Thursday, April 21, 2022

Writing Poetry in the Dark: A Spotlight Interview with Stephanie M. Wytovich

In continuation of our celebration into April’s #NationalPoetryMonth extravaganza, we’re honored to have had the chance to sit down with Bram Stoker-award winning author Stephanie M. Wytovich to talk about Raw Dog Screaming Press’ upcoming WRITING POETRY IN THE DARK, a craft book for speculative poets, by speculative poets.

Photo by Jen

We’ve featured Stephanie and her books on the Ladies of Horror Fiction blog before, and our team members are huge fans – we can’t recommend her writing enough! Read what she had to say during our chat below:

Interview with Stephanie M. Wytovich

Cassie: How have you personally seen poetry change & grow within the horror genre over the years?

Stephanie: Speculative poetry has definitely garnered more attention over the past years, and it’s becoming more widely read and promoted, which is such a breath of fresh air. More presses are also publishing dark poetry—both individual collections and anthologies—so we’re also being exposed to more voices in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and that does nothing but help expand the market, drum up excitement for the form, and most importantly, encourage people to write and explore their relationship with poetry.

C: When editing WRITING POETRY IN THE DARK, was there anything new you learned about poetry that you didn’t know before?

S: Absolutely. I think no matter how long you’ve been in the game, there’s always more to learn and different ways to do and try things when it comes to your writing process and how you conceptualize your work. For instance, Christina Sng has a fabulous article in the book about writing haiku that helps poets move beyond the act of just counting syllables; its informative with tons of examples and it walks the reader through her process step-by-step in a digestible and easy-to-understand way. Jessica McHugh has an essay that talks about creating blackout poetry that is also really illuminating both from a process perspective but also through an emotional lens as it talks about how the form can help break writers block and help writers work through trauma. Another great example is Saba Syed Razvi’s essay on incorporating myth into the poem. As someone who is really interested in the intersection of fairytale, magic, and spirituality in the poem, this piece spoke to me and gave me a lot to think about not only historically but also in how and why I choose the topics I do for my collections. 

I also want to take a moment to just say that I really admire the poets I’ve worked with and am working with in this book, and I think their expertise, experience, and knowledge is not only valuable but positively inspirational. They’ve acted as true beacons for me and others in this community when it comes to poetry, and I hope this book and their words will continue to inspire and energize people about the form.

C: Who do you think the target audience for the book would be?

S: I wanted to create a book that spoke to people interested in speculative poetry, regardless of whether they’re just getting started or already solidified in the field, but I also wanted this book to speak across genres, too, so I think it’s a valuable sourcebook for people who are just interested in poetry in general.

C: We’ve already got a list of some of the amazing contributors – are you able to give an example of one or two of the topics/essays that will be in the book?

S: Sure thing! To kind of expand on the question before this, I tried to create a nice balance of craft essays that tackled both the technical side of poetry, but also the genre side of it, so we have pieces in the book that talk about worldbuilding, or about how to incorporate humor or violence into your poems, but then we also have essays that deal with processing trauma and using memory recall and magic in in your writing process, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone, I think.

C: What’s your number one tip you’d give to someone starting out with poetry as a beginner – either with reading or writing it?

S: Don’t feel the need to write a certain way. When I first got started, I was obsessed with form and put all these constraints on my voice and when I decided to just say goodbye to all of that and write how I wanted to write, everything felt so much lighter and just more possible. There’s nothing wrong with being unique or different—in fact, that’s what the speculative poetry market is all about!—so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things or create something new altogether. Poetry doesn’t have to be the scary, intimidating form that I think we were all taught to believe it was; it can be that, sure, but we’re a legion of writers who are all about conquering fears and monsters and finding truth, so if you need to bend the form or the rules in order to do that for your art or slay that fear/expectation, then I say go for it. Your work will be stronger because of it.

C: Who are some of your favorite names writing poetry of the past and present? Are there any collections you’re currently looking forward to reading?

S: Right now, I’m looking forward to reading The Sorrow Festival by Erin Slaughter (Clash Books), The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti (Weasel Press), and Foundlings by Cindy O’Quinn and Stephanie Ellis (Independently published). I’m currently editing Crime Scene, a forthcoming collection from Cynthia Pelayo, and I worked with Donna Lynch on her upcoming release, Girls from the Country, so I definitely encourage everyone to keep an eye out for those and add them to your TBR list. Other speculative (or what I consider to be speculative-adjacent) collections I’ve enjoyed in the past include (but are not limited to) The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn Walrath, Burials by Jessica Drake-Thomas, Deluge by Leila Chatti, The Nightgown and Other Poems by Taisia Kitaiskaia, A Love Story by Joanna C. Valente, Regret or Something More Animal by Heather Bell, and I Can Remember the Meaning of Every Tarot Card But I Can’t Remember What I Texted You Last Night by Elle Nash.

C: Do you have anything else in the works currently for your own poetry?

S: Of course! I’m always writing poetry, even if it might be happening a little slower these days, but I have two collections in the works right now. The one I’ve been slowly chipping away at for years but it’s coming together and will be thematically based around witchcraft (I know, shocking!). The other one is pretty much finished. It kind of just fell out of me after Evie was born earlier this year. I’m not quite sure how to explain it yet, or if I even plan on attempting to publish it, but it’s a domestic horror collection that meditates on magic, postpartum, and rage.

About Stephanie M. Wytovich

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous magazines and anthologies such as Weird Tales, Nightmare Magazine, Southwest Review, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a recipient of the Elizabeth Matchett Stover Memorial Award, the 2021 Ladies of Horror Fiction Writers Grant, and has received the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship for non-fiction writing.

Wytovich is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich at and on Twitter and Instagram @SWytovich​ and @thehauntedbookshelf. You can also find her essays, nonfiction, and class offerings on LitReactor.


Cassie is one of our core team members, and maintains our site interviews with authors and creating monthly themed content.

Find her online at her blog, Twitter as @ctrlaltcassie, or over at her Etsy store, where she sells clothing, coloring & activity books, bookmarks, art prints, DIY craft kits, & more!

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