewel. I like to play and write the same story in both. My story, “The Braid” has a poem written to accompany it. I am writing a story to accompany my poem “Death Waits.”

Poetry allows us to tell a story in a different way, in nuance rather than detail. It’s the difference between an experience, and dreaming of an experience. It takes prose down to the shadows, warps the edges and thins the veil. It’s the same horizon viewed sideways, while squinting, in twilight.

All writing is discipline. Poetry pulls out the essence of a story. It’s a way to see the bones of a thing.

Anita: For me, poetry is the more emotional of the two processes, and I put more pieces of my soul in my poems. I find there’s added freedom in writing poetry over prose, for while they both have their own discipline and rules of the craft, poetry is far more forgiving towards breaking those rules. With poetry, especially when doing free verse, there’s a sit down and let it flow attitude, a more spontaneous combustion of creation. I think there is an added independence of expression in my poetry, and maybe some subversive undertones as well. I like the naturally subjective nature of poetry that allows for more commentary on the human condition and the philosophical nature of existence. Plus, I can rhyme stuff.

Ashley: Poetry tells tales without cutting back, or out, rich language and vivid imagery. Prose’s point is to get a story across and often sacrifice’s imagery and even descriptions of people and settings. Poetry encourages us to pull out every piece; every scent, every texture, every sight, and put it on paper. It gives us freedom to be creative and imaginative in our descriptions but if you write in form, it requires discipline to fit every piece perfectly into the puzzle.

Greydog: What are the major themes you use your own poetry to explore?

Angela: Major themes in my work include freedom from fear and acceptance of flawed and damaged self.

It galls me that we program our children with fear as they grow. We think we are protecting them, but really we are emotionally shackling them. We gasp when they are near a spider, scoop them up and run away. Then we go back and squash the offensive creature that was merely trying to live, no threat to anyone.

We watch the fictional mob attack the monster with torches and pitchforks and think we aren’t like them. We fool ourselves to think we have understanding and compassion for that which doesn’t fit on our scale of acceptance. We switch the TV off then and grab our pitchforks. We lie to ourselves. If I could squash anything, it would be fear. Fear is justified ignorance.

One of my favourite soapboxes is also accepting ourselves as we are. I dislike how we are told to think outside of the box, but scolded if we colour outside of the lines. We are told to be anything we want, and then given a list of appropriate career paths. We tend to hide who we are to be acceptable, but I bet if we could strip away all the pretence we would see that we are all pretty monstrous—and it’s okay. Maybe if we were more open and accepting of our flaws they wouldn’t fester so much.

Anita: Generally themes that keep repeating in my poems are Celtic myth and places, death, the moon, the sea, outer space, pain, and TV shows. I like to set the light against the dark and explore the “what ifs” and the “maybes” of the universe and folklore.

I also write about things I take an interest in or enjoy, as with my Celtic themes and the aforementioned TV shows. To date I’ve enshrined Supernatural, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Copper, and Justified in the indelible ink of poetry, and I have a nice collection of Irish and Scottish themed poems.

Ashley: I like to tell stories, or hints of stories, in my poetry. My poems often tell a why, a how, and a who like prose, but does not sacrifice imagery, detail, and language. My poems encompass horror, dark fantasy, fantasy, and Gothic themes.

Greydog: We’re not hung up on meters and feet, but do you have a form in which you particularly like to write?

Angela: I do write a lot of haiku when I’m busy or exhausted. They are quick, creative little nuggets that satisfy my creative itches and I like to feel like they connect me with my Asian side, although American haiku isn’t anything like traditional, Japanese haiku, I found out.

Lately I’ve been playing a lot with pantuoms. When I first saw a pantuom I thought it was a stifling, artificial poetry vehicle, so I had to try it. I fell in love. It reminds me of cutting letters out of a magazine to make a ransom note. The phrases are cut up and re-pasted, creating different meanings. They feel distant to me, slightly surreal. I find that appealing.

Anita: I’m glad we’re not hung up on meter; I avoid writing metered poems as my attempts tend to leave me with a headache. I prefer forms with repetition, such as the Chant, Catena Rondo, the Trimeric or Cascade. I like writing forms that interconnect or build on themselves. And I also enjoy the haiku, and other non-Western forms.

