Naughty or Nice, or, All in All, I Can Use Candy More than Harassment

No, this isn’t a complaint.  It’s a reference to Krampus and, last night, my joining in the town’e first Krampus Parade.  Krampus is the dark Santa Claus depicted as a slew of hairy, horned monsters who make sure the naughty children get switches instead of candy.

So each of us has to make a decision when handed two stickers:  to wear the “Naughty” one or the one that says “Nice.”  Be chased by the monsters or be given candy by the women Imagewearing white — the Bishop/Saint Nicholas’s assistants  — even if, when I asked one if she believed the label I’d stuck on my coat, she answered “No” (but gave me candy anyway).  My favorite part was the Krampus cart, pulled along the parade route and holding, in front, a kettle of some red-glowing substance and, in the back, a wooden cage containing one or two small children, apparently already caught by the monsters to be taken home for further torture.

But I had been nice.  Thursday night, late (well . . . really more like early Friday morning), having received the materials I needed earlier that day, I sent in the completed revised introduction for Damnation Books’s TELLING TALES OF TERROR:  ESSAYS ON WRITING HORROR AND DARK FICTION (see December 3, including link; October 19).  Then earlier Saturday I was at the Bloomington Writers Guild’s (cf. October 26, et al.) annual combined December business meeting/officer election and party.  Of the party part, I ate Danish, chocolate, and several kinds of cookies and read three poems at the reading portion,  “Émile’s Ghosts” from VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) plus two new ones, one about a zombie which I’d first read at the November Upstart Poets, and the other a “glosa” — a 40-line, line by line explication of the “Little Willie” poem that goes “Willie saw some dynamite,/ he didn’t understand it quite,/ curiosity never pays/ it rained Willie seven days.”  The particular Little Willie poem, incidentally, was one I also cited at Upstart Poets to explain the spirit of the zombie poem, “Pas de Dead,” that in which a terrible thing happens but is greeted by either the poet’s indifference or, worse, a rehashing of some Victorian-era moral lesson that’s tragically inadequate to the situation (“curiosity never pays,” indeed, or as the glosa expands it:  “. . . yet with caution, sidewise gaze/ upon the kitten lest its claws/ might harm the nose that’s stuck too close./ When overzealousness betrays,/ curiosity never pays.”).

Business was done at the party too, and I’m now signed up for two public readings in 2013, the first to be in February as part of a new monthly “First Sundays” prose reading series, and the second in October for the more established thrice-yearly “Fountain Square Poetry” series.  Of the latter, the first opening, in June, seemed too close to World Horror Con weekend, but also, as I’ll most likely be reading vampire poems, the later date’s being nearer to Halloween seemed appropriate to the coordinator.  Fountain Square, I might add, is an upscale downtown mall and these readings usually coincide with an evening opening at one or more local art galleries there (which, not entirely to be ignored, usually means a stroll down the hall during breaks will lead to a table of high-class snacks — hey, we’re writers and a cardinal rule is never to pass up a chance to eat free).

Then rounding out the two weeks (more or less) before Christmas weekend, today I saw NUTCRACKER:  THE MOTION PICTURE on TV, from a 1980s performance in Seattle by the Pacific Northwest Ballet, including production and costume design by the late Maurice ImageSendak (i.e., author of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, et al.).  This version hews a little bit closer in spirit to the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” and was noted as being darker than the more usual ones seen at Christmas time.  Also, there is a voiceover by a now grown-up Clara at the beginning, to the effect that “The Christmas parties of long ago blur and mix as one.  The real and the unreal merge together.”  And thus, the production also seems to emphasize the blend, the never quite knowing where the dream ends, which to me as a writer of fiction — especially dark fiction — adds a particular fascination.

In all, a delicious Christmas candy!


  1. What a delicious column, too! I hadn’t heard of Krampus before –so I’d Googled it. I also hadn’t hear of a glossa! So thanks for not only an engaging blog, but also for teaching me some new stuff!

  2. Marge, thank you for a very nice comment! (“Caveman” up in the Classifications at the top will usually indicate there’s some personal stuff in a column, that is when I remember. Of course, personal stuff is often trivial stuff too, but still sometimes important: I reminded myself in this one that it’s high time I mailed my Christmas presents to my nieces, etc. [no Drosselmeyer I, however, they’re just getting books].)

  3. They should be very grateful to get your latest, Jim!

  4. Actually these ones are not by me (blush) — but they did get VAMPS last year and, if all goes well, perhaps THE TEARS OF ISIS in 2013. (Actually, when I’ve written them myself, I do see it being more like Drosselmeyer, for better or for worse. I have visions of their showing these to their friends, saying “I have this crazy uncle in Indiana. . . .”)

  5. WHAT?!! You gave them books by SOMEONE ELSE?? Shameful! LOL! I’m sure they’re very proud of you, seriously.

  6. (Between you and me, I can’t say for sure they always read them. We do all lead busy lives, but it’s the thought.) On a subject change, here’s a nifty piece on the glosa as a poetic form — the one I wrote uses the “traditional” structure, albeit in a Hudibrastic way (it was in response to a poetry challenge, of which the Devil often whispers in my ear ):

    Little did I know how obsessed I would become by the form and how, as with all obsessions, it would have to run its course. And little did I know what hazards lie ahead.

    – PK Page in the Foreword to her book Hologram: A Book of Glosas

    The Glosa was used by poets of the Spanish court and dates back to the late 14th and early 15th century. For some reason, it has not been particularly popular in English. A search of the Internet search will uncovered a meager number of brief references to the form. From the limited information it is learned that the traditional structure has two parts. The first part is called the texte or cabeza. It consists of the first few lines (usually four) or the first stanza (usually a quatrain) from a well-known poem or poet. It has become permissible to use lines from a less well-known poet, or even from ones own verse.

    The second part is the glose or glosa proper. This is a “gloss on,” an expansion, interpretation or explanation of the texte. The formal rule describes the glosa as consisting of four ten-line stanzas, with the consecutive lines of the texte being used as the tenth line (called the glossing) of each stanza. Furthermore, lines six and nine must rhyme with the borrowed tenth. Internal features such as length of lines, meter and rhyme are at the discretion of the poet. Examples of this will be found in this chapbook collection.

    As with most poetic forms, unless dictated by strict contest requirements, poets have taken the liberty to vary the format. In addition to the glosa’s traditional ten-line stanzas, one will find 4-, 5- and 8-liners. They will be found written in free verse, with meter, and with rhyme. In the shorter variations. You will find variations in which the first line of each stanza (taken from the original texte) repeated again as the last line – added as a refrain. When the first line is repeated as the refrain at the end of a poem the stanza form is referred to as an Envelope.

    Another variation of a short glosa poem has to do with the location of the borrowed line. It can be the first line, the last line, or one inserted into the body of the stanza. Yet another variation is the use of the first four lines of a prose piece as the texte.

  7. This form (glosa) gives me a mild headache, thinking about actually writing one.

  8. Hi Marge. Actually writing the glosa turned out to be kind of fun once I was into it — and that 6th, 9th and 10th line rhyme is sort of neat too. However, I don’t know if I’ll ever write another.

  9. I think mine was a Shakespearean one. *think*, mind you.

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