Saturday, October 28, 2017

Prompt #296 – What Does Your Costume Say about You?



Dressing up in costumes (called ”fancy dress” in England) has a long history. Masked balls and other fancy dress occasions were popular long before the custom of wearing costumes on Halloween came into popular practice. Halloween costumes as we know them today were first recorded as late as 1895 in Scotland with little evidence of the practice in England, Ireland, or the US before 1900. Early Halloween costumes took their character from Halloween’s pagan and Gothic sensibilities and were worn mainly by children. These costumes were made at home from found materials, but by the 1930s, several companies began to manufacture Halloween costumes for sale in stores, and trick or treating became popular. Today, Halloween costumes are worn by children and adults, all of whom enjoy the fun of becoming something or someone other than who they really are.

From the time I was little, I enjoyed Halloween costumes for the pure fun of them but also because, in costume, I was able to step out of myself and into another personality. 

Although, traditionally, Halloween costumes are monsters, vampires, zombies, and other ghoulish creatures, many more are based on characters and figures from history, movies, and everyday life. In a very real sense, costumes are communication devices—they say something about the people who wear them.


Suggestions:

1. Write a poem about a costume “experience” that you  had as a child or as an adult.

2. Write a poem about a costume that you’d love to wear. What’s the “character” you’d like to “become” on Halloween night? Why and how would a particular costume take you out of yourself and into a new personality?

3. Write a poem about the costume you would never want to wear and why.

4. Write a poem in which you “create” a bizarre costume that makes no reasonable sense—a fantasy costume. You might try a prose poem for this one (and be sure to include a little surreal imagery).

5. Write a poem about the animal you’d like to dress up as and “become” on Halloween night.

6. Write a poem about a historical person whom you’d like to “become” on Halloween. 

7. Write a poem about a costume party that you attended.

8. If you were going to dress up as a famous poet, which poet would you choose? In your poem, tell why you would choose that poet and describe your costume. For example, if you were to dress up as William Carlos Williams, your costume would include such things as latex gloves, a white lab coat, a stethoscope, eyeglasses, and brushed-back hair. For William Shakespeare, you’d need an Elizabethan-style outfit, beard, etc.

Tips:

1. Remember as you write to let your poem take you where it wants to go, and to be aware of meanings other than the obvious.

2. Link the end of the poem to the beginning but not overtly—and don’t over-write.

3.  Write beyond the last line, then go back and find the last line hidden in what you’ve written.

4.  Try (minimal) repetition from another part of the poem—sometimes this can work very well.

5.  Use more one-syllable words than multi-syllable words in your last couple of lines (think in terms of strong verbs and no superfluous language).

Examples:



It’s Halloween by Jack Prelutsky

It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.
Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.
In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.
Tonight we are the king and queen,
For oh tonight it’s Halloween!


Happy Halloween!








7 comments:

  1. Well done, again, Adele! The psychological suggestions for this one leave a lot of room for creativity.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Jamie! I agree with you about the psychological suggestions!

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  2. My lesson plan for today! Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Rich! Here's wishing you and your students some great Halloween writing!

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  3. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)October 31, 2017 at 10:02 AM

    So much fun in the prompts these last few weeks. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Amita! I'm very glad to know that you're enjoying the prompts!

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  4. Thank you for this prompt. I've written a poem about the year I didn't have a costume and felt so left out at school and in our neighborhood. It was actually healing to write about that time. Thanks!

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