"And so being young and dipped in folly I fell in love with melancholy." (Edgar Allan Poe)
Poe has long been the go-to poet for everything dark, scary and downright depressing. Murder, madness and blood fill his short stories, his verse, and even his life. Who hasn't read The Tell-Tale Heart or The Black Cat and found themselves lying awake past midnight, scared of the shadows of tree branches moving across the wall? But Poe isn't the only master of dark poetry out there, and he wasn't the last person to fill his stanzas with the creepy, the ghoulish and the ugly. The following are modern examples of visceral poetry that use death, garbage, gore and violence as a conduit for poetic commentary on the horrors of real life. They may not be about haunted houses and ghosts, but they are stunningly memorable.
The Möbius Strip Club of Grief by Bianca Stone
Like Dante in The Divine Comedy, Bianca Stone imagines herself as a living poet passing through the realm of the dead and recording their goings-on. Only instead of Dante's seven layers of hell, The Möbius Strip Club of Grief imagines a burlesque purgatory where the dead drink, party and pay--both with money and conscious--to watch the fellow dead perform scandalous acts. In this deeply personal and ghostly collection, Stone confronts her own family history after her mother's death in an attempt to break the never-ending cycle of grief.
Autobiography of a Wound by Brynne Rebele-Henry
In ancient fertility carvings, artists would drill holes into the wood of the female figure to represent penetrability. It is in this practice that Brynne Rebele-Henry bases her collection, which celebrates femininity while at the same time lamenting the extreme violence that women have faced throughout history. She reconstructs the idea of the girl as hysterical, as an object of fertility, and as something that men can drill holes into for the sake of art. With a wound explored on every page and visceral violence at the center of this collection, Brynne Rebele-Henry captures her readers with a fearless urgency and turns her poems into living, breathing things that will haunt your dreams.
Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón
In a luminous, yet accessible style, Ada Limón explores the strangeness of life and the chaos of living in such a disorderly world. A poet who frequently wears her heart on her sleeve, Limón traces her life in intimate detail from New York to rural Kentucky as she makes mistakes, falls in love, and ages into a beautifully flawed and extraordinary person. Unflinching in her examination of mortality and the grossness of everyday life, Limón teaches readers to embrace the present moment and live as messily as they please. As she writes in her book, "I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying."
Witch Wife by KiKi Petrosino
With wit and startling diction, KiKi Petrosino's incantation-like poems are a spell book for generations of powerful women. Her sestinas, villanelles, and free verse sing hauntingly to mourn the dead, conjure children and bring forth confidence in spirit and body. With her hallucinogenic and haunting words, Petrosino summons history's ghosts to the brew and blood of her witchy poems.
Mad Honey Symposium by Sally Wen Mao
Dynamic and visceral, painful and lovely, Mad Honey Symposium buzzes with sharp imagery and unique sound. While creating a lush natural world that is constantly in flux, Sally Wen Mao straddles the line between the vulnerable and the ferociousness of nature and femininity. Her words are frightening and intensely real, making her an exciting and powerful new voice in poetry today.