Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ten Poems for Halloween

This is more for me and my practicum class than anything else, but this blog isn't such a bad forum to do this. I have ten poems that I am giving to "my" students tomorrow that have a sort of Halloween-y feel to them. Being not so hot at the whole picking apart of a poem, I thought I might briefly organize my thoughts on each one so I have something to say if there's a need.

So, here we go:

"Incantation", George Parsons Lathrop

The first stanza sets the scene for the poem. This late Autumn sort of feel is when "witchery" takes place. The witchery, it seems, is in the change in season, the death of summer and the coming on of Autumn. This poem feels like it's trying to acknowledge a certain magic comes with this time of year.

"The Philosophy of Pitchforks", Sue Owens

This poem has something to do with justice. The pitchfork does the devil's and destiny's work, and is heartless/pitiless, but it doesn't seem to be making any decisions of it's own--it's a tool. The phrase that the "pitchfork play its part as well," makes me wonder. What part is the pitchfork playing?

"Dirge", Thomas Lovell Beddoes

This poem is from the perspective of the dead. They are buried under a yew tree, which has special significance with both death and immortality. The dead are communicating with each other. I found it especially interesting that they think if the living could hear them, they might be jealous. Why? A dirge is supposed to express mourning or grief, yet this poem has a rather upbeat tone, as though being dead is a good thing, perhaps better than being alive. The speaker in the poem attempts to incite the reader to follow them.

"Bats", Paisley Rekdal

The bats are sort of running parallel with images of clothing and body parts, like underwear and empty wombs and breasts. Clearly they are a rather unsettling metaphor for something else (infidelity, an unhappy marriage due to barrenness?).

"The Witch-Bride", William Allingham

What could this poem be about? A man starts out by being enticed by a "fair" witch. Something, someone, a "Shape" comes in the "dead of night" and somehow things change. The good-looking witch becomes something foul. What does this all mean? The man is also stuck with the witch, despite the fact that he'd like to get rid of her. Is there some sort of moral to this story? Don't marry witches? Interesting...

"All Souls' Night, 1917", Hortense King Flexner

Dead loved ones return to life for the night and desire to be close to those still on earth. Why would you not want the dead to know that there is no fire that can warm them? There seems to be some amount of foreboding about the roaming spirits of young lovers. The speaker is trying to keep logs on the fire (keep the room warm--a way to ward off the dead) and fill the room with talking and liveliness, but people are distracted by the spirits, or are put off by them. What does this mean? That we cannot (or should not) forget the dead? That we need to help them rest?

"Mr. Macklin's Jack O'Lantern", David McCord

This poem has a playful feel to it, but then slightly creepy, too, at the end. The pumpkin is carved up pretty innocently, but when the candle is lit and eerie shadows are cast on the walls and floor, the last line seems to imply that the Jack O'Lantern wants to get out. Get out and do what?

"All Hallows Night", Lizette Woodworth Reese

A woman opens her home to ghosts and then comes face to face with her own. This is also after she's made her home "April-clear," which sounds like it could mean she Spring cleaned (her house is super clean). Has the speaker lost herself over the course of the year? The poem reads that she's opening her home to ghosts of the year, so perhaps something has happened to cause her to become a ghost in some manner. A loss, perhaps, or being wrapped up in something else. The fact that she's gone about cleaning up her house and prepared herself to see ghosts sort of implies that seeing the ghost of herself wasn't anticipated.

I realize that I have two more poems to go through ("Dream-Land" by Poe and "Haunted Houses" by Longfellow), but one is very easy for me to understand and the other very complex, so I don't anticipate coming up with something terribly coherent. I am also incredibly tired, so I guess I'm saying I'm leaving it here for now.

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