OK, so Halloween is two days away — what are you going to do to mark the event? Going guising? Apple-dooking? Horror movies? Or just lying on the floor with all the lights off avoiding trick-or-treaters? Whatever your thoughts, here are a few ways to bring the poeticness this All Hallows Eve…
Dress as a dead writer.
Way cooler than digging out your trusty paper witch’s hat or shoving some bunny ears on your head and pretending you’re Frank from Donnie Darko. I love Halloween, but even I’m guilty of recycling costumes (it’s basically the only day one can wear a bright green evening gown, so I’m getting my money’s worth from that thing, dammit!). You only get to do this once a year so really, you ought to do it well! Dressing as a dead writer is as easy or complex as you want to make it, and lets face it, you look a million times smarter and cooler than That Guy Who Always Shows Up Wrapped In Toilet Roll. Suggestions? Hunter S Thompson is an easy one — loud shirt, shades, cigar, and you’re good to go. Find yourself a big floppy hat and a cigarette holder and go as Dorothy Parker. Or if you like a challenge, I daresay William Shakespeare would win anyone’s Best Costume contest.
Throw a Halloween poetry reading.
Halloween-themed poetry only, with bonus points for fancy dress, scary voices and histrionics (maybe use this event as inspiration?). You could read your own stuff, or recite classic creepy poems from years gone by — Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven,’ Walter de la Mare’s ‘The Listeners,’ etc. Decorate your reading venue and have a bring your own pumpkin policy (seriously: ANY Halloween party should have a Bring Your Own Pumpkin policy. I always request that people bring one along and the room always looks AWESOME with creepy illuminated pumpkin faces dotted around everywhere!).
Invent your own (literary) ghost walk.
Why pay a pretty penny to be dragged round a bunch of tourist spots when you could invent your own tour? Fuse the ghost walk concept with the literary pub crawl and you’re onto a winner. Research your local area for places where writers lived and died, places where artistic events took place, etc. If you can’t find anything, don’t worry — make it up. (Trust me, a lot of the ghost tour guides do!) Invite some friends, get dressed up and go out marauding. You could even instruct someone to be the “jumper oot-er” — someone who hides in a doorway or round a corner waiting to leap out and scare your unwitting tour group! If you don’t fancy wandering round in the cold looking at old houses all night, you could always try a tour of pubs with creepy names or literary associations.
Write a Halloween inspired poem.
And make it a good one!
Host a morbid poetry pub quiz!
I had a friend who invented a quiz for a Halloween party once — all the questions were spookily themed, and the prizes were things like jelly worms and light-up devil horns, it was rather silly but pretty cool. It would be easy to put a literary twist on this particular activity — questions on famous literary deaths, great ghost stories, fictional murders.
Brew a poetic potion.
It ought to be made The Law that you must drink absinthe on Halloween. Favoured by writers down the ages — Oscar Wilde, Rimbaud and Baudelaire all loved the stuff — it’s the perfect way to poetify your All Hallows Eve. I mean, it’s green and cloudy, it’s long been believed to possess magical qualities, and to prepare it properly YOU SET IT ON FIRE. Oh, and it has wormwood in it, which sounds like something from a witch’s kitchen. Added bonus? It tastes like aniseed balls! It is the ultimate literary Halloween tipple.
Tell me what you’ll be up to this Halloween night!
Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!
So yep — terrifyingly, I have managed to procrastinate my way to 100 whole posts of weird and wonderful blog links, Youtube videos and other internet flotsam over the course of my three-and-a-half years at the helm of One Night Stanzas. In recognition of this epic event, I decided to trawl through all 100 previous procrastination station posts, and bring you my pick of the best lovely links so far. Let the wwilfing commence!
“Few who believe in the potential of the Web deny the value of books. But they argue that it is unrealistic to expect all children to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Pride and Prejudice” for fun. And those who prefer staring at a television or mashing buttons on a game console, they say, can still benefit from reading on the Internet. In fact, some literacy experts say that online reading skills will help children fare better when they begin looking for digital-age jobs.”
