R.M. Englahardt reading his poetry at The Linda in Albany, NY

The Half-Dead Poet Review: Upon The New Rise & Resurrection of Pagan Poetry


I am descended from the various souls of dead patriots, vagabonds war heroes,
revolutionaries, shaman & voodoo witches lighter & darker than a night’s
moon full of spells, verses & words

And you ask me why I’m a poet?


“Spells Are Poetry, Words Are Spells”


As you probably already know by now my name is R.M. Engelhardt and I am the author of a new book of poetry which is titled We Rise Like Smoke Poems Psalms Incantations published by DeadMansPressInk in June of 2021. This is the second book of poetry (the first was called Darklands) in which I’ve written poems & prose pieces dealing with death, loss, and grief as well as many of the Earth’s problems and issues happening around us such as Covid in which most of the pieces are written in the approach of my own visions & beliefs as well as in the manner of ritual practices such as Alchemy, Shamanism & others. But in the last two years or so I’ve noticed something slowly changing. Something different is happening. Not only on social media but in the style & way that many poets are writing. Some, a large amount of them have been writing and publishing in what I’d refer to as a “Pagan” or “Wiccan” form of poetry as well as much more of what would be considered “Dark Poetry” that is & becoming ever-growing and is showing more recent popularity as well as in the number of “Pagan Poets” now writing, getting notice and publishing their books and getting published much more in journals. I have been a well-published writer/poet for almost thirty years now and “Neopagan Poetics” as I have termed this form/style of writing is becoming more & more prevalent now than I’ve ever seen before.

A candle and twigs on a wood table

So what I’ve observed is that there are many new and upcoming writers-poets out there who are like myself also a part of this phenomenon and journey but also many that have explored this vein of work in the past long before our arrivals. Names like David Tibet (of the band Current 93) come to mind as well as performance poets like Janaka Stucky (Ascend Ascend) whose live performance readings are akin to actual rituals. But who started this form, this style of mysticism and writing? It’s quite hard to say. Poets such as Doreen Valiente, William Blake, Lady Gwen Thompson, Rumi, Patricia Monaghan, Kathryn Hinds, and many others have paved the way but the interest in mystic/pagan prose and writing has never waned. Some people believe that even such ancient religious texts as the Bible & the Koran are poetry as well. Yeats, Gibran, Kerouac, and even Emily Dickinson have all explored this place, this world. And in it, there is both dark and light here where writers such as Lautremont have dwelled along with Rimbaud & Baudelaire and even Poe, Jim Morrison & Merwin.

However, there is a new multitude of poets that I am aware of as I said previously such as K.R. Morrison, Elle Nash, Hex M’ Jai, myself, and many many others that the list would fill pages. And our poems are not so much just in the form or voice of just spoken word, but also much like spells and incantations. Some would argue that this falls into the category of surrealism or avant-garde poetics but then again the rhetoric of prayer, Buddhism & Witchcraft, as well as Christianity, have all encompassed this type of verse centuries ago.

But if you ask why this recent resurgence of mystic & pagan poetry is growing as a next possible movement or poetic forum? I would dare say even becoming a new movement progressing forward? Many practicing wiccans/pagans as well as those who write spells are also writing & publishing poetry and if you look around you and do the research you will find that wicca & neopaganism has been growing exponentially over the last two decades in the United States and in many other countries as well.

“Wicca and witchcraft are popping up in pop culture these days, from teenage witches on TikTok to a Marvel comic superhero called Wiccan. It has even led The New York Times to ask: “When did everyone become a witch?”

Wicca, an alternative minority religion whose adherents, regardless of gender, call themselves witches, began in the U.K. in the 1940s. Wicca and Witchcraft are part of the larger contemporary pagan movement, which includes druids and heathens among others. All these spiritual paths, as pagans refer to them, base their practices on pre-Christian religions and cultures.”

Helen A. Berger, What is Wicca? An expert on modern witchcraft explains



Perhaps the rise of this form of poetry isn’t just about mainstream culture but the moving away from organized religion. There are differences in each poets work, voice & approach as well as culture & ethnicity but many of us also share a common view of the world and our lives as something greater & interconnected. Perhaps with nature as other writers have spoken of in the past & of the human spirit, the cosmos in which in the words of many poets, such as Henley, can never be broken or the only vast dream or universe worthy of our worship & love.

Poetry, like any art form, flows in the direction that or consciousness wills it to.

So Mote it be.