Dot Hosford was an eccentric teacher with a penchant for hands-on instruction. Eschewing traditional teaching metrics, Ms. Hosford encouraged us to create. We recreated Odysseus’ bow, and wrote the Siren’s song. We recast portions of the Canterbury Tales in flash fiction pieces set in a modern high-school cafeteria. We paper mâchéd, sculpted, or drew Grendel, his mother, and the dragon of Beowulf. For end-of-the-year bonus points, we filmed the the hanging of John the Savage (maybe that one was a bit over the top).
Ms. Hosford had two simple rules about projects turned in for class credit: (1) all creative works, whether works of art, short stories, or otherwise, were hung on her wall, from her rafters, or perched on window sills; and (2) no work was removed from its place until it fell of its own volition. This being the case, entering Ms. Hosford’s classroom was an unforgettable, if not slightly disorienting experience. Dragons, monsters, and numerous paper mâché ravens clung to the walls and hung from the ceiling, peering at you from their respective perches. Tin-foil swords hung precariously from fishing line. Medusa and her coat-hanger serpentine hair peered at you from above Ms. Hosford’s desk. From time to time, a project would fall from the wall with a tumble, and Ms. Hosford would pick it up, tell us the story of the student who created the work, and then somberly walk it to the trashcan, where it would meet its end – sometimes twenty years after its creation.
As a student, I often fantasized that the projects came to life at night, that mother Grendel lamented over the charcoal rendering of her slain offspring. I imagined that Medusa’s wire hair slithered as the Raven squawked Nevermore from the corner. I thought of the clay Beowulf, and the balsa wood Odysseus, how they must have felt compelled to slay the many beasts. I supposed that only the vanquished heroes and creatures fell from the wall.
We all have our day, after all.
When I think of epic poetry, I think of Ms. Hosford. She taught us to bring our sense of imagination to the text, to participate in it. She wanted us to get the story under our fingernails, literally and figuratively. And to this day, I consider her the queen of the literature teachers, the most effective at her craft.
Which brings us to this week’s poetry prompt.
Poetry Prompt: This week, let’s bring our senses of imagination and creativity to the theme “dragons and creatures.” Pick any famous creature from literature, or create your own. Pen a poem involving the creature. Play with setting, form and structure, and use concrete details. Above all, have fun and stretch the limits of your creativity. (And if you create a paper mâché Grendel, we’ll award you bonus points and perhaps find a wall on which to hang the picture.)
Tweetspeak’s April Dragons and Creatures Poetry Prompt:
This month’s poetry theme at Tweetspeak is Dragons and Creatures, and we’ll be composing epic poems. I’m sure of it. How do you participate?
1. Pick a creature…any creature. Need some ideas? Check out this complete list of mythical creatures. Or listen to our very own Dragons and Creatures playlist.
2. Compose your own poem about a dragon or creature.
3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSCreatures hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.
4. If you aren’t a Twitter user, leave your poem here in the comment box.
5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a poem to feature in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.
Last week, Tammy offered a fun piece of light verse relating to the “Sandman.” In it, she writes, in part:
What bedtime tale
would any good parent speak
to strike fear
so a child would sleep?
Oh, I ain’t a-sleepin’
‘though my covers quake
I’m holding out
’til there’s no sand to shake.
Move right along
and don’t stop here
bringing your “f” that ends in “ear”.
Visit last week’s poetry prompt for Tammy’s full poem, and for the rest of the selections. Now, it’s open season on dragons and creatures. Who’s first?