Guest Blog Posts

Halloween Tricks or Treats? (a poet’s solution) – guest blog post by Tricia Knoll

High-fructose corn syrup. Warnings: small objects like hard candy can be lodged in the throat. Artificial flavor. Artificial color (Red 40, Blue 1). Mineral oil. Print so small you can't read all the ingredients or are advised to call an 800 number toll-free on weekdays to get a full list of ingredients.

I simply was not going to give these out at the door again. I decided to hand out Halloween poems.

This was not without some debate in our household and with a couple of neighbors. Would the big kids soap our windows, knock over the garbage or? Unbeknownst to me, my husband who usually trusts me had a bag of junk candy hidden in a paper bag in a closet in case things went sour with the poetry idea.

I decided to create two kinds of treats: a basket full of simple rhyming poems for the littlest of ghosts and goblins coming to my door. An internet search made it easy. And then I had a basket of more serious Halloween poems for the bigger people. I had about a dozen different poems for each age group so that a group of kids wouldn't all get the same poem.

Little kids sample:

Skeleton Parade

(by Jack Prelutsky)

The skeletons are out tonight,
they march about the street,
With bony bodies, bony heads
and bony hands and feet.
Bony bony bony bones
with nothing in between,
Up and down and all around
they march on Halloween.


And for the bigger kids (and the parents out on the sidewalk who weren't supposed to be obviously following the bigger kids), there was a bunch to choose from, including:

  • Carl Sandburg's "Theme in Yellow"
  • Louise Gluck "All Hallows"
  • Ursula LeGuin "Sea Halloween"
  • Shakespeare's Witches Song (MacBeth)
  • Judith Arcana's "The Old Witch Speaks"

Poets & Writers had a good selection. Also the Poetry Foundation. Finding content and variety is easy.

How did it go?

Fabulous. The first couple was carrying an infant. I gave each parent a "mature" poem and the infant a little kid poem. They said they used to hand out toothbrushes. I felt like I was on safe ground.

Then the groups started coming and universally the kids laughed and thought it was a really fun idea. A duo of middle-school zombies started to arch their eyebrows when I opened the door and said, "I'm giving out poems," but I said quickly "So just tell your English teacher you went trick or treating for poetry!" And they laughed.

So: no more fake colors and flavors and high-fructose corn syrup going out my door anymore. Just poems.

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Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet whose work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collected poems include Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press). Broadfork Farm, love poems to a small family-organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington, came out from The Poetry Box in 2017.

6 replies »

  1. Here’s a 13-word Halloween poem for the older kids:

    cooking class
    new teacher, smiling
    where's Miss Jones?
    meat today
    oddly familiar

    (the parents might not like it…)

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