Sara Tantlinger is the author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and the Stoker-nominated To Be Devoured. Her other works include Love For Slaughter, The Devil’s City written with Matt Corley,and the anthology Not All Monsters. Along with being a mentor for the HWA Mentorship Program, she is also a co-organizer for the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter. She embraces all things macabre and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraTantlinger and at saratantlinger.com
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry to me has become a natural outlet for so much happening in the world and in my head. It’s the freedom to write outside expectations but also a delightful challenge in learning to say a lot in a short amount of space and time. There are poems out there that tackle every subject matter possible -- I really believe there is a poem for everybody, even if you don’t read a ton of poetry.
What inspires your poetry?
So many things! I’ve been really into historical horror these past few years, so that’s been a strong source of inspiration. I love research and getting into the strange details about the universe -- the beauty of nature is a great muse because there is also weirdness and horror to be found in nature, so I love playing around with the idea of taking something beautiful and making it macabre.
Which are most important to you: (1) joy, (2) peace, (3) patience, (4) kindness, (5) self-control, (6) faithfulness, (7) gentleness, (8) love, or (9) goodness? If you can, explain why.
Oh that’s tough, but peace definitely jumps out to me. I think with peace, so many of the other things follow or fall into place when their time comes. Life is a strange journey with a lot of chaos and learning, so the notion of living in simple, joyful peace appeals to me a lot and feels like a goal I am always striving for.
What sort of things are you looking forward to improving this year?
Well, this year has been so peculiar for us all! With everything going on, I definitely get too distracted by social media and doom-scrolling. It can be tough to step away, so I need to keep working on that and channeling my fears, hopes, daydreams and more into my creative work instead of wasting my time away reading horrifying headlines all day.
What is one big dream you have?
To travel overseas! I love traveling, and this year has made me miss it even more. I’ve never been outside the country (U.S.), and traveling to Ireland, Scotland, England, and some European countries is something I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life, so I really hope I get the opportunity to do so someday.
Poem from Cradleland of Parasites, out October 31st
On a White Horse
I am the rider of the white horse
enigmatic in interpretation
I do not ride as the Holy Spirit,
you will find no gospel spread
beneath my horse’s hooves
I do not ride as prosperity
nor as war, but you could find
both, if summoned correctly
In the name of Pestilence, I ride,
your sacred lord of contagion
bow down beneath divine damnation
As my horse gallops on, I draw back
my bow, a bleeding sun overhead
turns sky to crimson as my brass
quiver demands death; arrows
poisoned with disease fly through
the world, spreading epidemics
abroad in devastating silence
Noble demise in hallowed ground
beckons, come to my earthen embrace
sleep forever in bodily betrayal
as organs shut down, as blood runs
infected and uncured -- follow white
mane and tail through the darkness
to me, your blessed liberator gifting
kernels of bacteria to burrow inside skin