For decades, a mysterious visitor known as the Poe Toaster left three roses and a partial bottle of cognac on the writer’s grave each year on January 19, Poe’s birthday. Though the tradition appears to be over, we know the spirit lives on. The spirit lives on because Poe’s spirit lives on, and we live on his spirit by penning verse and prose that make dioramas of our viscera, opening our pain up like the jaws of a hungry Venus fly trap.
But not everyone is equipped to write a Goth poem. There are “goth poem generators” online where poseurs can select dramatic adjectives from drop-down menus. These poseurs are heretics, fakers, fascists who outsource inventories of their agonies out to robots. Would you trust them to captain the dark night of your soul?
You should not. What you should do is get busy writing poems that cast a spell over your reader. You could do this by casting a spell over your reader, but that is for another issue. If you were to simplify Goth poetry to a formula, just remember that “Pain + Pain = Pain.” We call this the three P’s of Goth poetry. What it means is that you must start with something real (and what is more real than pain?) and express it with a metaphor for something deep (and what is more deep than pain?). The overall effect should be of your reader peering into your cupboards while holding a candelabra and finding only pain in every nook and cranny.
Now that you understand the concept, let’s talk about vocabulary. There are two kinds of words: decay words and not-decay words. Since contrast is at the heart of beauty, a well-balanced goth poem includes both kinds of words. Fetid, decomposing, and rotten are all decay words. Breath, fervor, and shuddering are all not-decay words. You can use them together, such as by referring to “the fervor of a decomposing shoulder.” This shows your readers that you understand complexity. Or you may sprinkle them throughout your poem, making sure to err slightly on the side of decay words. Also, some words (we call them “zombie words”) straddle both realms and can be tricky to implement. Finally, most things can be compared to dead roses, but it is up to you if you wish to highlight their dead nature or the fact that they once bloomed the lushest red.
You’re probably getting excited to write your first Goth poem now, but maybe you need a little ambience. The Goth poets’ secret helper is a flask filled to the brim with half absinthe and half cough syrup, preferably codeine. Drinking this concoction will bring you wise visions and also bring you a lot of pain, pain that you can turn into poetry (though take it easy on the vomit metaphors). When you are feeling pleasantly dissociated, crank the Diamanda Galas albums. If you have a projector, silently project The Hunger on your wall. Light ten or twelve clove candles and eight or nine myrrh ones, as these stimulate the production of the black bile you’ll need. Dumb jocks like to say “No pain, no gain.” We prefer “No pain, no poetry.” So the next time your heart is breaking or your guts are heaving, bleed onto the page like the beautiful dead rose you are becoming.