I was nine years old when my family went water-skiing every day for an entire summer. We’d get up early, fix enough sandwiches to fill the cooler, and head for the lake in our midnight blue 1967 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, ski-boat in tow. On the best days, we would arrive before the wind had kicked up, when the lake was still a glassy calm.
Somehow, my dad’s job with a heating and air conditioning company allowed him to work mainly in the spring and fall. With summers free, my parents took us to the lake every day; me and my two brothers, Hap and Danny, and our friend Jimmy. Hap was the one with the crew-cut. Danny looked just like me, only more devious. We were all skinny, tanned, and a little too wild.
This was 1971, and the car had only an AM radio. No FM, no 8-track player, and certainly no DVDs or video games. A trip to the lake meant over an hour in the car each way, along winding mountain roads where the AM radio was useless, there weren’t enough other cars to play “slug bug,” and thumb wrestling got old in a hurry. Eventually–as four boys will do when stuck in the back seat of a car for an hour or two–we would begin to fight. It always started innocently enough with a “Quit touching me,” or a “Hey, that’s mine,” but would quickly erupt into a full-blown wrestling match on the floor of the car. Did I mention we also didn’t have seat belts?
Of all the holidays that we celebrate each year, Halloween is the one with the greatest potential for sparking the imagination. Kids (and let’s be honest, quite a few adults, too) are thinking about the costume they’ll wear, long before the actual night. And it’s easy to get everyone excited about making fun decorations for the classroom and elsewhere.
Witches, goblins, superheroes, and cartoon characters meet Jack o’Lanterns, fangs, and zombies in a festival of the unreal and the fantastic. (Not to mention all the free candy!) It’s the perfect opportunity to round up some of that bubbling excitement, and turn it into poetic fun! Here are a few ideas for the Scary Season, activities that are easily adaptable for most age-groups.
It’s unfortunate but true, and probably due to our tech-driven, scientifically orientated world, that when I tell people I write poetry for a living, I’m likely to hear the question, “But what’s it for? What does it do?” And that’s a puzzler when it comes to literature and poetry. To those of us who love it, it’s perfectly obvious what it’s “for.”
But just in case you’re asked that question about poetry any time soon, and you want to have something to say without spluttering in indignation, I thought I’d throw together a few little-know facts about the effect poetry has on children’s brains (and ours, for that matter).