While far too many people see horror as a “lowbrow” form of entertainment, there's so much more to the genre than what we initially see on the surface. Horror is an exploration of darkness, of human suffering, and of collective anxiety and terror. Without deep, insightful emotion, horror would be nothing.
For all the feeling the genre conjures, it's no surprise that there is a wealth of remarkable horror poetry. Horror 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?
But what's better than a horror poem? A full collection of horror poetry! From racial activism with an eldritch twist to haikus on the zombie apocalypse, these dark poems are sure to captivate you.
Here are 11 horror poetry books to add some macabre artistry to your bookshelf.
Under Her Eye: A Women in Horror Poetry Showcase, Vol. II
Following up after the first incredible volume, Under Her Skin, this collection of horror poems uplift the voices of women. With a focus on domestic terror, these dark and lyrical works dive into the fear rooted in the place women should be able to feel the safest. Contributors to this anthology include Jessica McHugh, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Marge Simon, and many more!
“Creative and brutally terrifying.” —Cemetery Dance
“A powerful anthology of terror and its concurrent antonym: hope.” —Midwest Book Review
“Brutally Honest and poignant.” —Booklist Starred Review
Can You Sign My Tentacle?
This collection of horror poetry delivers eldritch horrors like you've never seen them before. Have you ever wanted to combine Lovecraft and hip-hop? O'Brien mashes these concepts together and turns the genres upside down with artful nightmares that highlight the significance of Blackness. There are no shortage of monsters living within racism, sexism, and their violent intersections, and these creepy poems give them a cosmic frame.
#1 New Release in Caribbean & Latin American Poetry
Escaping the Body
Have you ever wanted to crawl out of your own skin? This collection of short, creepy poems blends the emotive and the biological, the scientific and the lyrical. Deep and stunning, these works have a raw honesty about the relationship one has to their body. Telling surreal tales of myths, magic, monsters and more in locales in space, forests, and the skin itself, this book explores the divide of soul and body.
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?
One of my favorite horror poetry books, this beautiful 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 horror poems, 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.
"Choking Back the Devil is unlike any other poetry collection you've ever read. Donna Lynch crafts beautifully terrifying worlds, packed with dense imagery and horrifying yet lush details. This collection will get your blood racing even as it breaks your heart."—Gwendolyn Kiste, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens and Reluctant Immortals
"This collection is not for the chronically disturbed, as fear is doled out in terse, potent portions. I got the shivers reading these unsettling poems."—Marge Simon, Bram Stoker Award winner, SFPA Grand Master Poet
"Some dark poets use their verse as a means to exorcise their demons. Lynch instead embraces her torment, nurtures it, and transforms it into equal parts hideous and heavenly. With a mix of wicked wit, carnal fury, and commentary that has sharpened its fangs to drain you until you're left with nothing but despair, Choking Back the Devil is essential sustenance for harrowed souls." —Chad Stroup, author of Secrets of the Weird and Sexy Leper
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.
“...a magic quilt of surreal and unique portraits turning the stuff of nightmares and pain into beautiful, even when bloody, images of release and redemption.” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend
“This is a book of breathtaking artistry. In verse that ranges widely in subject matter and metrical form, Christina Sng invariably focuses on just those words and images that evoke terror, otherworldliness, and fantasy. But deep emotional resonance is not absent, and Sng can evoke poignancy and melancholy as effortlessly as she can evoke fear and dread.” —S. T. Joshi
“Each of these fifty or so potent poems are actually stunning little stories about terrifying transformations. Each of the tales she tells are chilling, but her poetic and playful approach spins you around in a vortex of exquisite language and a swirling miasma of wildly terrifying imagination until you yourself are transformed... left dizzy and eager for the next time around. A brilliantly twisted collection, sure to turn a number of heads.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Freakcidents and The Gorelets Omnibus
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.
"Ryan Mecum obviously knows his zombie films well, and his book tells a gory, violent story that will warm the veins of Romero fans." —Rue Morgue Magazine
"Simply one of the best zombie reads of the year... If you have a taste for horror, this quirky little book is for you. But if you're a zombie fiend like myself, you should make it your single-minded goal to seek out this book and digest then savor it." —Mark. L Miller, Ain't It Cool News
"A thoroughly unique and entertaining experience. Ryan Mecum has quite possibly found the only corner of entertainment not yet infected by the zombie plague—haiku—and made me wonder why it took this long, as the two seem to go together like zombies and brains. I highly recommend it to fans of all things zombie." —Robert Kirkman, author of The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies
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.
“With these verses, Ashley Dioses weaves together the incantatory rhythm of a witch’s spell. Luminous language is contorted to reveal dark images, connected to traditional Gothic works and yet not limited by them. The mysterious is entwined with the playful, and the result will lure you to a very beautiful and disturbing place.” —S. P. Miskowski, author of The Worst Is Yet to Come
“The worlds of The Withering are bleak, black-white places. The poems of this collection are glimmering, bright-clean bones picked dry, clean and neat. They come from a visceral, bleeding place, and expose a raw, powerful feeling. Guillotines, glitter, and even a wry sense of humor, Ashley Dioses’ second collection shows just as much talent as the first.” —S. L. Edwards, author of The Death of an Author
“The Withering by Ashley Dioses is a showcase of rich, gothic delights: an ecstasy of love and life lost. Dioses paints bleak and exotic, lyric hellscapes and lush narratives, often describing eternal, supernatural suffering and vengeance from the inside out. The subtext of so many of these dark, often wrathful poems presents the reader with a plaintive, deeply human question: what am I? Ultimately, the poetic persona empowers herself through an act of self-discovery, answering her own question, exultantly, by addressing the reader (and perhaps Nature itself): ‘I am your Monster.’” —Jon Padgett, author of The Secret of Ventriloquism and co-editor-in-chief of Vastarien: A Literary Journal
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.
Nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
"This book shook me, ripped my heart out, and haunts me still. Into the Forest and All the Way Through shines a harsh light on a subject society has been far too content to ignore...and it's about goddamn time. This Is a vital collection." —Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Sour Candy