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