Monster Mash

By Erin Malone, WITS Writer-in-Residence

Right around Halloween this year I found my 6th grade son reading a book called Zombie Haiku. It’s a novel written in verse—in this case, linking haiku. Was it assigned for his Language Arts class? No. He was reading it for fun. A book that turns 12-year-olds away from the video screen in favor of poetry “for your brains”? Genius. And since I’m always looking for things my students will enjoy writing, I took a look.

The material didn’t seem right for my elementary kids—too gory—and by fifth grade almost every student has written haiku. But I liked the idea here, that sometimes things that scare us can be fun. Also, I think writing in form is good practice for any writer. I needed something simple and decided on a form called a “lune,” which is an American twist on the traditional Japanese haiku. There are a couple of different lune forms, but I like the one created by poet Jack Collom. It’s a self-contained tercet, just like haiku, but the poet uses word count instead of syllable count: 3 words in the first line, 5 words in the second, and 3 in the final line. There are no other rules.

I went to class with copies of Halloween or autumn-themed poems, as many as I could fit on a page, and gave them to the students. As they read through them poems, I asked them to circle any attention-catching words, those that surprised them or suggested textures, sounds, or images they liked. In this way, they created a word list. Just like Dr. Frankenstein robbed graves for body parts to build his monster, they were going to “rob” words from other poems to make their own. Words they found included werewolf, furry, ghosts, guzzles, grin, crunches, doorbell, tawny, raccoons, ssh, growl, gleaming, eyepits. . . . After we discussed the lune form and I reminded them that they could change the tense of the words and add connecting words, they made their “monster mash-ups,” as many as they could in the time they had left. Here are some examples:

The white fog
covers the monster guzzling down
my blue soul.

–Lorelei

*

The owl flew
through the fog of midnight.
The jack o’lanterns stared.

–Trevor

*

Dry leaves crackle
as I stumble through the
night in October.

–Noah

*

Jack o’lanterns steal glistening
souls to light up their
evil, orange insides.

–Evelyn

*

The werewolf awakens.
Scared of the darkness he
looks under his bed.

–Anders

*

He growls at
me. His eyes fog over
like a sea.

–Isadora

*

Werewolves carve pumpkins.
When darkness comes to grin
Jack o’lanterns gleam gold.

–Cory

*

My terrible-smelling
teeth crack as I eat
a boney jawbreaker.

–Ceria

We had a lot of fun with this exercise, which could be adapted for any season or holiday theme. With more time and some revision, I think students could each make their own chapbooks, writing several “connected” lunes on a topic.

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