Poetry Friday October 25 2019

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten. She is sharing an ode to autumn, October by Helen Hunt Jackson. Don't forget to check out the links to other participants sharing poetry today.

Halloween is my favourite holiday. There's no feast to prepare and no gifts to purchase. You just buy candy, get dressed up, and enjoy all the delightful scariness. Plus, it's a fun way to get to know your neighbours and their children.

For many years I taught family groupings of grades 3/4/5 students. Each October I would dig out my copy of Jack Prelutsky's Nightmares: Poems to trouble your sleep. (I wanted to take a photograph to show you how beat up it is, but it's tucked away in a box somewhere.) The collection was originally published in 1976. Throughout my career I never found anything so delightfully macabre that's appropriate for elementary students. In that last week before All Hallows Eve, I would read one or two poems aloud every day. These are not playful verses with happy endings. They terrify. I am not a fan of the horror genre, but can manage  to get through one or two at a time. Prelutsky's rhyming poetry is rich and explicit. Even when students don't really grasp the vocabulary, they understand the ominous tone. Arnold Lobel's sinister illustrations just make it all the more scarier.

The collection is chock full of creepiness, but my favourite is The Ghoul. It is guaranteed to intimidate even the most bold and brash students.


The gruesome ghoul, the grisly ghoul,

without the slightest noise
waits patiently beside the school
to feast on girls and boys.

He lunges fiercely through the air

as they come out to play,
then grabs a couple by the hair
and drags them far away.

He cracks their bones and snaps their backs

and squeezes out their lungs,
he chews their thumbs like candy snacks
and pulls apart their tongues.

He slices their stomachs and bites their hearts

and tears their flesh to shreds,
he swallows their toes like toasted tarts
and gobbles down their heads.

Fingers, elbows, hands and knees

and arms and legs and feet -
he eats them with delight and ease,
for every part's a treat.

And when the gruesome, grisly ghoul

has nothing left to chew,
he hurries to another school
and waits...perhaps for you.

© Jack Prelutsky 1976

I've never found a book quite so perfect for the season. Have you?

I was most likely under Prelutsky's influence when I penned Anthrophobia. I wrote it in response to this month's padlet challenge at Today's Little Ditty, "
write a poem about something a monster is afraid of." Michelle Heidenrich Barnes shared it here. Spiders give me nightmares - especially if I see one before I go to sleep. 
I try hard to get along with them and mostly succeed if they follow the rules and stay outside!  


In my web I hide in silence
Fearful of your awful science

What harm I’ve done I do not know
I wish you did not hate me so

I munch the bugs that harm your plants
I decimate both flies and ants

I venture out at times it’s true
But I don’t mean to startle you

I do my best to help you out
Still you see me and scream and shout

You grab a shoe prepared to swing
I bolt hole from that ghastly thing

Cowering now inside this crack
I wait in fear your next attack

Please not the long and roaring pipe
That suctions web and devours life

Viler still is the noxious spray
From which no beast can get away


  1. Fabulous poem!! I now have new sympathy for my spider friends (of which we have many in our house). And the Prelutsky poem pulls no punches -- I haven't seen this book but must look for it. Such gory ghoulishness!

    1. Hope you manage to find a copy of this Prelutsky collection. I might have sympathy for spiders, but I still kill them if I find them inside.

  2. How perfect to imagine life from the spider's point of view. So many of us have a primal aversion to them when they are so helpful.

    1. Thanks Liz. Isn't it strange that we have this aversion even when we acknowledge their importance.

  3. Wow! I wasn't aware of this Prelutsky collection. Perfect for the season!

  4. Jack Prelutsky wrote horror for kids? Who knew? I also like Eve Merriam's HALLOWEEN ABC. Her poems are delightfully gruesome, as well!

    1. HALLOWEEN ABC is available at my local library. I'm planning on picking it up tomorrow!

  5. Like Mary Lee, I've never seen this side of Prelutsky before either! Lots of silly fare, but nothing like this. Thanks for sharing this, Cheriee. The first freaky Halloween poetry collection I was introduced to was Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.

    1. PS. You already know I love your poem!!!

    2. I've just put a hold on The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy!

  6. I love your response to this month's challenge! My daughter shares your view of spiders. I don't mind them so much, but prefer they stay outside. My middle schoolers loved this Jack Prelutsky collection when I was teaching.

    1. Isn't this collection the best. I also liked The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. It has similar poems, but it's not, in my mind, as good as this one here.

  7. Cheriee, I always loved to read Jack Prelutsky's playful Halloween poems to children but never knew that he had a ghoulish, grim side. Your poem has a very interesting ending with the last two stanzas. Gruesome for a little spider.

    1. I feel sorry for the little critter, but honestly, if only they would follow the rules and stay outside. I grew up in an area with black widow spiders so I like to think I come by my terror honestly.

  8. Oh that gruesome ghoul is perfect for the season... and I love seeing your spider's point of view!

    1. Thanks Buffy. I wish I was not their mortal enemy, but I have arachnophobia.

  9. Oh I love your spider poem. I sort of feel for it, even - which is saying something, coming from me. (I too have a fear of spiders.) We have huntsman spiders in Australia - which are harmless, but... They're awfully scary! And we have particularly huge ones. And I will just give you my link and you can read more about my thoughts (and a poem) here; https://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/creeped-out. (But perhaps don't read it before bed. Because it comes with photos.)

    1. I am never going anywhere with spiders as big as a huntsman. I don't care how "harmless" they are.