Throughout the month of April, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I'll be feature one poet weekly here on this blog. This week's featured poet is Sara Tantlinger.
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 works To Be Devoured, Cradleland of
Parasites, and Not All Monsters. Along with being a mentor for the HWA Mentorship Program,
she is also a co-organizer for the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter.
Ronald J. Murray: Tell me what drew you to writing poetry.
Sara Tantlinger: It’s a bit cliché, but reading Edgar Allan Poe for the first time in middle school quickly became my gateway into loving all things dark poetry related.
RJM: What does your process for writing poetry look like?
ST: My process is all over the place. It really depends on what my goal is. For a themed
collection that involves research, I definitely like to make lists of ideas, mini-outlines of
where sections could go, and really think about the flow and order of the collection as a
whole. For individual pieces, sometimes it’s just pouring words onto the page for a draft
and then coming back to it for serious revision and editing. Poetry has a more organic
feel to it, but editing it to make sure the rhythm and word choices are exactly what I
want takes a good bit of time.
RJM: Are there any classics that influenced your work?
ST: Other than Poe, I’m a huge fan of William Blake, Sylvia Plath, and Walt Whitman. I come
back to pieces by them all of the time, and I think their use of beautiful language and
emotion is something that continually influences my own work.
RJM: Are there any contemporary poets that you admire?
ST: So many! Linda Addison, Christina Sng, Donna Lynch, and Richard Siken spring to mind
immediately. I’m also a big fan of Claire C. Holland’s I Am Not Your Final Girl.
Additionally, Cynthia Pelayo’s Into the Forest and all the Way Through is an incredibly
important collection that covers true crime cases of missing and murdered women in
the United States. It’s heartbreaking but necessary reading.
RJM: Which achievement as a poet do you consider your most valuable?
ST: Well, I’m pretty fond of my Bram Stoker Award for The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. I worked so hard on the research for that collection, and to have it receive an accolade voted on by peers is an incredible honor.
My sweet friend Cassie Daley (who you might know from her rainbow-tastic bookish photos and art) made me a cross stitch that has a quote from a poem in Love for Slaughter, too; I have that hanging on my wall and it’s the coolest thing. I love it so
RJM: Which of your poems evoked the strongest emotional response from you as you
ST: Oh, that’s definitely something that isn’t published. I have hundreds of personal poems
that have helped me work through heavy things, but I’m not sure if they’ll ever actually
see the light of day. Some things you have to write just for yourself.
RJM: Has the emotional impact with any of your work changed as time has passed?
ST: This is such a great question! When I released my first collection, Love for Slaughter, I was so new to the community that I really didn’t know how to send ARCs or how to get it in front of readers at all. Over time, however, a few really wonderful
bookstagrammers (many of whom are on the Ladies of Horror Fiction team) and readers in the community started picking up the book, taking gorgeous photos, and telling me the collection is one of their favorites. Sometimes, it takes a few years for a book to get some love and that’s okay. So even though it had a rough beginning, the collection has really come to hold a special place in my heart.
RJM: What is your favorite genre of poetry to read? Do you stick with horror, or do you
venture beyond the genre?
ST: Horror will always be my favorite, but I do go back to the classics a lot. I also really enjoy
reading collections that tackle sexuality, feminism, and life in general. For example,
Sierra DeMulder is one of my favorite contemporary poets, and her work on navigating
life as a bisexual woman, on dealing with grief, family trauma, relationships, and
friendships, and more always speaks to my heart so much. I recommend all of her
RJM: Do you have any speculative poetry collections in your TBR pile?
ST: Yes! I just pre-ordered The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti and I’m very much looking
forward to reading that later this month.
RJM: Are you working on anything now and can you share any details with us?
ST: Right now, I’m finishing up a novella that combines a little historical horror and
mythology; once that’s done, I actually plan to start my next poetry collection! I’m
hoping to dedicate the latter half of the year to it and I’m so very excited to tackle the subject matter, but I’ll say more about that when it’s underway!
The anthology I recently finished editing is Chromophobia, stories inspired by colors,
written by women in horror. These twisted, colorful tales will be out later this year by
StrangeHouse Books/Rooster Republic Press, and it’s been thrilling seeing it come to life.
RJM: Where can we find you online?
ST: Find me on Twitter @saratantlinger on Instagram @inkychaotics and on my website at