While far too many people see horror as a lowbrow form of entertainment, there's so much more to the genre than what lies at the surface. Horror is an exploration of darkness, of human suffering, and of collective anxiety and terror. Without deep, insightful emotion, horror would nothing.
Related: These Emotionally Devastating Horror Books Will Shatter You
For all the feeling the genre conjures, it's no surprise that there is a wealth of remarkable horror poetry collections. These poems dive into the heart of fear, carving out pain and loss with artful form and nuanced imagery. Who said there's no art in inducing nightmares? Here are eight horror poetry books to freshen up your bookshelf.
I Am Not Your Final Girl
The Final Girl trope has taken the horror genre by storm. We watch them fight for their lives and hobble away right before the credits roll. But how much do we truly know about them? About their state of mind?
This beautiful poetry collection by Claire C. Holland pays homage to all of the iconic Final Girls of horror history. Opening up their stories to examine their roles in a context of feminism, sexuality, violence, empowerment, and healing, this book follows these beloved fictional characters on a deeply personal journey. From Halloween's Laurie Strode to The Witch's Thomasin, readers walk a poetic path of reclaiming feminine monstrosity.
How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend
While this collection contains short stories alongside its poetry, it's a fair exception to make for the collection of the first African-American to receive the Bram Stoker award—which she has, to date, won five times. Linda Addison combines horror and science fiction to take readers through the odd and endearing corners of her mind. There are demons everywhere, and in this book they're found in the jealous ghost across the street, the inter-dimensional dreams of an American Indian, and even within the grumbling stomachs of cannibals. As much as it will unsettle you, this fantastic read will also keep you laughing.
Choking Back the Devil
This poetry collection pulls no punches as it weaves nuanced tales of ghosts, curses, urban legends, and witchcraft. Spinning a dark and deeply resonant tone, Donna Lynch shows off her expertise in body horror and burrowing deep beneath readers' skin. These chilling poems force moments of self-reflection, making us confront our own shadowy corners. Sharp, tormented, and nightmarish, this collection will leave you a different person than you were when you first picked it up.
A Collection of Nightmares
Tired of sweet dreams? After picking up this collection, you'll never have to worry about them again. This short collection will drag you through nightmares that will stick with you through all your waking hours. Follow your dastardly dreams to the moments at the end of the world, to whispers in your crawlspace, to sacrifice, poison, and blood.
Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry For Your...Brains
Poetry doesn't always have to take itself so seriously—even when it's horror. This collection exclusively features haikus, with the conceit that they've been penned by an undead poet. These 5-7-5 syllable poems track the firsthand experience of one writer's journey through the zombie apocalypse. Moving from his infection to his last moments, the story unravels one three-line bite at a time.
Undead: A Poetry Anthology Of Ghosts And Ghouls
This riveting horror poetry anthology includes works from more than seven dozen contributors. All of these macabre poems are centered on the subject of what happens after death. Touching on all manner of chills from vampires, angels, automatons, or ghouls, this collection works every angle of legend, folklore, and myth. With a diverse range of styles, this is a wonderful place to start if you're dipping your toe into horror poetry for the first time.
The Withering: Poems of Supernatural Horror
Looking for a horror poetry experience that's even more immersive? This collection by Ashley Dioses comes complete with visceral illustrations. The poetry found here begins in the darkness of our natural world, but winds through the unstoppable terrors of sorcery, demonic activity, and the undead. As Dioses's words evoke a disturbing carnality, the artwork by notable weird artist Mutartis Boswell will paint these horrors behind your eyelids.
Into the Forest and All the Way Through
While this poetry collection can't entirely be called horror fiction, per se, it still deserves a place of honor on this list. These poems penned by Cynthia Pelayo all relate to the true crime cases of the missing and murdered women of the United States. Spinning devastation and heartache, Pelayo's work is a snapshot of loss. Unlike anything else you'll ever read, this poetry collection makes real ghosts come alive on the page.