Halloween Poems 3



Lizard eyes see
Sorcery become
Debauchery when
Potions turn
Emotions to the
Must of
Lust and
Maids are
Laid without


Incredulous, asks
When her
Tombs will house
Wombs, and the
Coitus in death’s
Somnus be as
Virile and
Fertile for a

These ‘Halloween’ poems come from a self-produced collection of many years ago – the first three I posted today were used with students and made more innocuous in comparison with the others. It should be obvious.

I was experimenting with frontal rhyming at the time. I have no idea of this is an established expression.

The wonderful cover illustration was done by a student I taught at the time, ES.

Halloween Poems 2


Incubus, like a
Calculus, will
Measure sex as
But gloats too in
Ruts and grunts
Through sleepers it
Screws leaving a
Child in



Trolls, they’re as
Droll as the
Grumps their
Humps induce;
Grins cannot
Hide their
Snide looks or the
Rejection (and
Dejection) everyone



Changelings, they’re
Strange things,
Fakes who
All in the
Pall of death,
Steal children’s
Real selves
Leaving just the
Grieving that

Halloween Poems 1


Witches with evil
Twitches, always
Brooming for
Zooming, dressing
Black to
Smack you at
Night and suck
Fright from
Faces without
Traces in blank



Vampires it
Transpires that on a
Fang they
Hang small
Specks from torn
Necks where
Blood like a
Flood leaves
Dots as the
Spots of death’s



Ghosts, they’re
Hosts to their own
Attention for the
Retention of their
Myth, as
If they
Existed, these

Our Halloween

Razorblades inside the popcorn balls, LSD secreted in the
candy – here was the other horror story on Halloween
back in the 60s where kids in white sheets and carrying
paper sacks instead walked neighbourhoods safely
without parents and in the certain hope of bulging bags
filled with a different kind of deadly.

So much older and no longer there,
I wonder at those same streets now: escorts with guns
who might shoot anyone not giving because this is our
ritual; checking for messages on the inside of wrappers [like
calls to worship a different god]; strange scared faces at curtains
ignorant about years of these festivities and the dangers we can
imagine but at least call American, or subliminals unlike ours
about sugar and the other sweet certainties of who we are.

Nebraska 21 – ‘Chords’ by Carl Sandburg

IN the morning, a Sunday morning, shadows of sea and adumbrants of rock in her eyes … horseback in leather boots and leather gauntlets by the sea.

In the evening, a Sunday evening, a rope of pearls on her white shoulders … and a speaking, brooding black velvet, relapsing to the voiceless … battering Russian marches on a piano … drive of blizzards across Nebraska.

Yes, riding horseback on hills by the sea … sitting at the ivory keys in black velvet, a rope of pearls on white shoulders.

‘Orgy’ by Edwin Morgan


I used to be able to recite this whole poem, and to do so for a class of students or any individual would draw immediate, incredulous looks at the performance. Understandable. It happened the other night, not that I could remember the poem completely, but I conveyed the gist, and explained the storyline my flagging memory could not deliver as originally intended.

It is a brilliant concrete poem, using a ‘grid’ of letters and from this restricted, defined parameter constructing a story of a gluttonous anteater who, having spotted a substantial meal, eats and is sated, but blissfully so.

I think it was this and other similar playful poems written by the great Edwin Morgan that initiated my interest in concrete poetry, and over many years of teaching I introduced this poem and its structural idea to students who wrote their engaging own. I have also used similar ideas with my experimental writing.


I buy Mantel’s Wolf Hall from one of the two
charity shops I visit today looking for second
hand books or vinyl, a tome so large it has to
displace the wholemeal tin loaf purchased a few
minutes earlier at the bakery – butcher’s chorizo
bangers secured in another compartment of the
rucksack. On both those recycling reading shelves
was a single and stolen copy of John Steinbeck’s
Of Mice and Men, this year’s exam over, and there
will never be the need again to read for study so the
school like each discarding student can care less if
future generations know about George and Lennie,
how dreams are futile, loneliness, why it’s the girls
objectified, if there’s any meaning to sausage curls.

Nebraska 20 – ‘Advice From a Provincial’ by Don Welch

When you drive down our river-road,
spare us your talk about our backwardness,
of how mile after unrelieved mile dispirits you,
of how there is nothing, simply nothing to see.

Go back to your homes and work on your eyes,
bring back a sight which can co-create meaning.

Then notice at sunset how our river is on fire,
a long burning vowel running westward,
back to the mountains, those granite consonants
which thrust themselves at the sky.

