In 2020, we are truly enamoured by the gothic. Many contemporary gothic-influenced mainstream titles, notably in the Young Adult category, have been transformed into successful films or TV shows with huge fan bases in recent years. There have also been many recent novel-to-screen adaptations of gothic classics – such as Frankenstein (1818), Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Dracula (1897) – as well as a renewed interest in past gothic characters that have been rewritten into new stories. But what about gothic poetry? Is there even such a thing as contemporary gothic poetry? Well, I believe there is, it’s just that we don’t typically use the gothic label when it comes to poetry anymore, which I think is doing the poetry a disservice, because gothic poetry has a long, rich history, which continues on today. Whether it is Melissa Lee-Houghton writing about vampires and beautiful girls lying beneath their graves, Emily Berry’s fixation on the sublime sea when exploring the loss of a loved one, or Tracy K. Smith’s uncanny explorations of the concept of time, gothic tropes, ideas, and concepts appear over and over in much of contemporary poetry, and we hungrily consume it.
So, what is new about gothic poetry? Well, the contemporary gothic is recognised for addressing and challenging inequalities on a macroscale in today’s society, as well as magnifying the tensions and dysfunctions within relationships. It often shows how women are subordinated within the nuclear family, but also highlights how women and queer family members can resist patriarchal ideas of the family to form new communities. This loss of esteem for the nuclear family set-up, as well as the recent gothic critiques of traditional gender roles and sexualities, has shown that the gothic can adapt and act as a subversive force. Also, the social and psychological focal point in gothic writing from 1990 to the present day has been trauma, and there has been a growing interest in the convergences between trauma studies and gothic writing in recent years. This interest in trauma can be linked to widespread changes in perceptions of mental health and the way the discussion around it has become attractive and popular – as well as less stigmatised – in the mass media in the UK and USA in the last decade. Portrayals of trauma in contemporary gothic poetry has assisted in offering up more visceral and in-depth understandings of the variation within traumatic experience, and has shown that the contemporary gothic has the potential to be a therapeutic and educational force for both writer and reader.
If you would like to explore contemporary gothic poetry more closely, this workshop will allow you to do so. We will look at a diverse selection of contemporary gothic poetry, and participants will also be encouraged to write their own gothic-inspired poems, which will be generated through a selection of creative prompts. This will be a supportive space, where you will receive suggestions on how you can develop your gothic-inspired poetry further.
Book a place at Nisha Bhakoo’s Contemporary Gothic Poetry class, running on 20 & 27 February, at 2 – 4pm.