Saturday, October 21, 2017

Prompt #295 – Mysterious Monsters

(Yep, that's me in my zombie costume.)

It’s been more than a decade since zombies began their hungry shuffle into the mainstream of popular culture; and, in the monster aristocracy, zombies are currently the reigning royals. Since establishing the Carriage House Poetry Series in 1998, I’ve tried to come up with ideas (especially on occasions like our 19th anniversary this year) that will be fun for both performers and audiences, and something other than the typical poetry reading fare.

In the spirit of the season, and with Halloween coming soon, the Carriage House Series presented a program of ghoulishly good poetry, costumes, and celebration on October 17th. We called the program “Poets’ Apocalypse,” as a play on the current popularity of zombies and the term “Zombie Apocalypse.”

The slideshow from YouTube is below!

It’s amazing how fascinated we humans are with things that “go bump in the night.” As far as literature goes, books by Stephen King delight us, and Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems draw us to their characters and situations in the most appealingly spine-chilling ways. Given a choice between such written works and ballerina and bunny stories, the choice for many of us is obvious.

It may be that, because there’s so much real fear in our personal and global worlds, we find comfort of a sort in reading “scary” books and poems about other peoples’ terror. Or, maybe, we find it encouraging to “see” how weaker protagonists outsmart their terrifying antagonists. Whatever the reason, fictional monsters of one sort or another (from Stephen King’s vampire to Poe's raven, as well as the monsters we fear within ourselves) excite the imagination and continue to draw us to them. 

There are undoubtedly dozens of psychological explanations for our fascination with monsters, but I like to think that scary creatures are just plain fun. With that in mind, this week’s challenge is to write a poem about a monster.


1. Make up a monster or personalize one that’s commonly known. (Keep in mind that “monsters” may also be emotional or psychological.)

2. Describe your monster—not too much detail but enough to create a solid visual for your readers.

3. Tell how a "psychological monster" manifests itself in your life.

4. Create a poem about a "monster" fear that haunts or taunts you (based on things such as fear of the dark or fear of being alone).

5. Think about how you might be (or have been) a monster to someone, and write about it.

6. Write about an unexplained monster: the Yeti, Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabra, the Loogaroo (or any other regional creature that’s known in local lore).

7. Write about how someone is a monster to you, or write about how something in your life is monstrous.

8.  If “serious” monsters aren’t your cup of tea, you might want to try a humorous approach. If you do, be monstrously funny.


1. The first line of your poem should be inviting, shocking, or curious enough to lure readers in.

2. Your poem should astonish readers in some way: insights, perceptions, imagery, description. 

3. You should include at least one image or figure of speech that makes your readers gasp. 

4. There should be an element of mystery and understatement in your poem—don't give everything away.

5. Avoid the usual pitfalls: 
·  writing in the passive voice, 
·  over-using adjectives, 
·  "ing" endings, 
·   too many prepositional phrases.



  1. Brilliant, Adele! Your zombie costume is amazing. Loved the slideshow too. Looks as if you all had a blast.

  2. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)October 22, 2017 at 6:50 AM

    What an amazing costume! You look so scary. I've got a
    poem started that deals with the "monster" of being shy. Thank you for another great prompt.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Amita! Your idea for a poem about the monster of being shy is wonderful! All the best with it!

  3. My students are loving the prompt and the video!

  4. Great prompt, but Adele my dear, when was the last time you washed your face? LOL Super costume!

    1. LOL Sandy! I don't think zombies wash their faces!

  5. The idea of psychological and emotional monsters is interesting -- something to think about when writing from this prompt.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, John! I agree about psychological and emotional monsters being interesting subject matter for poems.