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What Is Dark Poetry?

Dark poetry delves into the shadowy corners of human experience, exploring themes like sorrow, despair, and the mysteries of the human psyche. It's a cathartic journey through words that often confronts taboo subjects, offering a voice to the unspoken. As you ponder the allure of these verses, ask yourself: What hidden truths might dark poetry illuminate for you? Continue reading to explore further.
Mark Wollacott
Mark Wollacott

Dark poetry is the use of dark and often negative themes in a poetic manner. Instead of writing about such topic matters in a diary or story format, the writer has turned it into verse. Such poetry is linked to Gothic and horror genres as well as cultural and fashion subcultures in contemporary society. Writers, however, are from a wide variety of backgrounds and dwell on a range of themes.

Dark poetry can take all forms, from small structured haiku to long-form free verse. They can use traditional meter as well as employ rhyming methods. Dark poetry is not about style or structure, but is about content and Aristotle’s emotions.

Dark poetry often draws upon longing, pain and hurts.
Dark poetry often draws upon longing, pain and hurts.

These emotions can be both positive and negative. The poetry used in dark poetry can be both, and the darkness can come from within as well as being imposed on the protagonist from without. These emotions do not have to be violent. The horror spectrum of dark poetry may lean towards scares and gore, but a large portion of poetry has another connotation for the word ‘dark.’

Dark poetry can be about a range of topics.
Dark poetry can be about a range of topics.

The idea of darkness comes with a long-held fear of the dark and can present itself in a literal manner in dark poetry. Robert Frost’s “The Door in the Dark” is a prime example. This fear led to an expansion of horror stories and poems, as exemplified by Edgar Allen Poe. The term "dark" has also become figurative for an inner darkness, where the term represents pain and hurt.

Unrequited romance can be inspiration for dark poetry.
Unrequited romance can be inspiration for dark poetry.

Two distinct cultural groups came together to form a large slice of post-1980s dark poetry. Born out of Poe’s horror, the poetic form also took a large amount of influence from romances and broken hearts. In the 1990s, this found a place with the resurgence of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” with books such as “An Interview with a Vampire” and later on “Twilight” and “True Blood.” This has since combined with the emotional hardcore (emo) music and fashion culture that was born out of 1980s hardcore punk by bands such as Jawbreaker and Minor Threat.

Both forms drew upon longings, pain and hurts. Many also mixed in the supernatural and the horror as themes. Dark poetry has gained in popularity with the proliferation of the Internet and sites where users can post and comment on poems. It has tapped into the emotions of young people, especially young women, across the world.

Many writers of dark poetry find a form of catharsis in their writing. Aristotle, again in his “Poetics,” believed that the aim of poetry was an emotional catharsis and likened it to medical purges, but this time for the soul. Dark poetry is about baring pain and combing figurative and literal darkness. It is only natural that many people have found it a means of vocalizing pain and finding others who feel the same way.

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Discussion Comments


@Fa5t3r - It's not always true. Sometimes they aren't well adjusted at all. H.P. Lovecraft, for example, was somewhat of a recluse and was supposed to be fairly strange as well as very racist. Poe is also famous for being a drunk and prone to strange behavior. Sometimes poems are about life rather than just born out of the subconscious.


@bythewell - I mostly wrote love poetry myself. But I remember once we had to give in some poetry for an English assignment and the teacher called one of my friends aside afterwards and tried to get her to talk about her homelife. She had written a poem about a child in an abusive situation and my teacher was convinced that she was making a cry for help.

Actually my friend was from a very lovely family and was a very well adjusted person. She just thought that poetry should be meaningful and abuse was one of the topics she cared about at the time.

In fact I've found that often people who write dark things or horror stories tend to be fairly cheerful and friendly people. I'm not sure if it's because they let all their demons onto the page, or what, but it seems to be true.


I used to write a lot of dark poetry when I was a teenager. I think most teenagers who like poetry at all go through a period when all their poems are dark poems. I most definitely overused the words "word" and "scream" and others like that a lot.

I usually can't bring myself to write that darkly now because I associate it so strongly with that kind of teenage angst and it seems like a cliche to write like that now. Not that I haven't seen some people do it in a wonderful, original way, but I don't think I could do it.

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    • Dark poetry often draws upon longing, pain and hurts.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Dark poetry often draws upon longing, pain and hurts.
    • Dark poetry can be about a range of topics.
      By: staz
      Dark poetry can be about a range of topics.
    • Unrequited romance can be inspiration for dark poetry.
      By: Andrey Kiselev
      Unrequited romance can be inspiration for dark poetry.