Ashley: I tend to write in iambic pentameter but I am also fond of writing in Alexandrines (iambic hexameter). You’ll find sonnets, couplets, and rondels in my work.

Greydog: You’ve all published your work. What’s it like trying to get your poetry into the marketplace?

Angela: I’ve been very lucky. I’m impatient, so I’ve self published mostly, but that has opened a lot of doors for me because I have a large body of work to show. I’ve just started seeking to be published in other publications in the last year and have done well. Just about everything I’ve submitted has been accepted. I attribute that to all the self publishing I did.

We all write crappy in the beginning. I lucked out because I published all my crappy stuff myself instead of collecting rejection notes. I’ve recently gone and taken everything I think is terrible out of print. As far as being paid for poetry, though, I couldn’t live off of it. I write speculative fiction and poetry out of love. I write children’s books because they sell.

Anita: Getting it into the marketplace is easy. Getting it to do more than sit on a virtual shelf like a lump, that’s the real trick. If I ever master it, I’ll let you know. As of now, my poetry books are more of a labour of love than commerce.

Ashley: It was extremely hard for me to find outlets that publish horror and dark poetry. While I was trying to hit my 10 paid with pro rates ($5) mark, to qualify for HWA Active status, I was struggling to find publishers who fit that requirement. I decided that I would make a list of pro rate paying speculative genre poetry markets. I searched every horror market listing and checked out every publisher, magazine, press, and ezine to see if they took poetry and paid pro rates for it. This took over 2 years to do. That included submitting to the markets to see how they worked as well as emailing editors to ask if they did take poetry (if it wasn’t clear). I currently have my list and it contains 69 pro paying speculative genre poetry markets. I’m waiting for Occult Detective Quarterly to make it number 70 (Ashley’s list link is given later below).

Greydog: Finally, do you like the work of Edith Sitwell? If not, why not. This is a crucial test question.

Angela: I confess, this is the first time I’ve heard the name. Upon a quick bit of internet research, I will say I want to know her better. My impression is that she is a lady I would have been friends with. She seems to have had a total disregard for social propriety, ignored sexual ‘correctness,” and proper fashion. I share her view of parents.

I also liked the fact that she didn’t keep herself in a vacuum, dedicated to only one art. Creativity in all its manifestations was welcome in her world. She seemed to be an exuberant, improper bon vivante.

As of this moment, I have only read “Tournez, Tournez, Bon Chevaux De Bois.“ I love it. Insightful, unconventional and with cutting humour, just as I picture her from my brief glimpse. Ask me again in a few months what I think of her. She is on my reading list now.

Anita: Oh dear. I’m afraid I have no opinion as I haven’t read her work yet. Did I fail the test?

Ashley: I’ve never heard of her until I got this question. I quickly looked at a few of her poems and have to say she’s not bad.

Greydog: Everyone is, of course, forgiven on that last one. We offer our thanks to Angela, Anita and Ashley for participating. Whether you’re duck-mad for horror poets, a passing browser, or a sceptic, you should be able to find something of interest in their work. Do check them out below.


Angela Yuriko Smith’s published works span multiple genres. Her writing career includes writing, editing and publishing for newspapers and writing both non-fiction and fiction. She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award.

Angela’s online home is at http://angelaysmith.com/  and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/angelayurikosmith. She’s on Twitter, Instagram and all, and her books can be found on Amazon at:  https://www.amazon.com/Angela-Yuriko-Smith/e/B0053YHTO8

The books she is working on now are Bitter Suites, about a hotel that specializes in recreational suicide experiences, and a poetry collection titled Alters and Oubliettes. Both will be released in 2018. For the rest of this year she is writing children’s books for the Everly Everywhere series with her husband, R. A. Smith, editing his first fantasy novel and promoting her poetry memoir, Escape Claws.


Anita (A F) Stewart is a steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, who still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being dark fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author she’s published novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction.

In addition to her existing and forthcoming speculative fiction, Anita’s second book of horror poetry, Horror Haiku Pas de Deux, has just been published. You can find her across the web in various guises:

Website: https://afallonblog.wordpress.com/

Blog: http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/scribe77

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/afstewartauthor/

Facebook Fan Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/348788975590362/

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