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5 Horror Poetry Collections with Unusual Themes that You Might Have Missed

Strange and beautiful.

unusual horror poetry collections

Horror poetry is having a major moment—and for good reason. After all, it’s not unusual for horror fans to discover the genre early on through the work of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the very best poets of all time.

So for those of you seeking a horror poetry collection for your TBR list, here are five poetry books with unusual themes that you might have missed. 

the quiet ways I destroy you

The Quiet Ways I Destroy You

By Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh’s blackout poetry is becoming the stuff of legend in the horror community. Without a doubt, she’s crafting some of the most unique and interesting collections based on previous stories, using famed works such as The Secret Garden and Frankenstein as a starting point for her brutal and beautiful poems. For her latest book, The Quiet Ways I Destroy You, she takes an unusual and inspired path and explores the underlying horror in Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women.

I’ll be honest: when I first started reading this collection, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I should have known that in Jessica McHugh’s capable hands, I had nothing to worry about. These gorgeous and horrifying poems will get under your skin and stay there in all the best possible ways. Highly recommended. 

cradleland of parasites

Cradleland of Parasites

By Sara Tantlinger

It’s no secret that Sara Tantlinger is one of my favorite authors writing today. You could truly choose any of her collections for a list like this, but in terms of unique—and in this case, timely—themes, you can’t go wrong with Cradleland of Parasites. Themed around the Black Plague, this one will most definitely linger in your mind for a long time to come.

Released near the start of the pandemic, that timing was of course entirely coincidental, but it also felt harrowing and right: this collection gave an outlet to the living nightmare of existing in a world dogged with uncertainty and illness. Horror fans often talk about how the genre can bring us an odd sort of comfort, especially in troubled times, and Cradleland of Parasites does exactly that. A beautiful, devastating achievement, and one that deserves a place on your bookshelf. 

a collection of nightmares

A Collection of Nightmares

By Christina Sng

It should probably go without saying at this point, but just to make sure you’ve been paying attention, let’s say it loud and clear: Christina Sng is one of the hardest-working horror poets out there today. If you’re looking for a new title for your TBR pile, you could choose any of Christina’s books and find something truly magnificent, but if you’re going to pick just one, then make it A Collection of Nightmares.

True to its title, this Bram Stoker Award-winning collection from 2017 is themed around nightmares, exquisitely rendered with Sng’s trademark language that’s both gorgeous and terrifying. I read this book years ago, and it’s still sticking with me long after I’ve read it. Proof positive that this is one horror collection for the ages.  

on the subject of blackberries

On the Subject of Blackberries

By Stephanie M. Wytovich

Stephanie M. Wytovich was one of the first modern horror poets that I started reading a decade ago, and she remains one of the best. Like all of the authors featured in this article, she has an incredible backlist of titles, but this time around, it’s easy for me to make a recommendation because her latest is right up my alley: On the Subject of Blackberries takes its inspiration from none other than Shirley Jackson’s classic, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Not only are there so many amazing allusions to the themes and symbolism of Jackson’s novel, Wytovich injects her own brand of horror, including an exploration of postpartum depression. This is a must-read for fans of both Wytovich and Jackson, and also a must-read for anyone seeking incisive horror that’s as beautiful as it is haunting. 

Mary Shelley Makes a Monster

By Octavia Cade

Octavia Cade is an author to watch. She’s been producing fascinating fiction and poetry for a number of years now. As with all the writers on this list, you can select any of her work as a starting point, but if you’re looking for a poetry collection, be sure to pick up Mary Shelley Makes a Monster. This exploration of female writers throughout the decades, including Mary Shelley, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Octavia Butler, is set against a backdrop of Shelley’s monster trying to find a place in the world.

It’s a strange and beautiful book that continues to resonate with me, even years after its original release. For sure, this is a poetry collection that’s unlike any other, and a fantastic horror book that’s absolutely worth your time.