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All Hallows: Writing Prompt

Louise Glück died on Friday, October 13, 2023, at the age of 80. She grew up in Hewlett, a Nassau County hamlet on Long Island. She published 12 books of poetry, with her first book, Firstborn, coming out in 1968. She and her books won a Pulitzer Prize, a Bollinger Prize, a Nobel Prize in Literature, a Sara Teasdale Memorial Prize, and many others. She was also a U.S. Poet Laureate.

She wrote a great deal about dark spaces: grief, loneliness, family dysfunction, isolation, regret, unfulfilled longing, and trauma. But she also wrote poems about love, sex, nature, and contentment. Her style and voice were as unique to poetry as Dickinson or Hughes or Whitman or cummings, and she did many things that many of us were taught not to do, which was part of what I admire about her poetry.

(The poem below includes a word in the last line--soul--I was told to NEVER USE IN A POEM. EVER. I was also told to always limit my yellow fabrics in quilts by more than one quilter. So . . . you guessed it: I have at least a handful of poems with the word soul in them--sometimes even in the title!--and many of my quilts have yellow upon yellow upon yellow. I think my first words were "You're not the boss of me.").

Below is my favorite poem of hers, and one of her most well-known. It inspired me to write a poem called "Moons in Autumn," which was published decades ago in The Pikeville Review, and I am betting this prompt will inspire you in the same way.

Glück's poem, "All Hallows," is an unnerving little poem, although she avoids the usual tropes of Halloween and horror, not only in her images but also her language (except for the words pestilence and creeps). Read her poem and then keep reading for your prompt.

by Louise Glück

Even now this landscape is assembling.

The hills darken. The oxen

sleep in their blue yoke,

the fields having been

picked clean, the sheaves

bound evenly and piled at the roadside

among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness

of harvest or pestilence.

And the wife leaning out the window

with her hand extended, as in payment,

and the seeds

distinct, gold, calling

Come here

Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

Your prompt for this week:

write a poem that evokes autumn and/or Halloween without mentioning either word

focus on nature

include an animal not usually associated with autumn or Halloween

include two colors

mention the moon, in passing, and give it a human attribute

end with a single line that includes a tree

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