There’s a wide range of scary poems, beginning with the ones that register the pleasure of being a little scared, like Dickinson’s responding to “a narrow fellow in the grass…with “a tighter Breathing/ And zero at the bone.” The ferocity of anger can be both funny and frightening, as it is in Margaret Atwood’s four-line poem:
You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
And in the last stanza of Plath’s “Lady Lazarus”:
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
Her hallucinatory poem “The Bee Meeting” gives me nightmares. If you think Louise Gluck’s “Gretel in Darkness” is terrifying, take a look at “All Hallows.” Many of Frost’s poems disturb the deepest levels, like “Design” and “Out, Out–,” for example. In the first one, Frost pushes the implications of the argument from design for the existence of god to its logical conclusion: Do you really want to believe in a god who pays attention to every detail of life and death? When I first read “Out, Out–” I went back again and again, hoping I was wrong about what happens–but I wasn’t. There’s something far more deeply frightening to me about seeing through the words to the terrifying events beyond them than seeing the events directly. It’s the delayed realization, the double take, the oh no. Robert Morgan’s poem “The Mountain Bride” loops back to Dickinson’s narrow fellow in a terrifying scene.
So what are some of your favorite frightening poems? Post the poems or the links.