When it comes to Halloween poetry, many of the pieces you’ll find discuss death in a creepy, macabre sort of way. And while that’s all well and good (everyone needs a little bone-chilling verse this time of year, no?), the theme of death is a common one in literature, and there are a myriad of ways in which to discuss it. With another holiday coming up right after Halloween, the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, poets have an opportunity to discuss death from a different perspective in their works, and to celebrate the lives of poets who have recently passed away.
Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday held on November 1 and 2. Traditionally, families and friends gather to remember the lives of their loved ones, creating altars with candles, pictures, food, and flowers. This holiday has a unique perspective to offer on death; rather than being a somber and mournful affair, it truly is a celebratory one, and it gives families the opportunity to share stories of happy times they spent together. Honoring the life of a loved one who has passed away with a poem is not necessarily a feature of Dia de los Muertos, but it has and can be done.
On Dia de los Muertos, you can participate by honoring the great poets who have passed away within the last year and reading some of their work. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Maxine Kumin is one of the greats lost in 2014; Nobel Prize in Literature winner Seamus Heaney died in 2013. Perhaps one of the most well-known poets to pass away in 2014 was Maya Angelou, famed not only for her exemplary work in poetry but also for her work as an activist. Angelou had received awards from two U.S. presidents and was celebrated worldwide for her writing.
This Dia de los Muertos, take a little time to read the poems of the writers we have recently lost. You can try your hand at writing in their particular style or aesthetic, or if they are a poet who you have long found influential, write a piece honoring their memory. Like what you end up writing? Submit your poems to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!