Slow down. Colorado can wait.
Skiing, of course, will make the cold warmer,
but think of this river, frozen in winter,
as a long silent scream.

To the settlers who waited it out,
who felt their sodhouses thaw,
who survived this place and were scarred,
pay a momentary tribute.

And, in spring, if you’re the right kind,
catch the wind with its invisible fingers
making love to the water.

You’ll never read it in a brochure,
but the only worthwhile rivers
are those which simplify lives.

I posted a sweet, empathetic poem by Welch the other day, but this one is about Nebraska, the State where he lived and worked – at the University of Nebraska – for most of his life. It is about the River Platte and the nature there that meant so much to him.

‘Reading to My Kids’ by Kevin Carey

When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty pages
of Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket.
I read (to them) to get them to love reading
but I was never sure if it was working
or if it was just what I was supposed to do.
But one day, my daughter (fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way to basketball.
She was at the end when I heard her say,
No, in a familiar frightened voice
and I knew right away where she was.
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta,”
and she started crying, then I started crying,
and I think I saw Steinbeck
in the back seat nodding his head,
and it felt right to me,
like I’d done something right,
and I thought to myself, Keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.

‘Reading to My Kids’ by Kevin Carey from ‘Jesus Was a Homeboy’. © Cavan Kerry Press, 2016.

There is a sentimentality in this poem’s reflection, but that’s fine, and especially so as I use it to plug away critically and continually at then Education Secretary Michael Gove’s outrageous personal decision to have American authors banned from examination study at GCSE English Literature, thus depriving the nation’s students from encountering the hitherto popular exam text Of Mice and Men. Sadly, the point about parental intention and influence in Carey’s poem, as purposeful and correct as it is, does not translate into reality on that national scale.

Interestingly, Chief of Ofsted Michael Wilshaw has been making interesting comments of late – critical of Theresa May’s grammar school crusade; stating whilst in favour of Academies he wouldn’t have wanted to see all local education authorities destroyed – but he also claimed to support Michael Gove’s curriculum changes and I do wonder if this includes Gove’s singular ideological butchering of American texts from any exam syllabus? Of course, it’s a shame Wilshaw wasn’t more vocal with his apparently ‘reasonable’ views whilst prominently in office and only voices them now as his imminent retirement approaches.

The CH3–CH2–O–CH2–CH3 Inside Nick Gibb’s Head

There is an imminent paradox here when I suggest the ether in School Standards Minister Nick Gibb’s head has anesthetised whatever educational knowledge and understanding he possesses, because of course I don’t believe he does have any of this awareness – all he has drifting aimlessly about and knocking against the inside of his thick skull is the stuff of ignorance.

I am prompted to this observation by reports on Gibb’s dismissal of teachers’ detailed – or it seems, any – feedback when marking students’ homework arguing instead that they should simply put a grade/mark on it. One of his compelling reasons for this is teachers could then set more homework!

The ideal, of course, is teachers can speak with each and every student each and every time they are providing feedback on significant pieces of work – but this is not possible. If formative assessment is to mean anything [as it does, and we have certainly over the years proved that in comparison with summative assessment it is far more purposeful and effective] then there has to be teacher feedback.

Gibb makes his stupid claim in the context of appearing to be concerned about the excessive workload [and markload] of teachers. Well, there you go Gibbo: don’t consider reducing class sizes or teacher contact time or the withering and wearying demands placed on teachers to meet exam/performance targets – just tell them not to waste time doing what teachers do in providing supportive and instructive guidance to students through marking feedback.

Gibb claims that the idea of providing written feedback when marking has no substantive history of thought and practice:

This is one of the notions that came from somewhere in the ether, possibly something was said at a conference. It was never a requirement by the government, never a requirement of Ofsted, and so we have to send out the message that it is not required.

The first part of this is dismissive and rude arrogance, the second part about Ofsted is simply wrong, not that Ofsted’s requirements were ever the motivating force for English teachers in particular providing detailed written feedback – though SLTs will for years have been motivated by that actual demand.

I know we should simply ignore the nonsense that comes from the nonsense personified by Nick Gibb, but he is unfortunately – and ludicrously – in a position of some influence, even if this is merely to have his daft comments made public by the media and through this alone appear to have some credence.

If anyone assimilates their formless ideology from the ether it is Gibb and he is in good company with another fellow fantasist and deflector of reality David Icke:

People think I’m some kind of prophet, but I’m not someone who gets my information from the ether. I’ve been given the coordinates about how things work.