Want a web/phone app that FORCES you to write? You got it!
“Although we all have stories to tell very few of us have a book worth writing in us. I am with John Milton when he argues in Areopagitica that “a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life”. Very few of us are great poets.”
The old adage, “everyone has a book in them?” Not true.
“Well, I like poetry that is amusing, that maybe makes me chuckle a little. I’d rather read something reassuring and light than something complicated or gloomy. Is that bad? Does that mean I am a jerk?”
Smart answers to some of the common, and really stupid, questions people ask about poetry.
“The cash registers were idle much of the time, but the [book]store was full, seemingly peopled by freeloaders sitting in chairs with stacks of books piled at their feet. What was appearent was that very few of those books would be purchased and the books in turn would be dog eared, bent , battered and otherwise made less than pristine. The staff, in turn, seemed as though they could give a flat fuck about the state of the store; sections were out of order. Vain as I am, I wanted to yell at someone.”
“Certainly you may buck the conventions of the query letter if your work is too amazing/revolutionary/brilliant to be summarized. Why don’t you also try applying for jobs without a résumé, using only your psychic powers. Let us know how that works out for you.”
DIY Pirateship Armada: PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIVE HERE. (I am jealous of them.)
“Inside my sheltering head: the sound of rustling green. Husband,
you are the riddle beneath which I dream blossoms and birds, but
when I wake, icicles hang from the eaves, the size of a man and twice as lethal.”
“We’re all practitioners of an art that doesn’t generally interest or impress the vast majority of people, and most of us will struggle to be heard, read, enjoyed and make a living out of our art. It is therefore quite darkly hilarious that many poets do not read other poets work, and nor do many performance poets attend performance poetry events.”
“Someone wants to kiss you, to hold you, to make tea for you. Someone is willing to lend you money, wants to know what your favourite food is, and treat you to a movie. Someone in your orbit has something immensely valuable to give you — for free.”
“You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.”
“Some blind date has persuaded you to go to a poetry slam. On the stage you see people shouting horrifying personal and global traumas with lines like “And I wonder / if George Bush was a woman / would he still let his Dick / do most of his thinking?” A valid question, but it is not the type of ambience that leads to a second date.”
“”Oh, yes. That. Well, the sperm comes out of the man’s penis and it goes into the woman’s vagina. This happens when the two do what’s called, ‘have sex’. And that’s where the egg – there’s usually only one in the woman’s pond at a time – gets fertilised.” Only after the fact did I realise that I had said the words penis and vagina and sex in a strained, sotto voce tone. This was also something my own mother would have done.” When The Birds and The Bees Talk gets out of control…
“A student said to me yesterday, “I didn’t know professors could have long hair.” I said, “They can. If you do something well, people won’t bother you. That’s true in all professions. If you are the one guy who can fix the computers, you can keep a boa constrictor in your office. No one will say a thing.” His eyes flashed. Possibly he “went over to the dark side”… or something. I felt happy for 11 seconds.” I still think about this article a lot: on teaching creative writing.
“If a customer tells me she’s looking for a book by a man and there’s a girl in it but she can’t remember the author or the title, I give her Lolita. If she’s looking for “that popular book about the animals”: Animal Farm. “That controversial book my book club is reading”: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. “The book with a red cover and the word ‘the’ in the title”: The Joy of Sex. I’m a bookseller, not a magician. My dark-framed glasses and skinny jeans possess only so much magic. If you read nothing else from this post, read Bookseller I Would Like To F***.
“I’m going to write smart things about Death in Literature.”
Shakespeare vs Dr Seuss (OMG Watsky <3)
Phew! Here’s to the next 100. Have a great weekend!
One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via firstname.lastname@example.org. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!
I thought: I want to be part of some kind of organic and newly emerging literary scene. But then I realized: I already am, one that is largely electronically mediated, and one that is vibrant. I also realized: These things are invested with grandeur only in retrospect. In practice, they are messy and hard, and therefore verifiably alive.