Saturday, October 31, 2020

Prompt #363 – Halloween 2020


When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,

may luck be yours on Halloween.

—Author Unknown


Today is Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year, and here in my place on the map, it’s autumn—a time filled with all the color and glory of the calendar’s last bright whirl. With October 31 come historical memories of Samhain (pronounced “sow-win”), the ancient Celtic festival that paved the way for Halloween as we know it. Samhain signaled the end of the harvest season, the beginning of winter, and the start of a new year.

This year on Halloween, there will be a special lunar treat—the full moon that will be seen tonight is called a blue moon because it’s the second full moon of the same month (following the harvest moon of Oct. 1 through Oct. 3). A rare and special treat is that the 2020 Halloween full moon will be visible to the entire world, not just parts of it, for the first time since World War II (the next global full moon won’t happen until 2039)

Sadly, this year many customary family and community Halloween events have been canceled or significantly altered because of Covid-19. And, right now, traditional Halloween thrills and chills seem less appealing while the pandemic continues to haunt and frighten us.

I feel especially badly for children who won’t be able to attend costume parties, Halloween parades, and take part in trick or treating; but, of course, at this point in the pandemic (with case numbers rising again), it’s best to err on the side of safety.

Although celebrations are changed, and the Cornoavirus equivalent of trick or treating won’t be the same, Covid can’t keep us from enjoying some Halloween poetry or from writing some of our own!


P. S. That’s me in the picture—I was four years old (in kindergarten) and dressed as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for Halloween that year.



1. Begin by reading some Halloween and associated poems to get into the “spirit” (some examples are offered below).

2. Then, write a Halloween poem that brings back the memory of a particular Halloween (from childhood or more recent), a costume you’ve worn or wanted to wear, or a mask that says something about you. Alternatively, you might write about what Halloween during the Covid-19 pandemic is like—and the wearing of masks every day.

3. Observe the usual poetry tips and caveats, and have fun with this.

4. Your poem can take any form: narrative, lyric, prose poem, haiku, haibun, tanka.

5. Be sure to evoke a mood or tone that’s compatible with your subject.


6. Include some “creepy” similes and metaphors.


7. Use language that’s appropriate to Halloween and your Halloween experience.


Examples of Halloween Poems:’en.htm




And, last, by way of sharing, here’s a Halloween prose poem from my book 

A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All 

(Welcome Rain Publishers, Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.)



Trick-or-treaters come to the door repeatedly—little ones early, older kids into the night until she runs out of candy and turns off the outside lights. The wall between worlds is thin (aura over aura—stars flicker and flinch). The woman buttons her coat, checks her reflection in the mirror, and stands cheek to glass (eye on her own eye, its abstract edge). She leaves the house (empty house that we all become)—shadows shaped to the trees, crows in the high branches.



Did you know that the poet John Keats was born on Halloween in 1795? His last poem is an untitled, eight-line fragment that seems chillingly well-suited to Halloween:


This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again,

And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—

I hold it towards you.


Happy Halloween, my friends!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Prompy #362 – One Wish for Right Now

When we were children, wishes were part of our immediate reality, and believing that our wishes would come true was easy: “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.” What happens to our wishes when we grow up? We still have them, right? This prompt is about a wish that you have right now. 


Here are some “wish poem” ideas:


1. Your wish during this unsettled and challenging time of Covid-19, civil unrest, and “difficult politics.” What’s the one thing you wish for most?


2. A poem based on a wish to see or spend time with someone you lost touch with years ago.


3. A poem based on a wish to see/talk to someone no longer living, perhaps someone who didn’t survive Covid -19.


4. A poem based on a wish you had as a child.


5. A poem based on a wish to be a child again or to be past this time in human history.


6. A poem based on a wish that was realized and lost.


7. A poem based on a wish you know will never come true.


8. A poem based on the old caveat: “Be careful what you wish for…”





A classic wish poem: “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by William Butler Yeats.


Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.







Saturday, October 3, 2020

Prompt #361 – Five

It’s hard to believe that October is here. 2020 has been a strange and challenging year in many ways. This season, between October and the end of December, has always been my favorite, and I’m trying hard to not let that be diminished this year because of Covid-19. Poetry has always had the power to lead me to peaceful places, and I turn to poetry (writing my own and reading other poets’ work) more often than usual these days.


In certain symbolisms, five is a number of balance and harmony. During this ongoing and protracted pandemic, these qualities are important in our lives and not always easily achieved.


For this prompt, I thought something simple with just a few guidelines might be something you’d enjoy (and, hopefully, something that might elicit a bit of balance and harmony for you—with an eye toward whatever moments of peace we can find).




1. Take yourself to place outdoors in which you can relax (your front porch or back deck, your backyard, near a lake or stream, the woods, a park). Take some deep breaths, let yourself become absorbed by the space around you. In this time of social distancing, we often feel isolated and alone, but find something peaceful in the place you choose and think about the balance and harmony in being alone (not lonely, but alone).


2. Once you’re settled and comfortable, look around carefully. Notice things around you (objects, trees, plants, water, stones, etc.), and write down five things that capture your attention. You might select five things that are similar or the same (five flowers, five birds, five clouds above you, five people walking by).


3. Now notice the details of those “things.” Jot down some notes.


4. Then write a poem that’s based on, about, or that includes the five things you selected. Are these things associated in any way? Look for connections among the five “things” you've chosen and yourself. How do they “speak” to you? What story might they tell?


5. Let your environment become the “landscape” of the poem. Write in the present tense—here and now. Let the objects direct the content of your poem. Describe them, define them, contextualize them, analyze them, repurpose them, recreate them. Play on the number “five.” Let your poem take you where it wants to go, but don’t let your five “things” get lost. You might even limit your poems to just five lines (some formal 5-line poems include the quintain, the limerick, the pentastich, and the tanka).


Examples of 5-Line Poems:



By Emily Dickinson


A sepal – petal – and a thorn

Opon a common summer’s morn –

A flask of Dew – A Bee or two –

A Breeze – a’caper in the trees _

And I’m a Rose!


(From The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. by R. W. Franklin, 

Harvard University Press, © 1998. All rights reserved.




A Meditation in Time of War

By William Butler Yeats


For one throb of the artery,

While on that old grey stone I sat,

Under the old wind-broken tree,

I knew that One is animate,

Mankind inanimate phantasy.


(From The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, Scribner Paperback Poetry, 

© 1996. All rights reserved.)





By risë


Sounds of highway traffic

crash like waves

serenaded by

tunes of

seasonal snowbirds


(From Spy in da House, Author House LLC, © 2013. All rights reserved.)




What You See All Night

By Adele Kenny


The wild bird you catch and let go—what you see all night at

the corner of your eye (along the outline of unfolded wings)—

when the self gives itself up (a bell diffused into air)—more

idea than expression:


a lightness, a thirst, or nothing at all. 


(From A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All, Welcome Rain Publishers, 

© 2015. All rights reserved.)