Why I Write Ghost Poems

I love creating ghosts. And writing poems about ghosts has become my ‘thing’. The problem with my poems is that they’re very short and, in order to have a decent sized book, I have to write a lot of them. And that involves coming up with a lot of different ghosts and haunting settings. 

Getting straight to the haunt

If I was writing a novel or a play, I’d actually only have to invent one haunting scenario. Sarah Waters (The Little Stranger) and Danny Robins (2:22) based their entire works around just one ghost, using their time to work on creating plots and backstories and action that slowly leads up to the climax. So the storylines are liberally sprinkled with chilling clues that signpost the way to the ‘big haunting’ at the end. 

When writing a poem that could be as short as 150 words, I don’t have that luxury. The poem is the climax, the backstory and the lead up combined. But here’s the thing – I really like the quick build up! It’s a challenge to craft so few words, yet make them work so hard. 

When you’re writing a long story, you have to do everything – set the scene, describe the protagonists, introduce the backstory etc. Poems don’t have that luxury, so you’ve got to come up with just a few words that imply the backstory without going into detail. Then the reader (or listener – I love doing open mic nights) has all the prompts they need to fill in the blanks for themselves.

Poems are great for time-poor writers

I might be doing my ghosts a disservice by not giving them enough time to build up the shivers to make them more terrifying when they do finally appear. (Not that all of my ghosts are scary ones.) But on the other hand, they don’t take months or years to become fully formed enough for publication. And when you don’t have the luxury of lots of time and the mental energy in which to write after a day in the office, writing poems is a great way of completing your project sooner rather than letter, giving you a chance to get your word baby out into the world. 

I love word play

I have written ghost fiction before, in the form of short stories and a couple of novellas (which I’m currently updating with the intention of getting them published). But what excites me most about writing ghost poetry is that I get to play around with words. 

I love compressing a story that would normally take thousands of words to tell into just a handful. 

I can sometimes spend days inside a thesaurus rabbit hole trying to find the exact word. This is because it’s so important that every single word is meaningful in order to get the haunting just right. 

Because most of all, I love it when my poems give people the shivers!

My first collection of ghost poetry, Ghost Walk, is available as an ebook from Hedgehog Press (or contact me directly for a physical copy). I am currently working on my second collection which will hopefully be available at the end of the year.

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