#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Four. To celebrate the launch of my new poetry collection “As Folktaleteller” I am downloading 93 folklore art images, 3 per day in October and asking writers to write poetry or a short prose inspired by one, two or all three images. Please join Gaynor Kane, Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, Kyla Houbolt, Jessica Whipple, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Chris Husband, Eryn McConnell, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

F 1.4. Merrow Clonfert_Cathedral_Mermaid

F 1.4. Merrow Clonfert_Cathedral_Mermaid

F 2.4. Heksenmoeder the-witches-rout

2.4. Heksenmoeder the-witches-rout”

F 3.4 Goody Cole 440px-Eunice_Cole_Court_Record_1673

F 3.4 Goody Cole 440px-Eunice_Cole_Court_Record_1673

The Carcass

The bear they’d winterfallen—left the hollow landscape
of her to level. Hillocks, once waving with rough black grass,

now skinned, now snowcapped. Come spring and her insects, stop-
motion lake to ichor. A dragonfly hops the island chain of bone.

Carrion-fly, demon, hunter, witch: so many pointed things driven
by the stick. Whatever breaches a skin, it assuades one hunger

or another; a procession of beasts dizzy with desire and believing nothing
can fell them faster than they take. I want to tell you the skeleton

of the bear articulated all this better than I can. I want to tell you it’s written
in the bone. All she reveals is how everything uses up some part

of us. Gall, spleen, guts or magic. Maybe there’s one last bellowing
rush through the dark trees, wind bleating goats through your ribs,

and all that weighed you down is busy feeding other slow shapes travelling.
The wheel of your spine is a blur to them, a roar of wild seasons passing.

-Ankh Spice – 4/10/22

The Merrows (inspired by F 1.4.)

Merrow, the green-haired maid of myth
Or muruch, murduchann or murduchu
If I ask you nicely would you show me
Your cohuleen druith, your magical cap
Or would you perhaps sing your song
And show me what it feels like to be
So very entranced by a sea-nymph?

I wonder where you call your home
O benevolent mermaid of the seas
And would you show it to me?
Is it laden with shells and sea plants
With pillars of towering stone

Will you extend the hand of friendship
Me, a mere human with two legs
Someone who cannot breathe in water
Would you show me your world
Let me see what you see?

I shall strain my eyes looking out for you
When I go back to the North Sea
In the hope that you hear my plea
Perhaps one day when I am walking there
You will arrive, waiting for me.

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen

Brendan’s Mermaid
(at Clonfert)

I watch the pews
wooden waves bringing
people, washed up, hollow,
onto rock, onto sand,
like him,
the tonsured sailor of the skua’s road
half-drowned he found my skin
as I visited the oak casks
for my share of water-life.
What did he want to be granted?
A cathedral, a home, a scriptorium.
He had it, and kept a farthing
of my skin —just that—
inside the altarstone,
it lets me watch the people-waves
singing praise
some of it mine.

-Dave Garbutt

The Witch (All three images)

if beautiful, they drive men to danger
and sin,
if cantankerous or quarrelsome
they’ve let the devil in,

healers sought to make a charm for love,
to ease life’s pain, and guide a baby to its birth,
but vilified when the baby cries or livestock dies—
or ships crash on the rocks–

you’re afraid of her monthly flow
her connection to the moon,
her life-giving womb

somehow, she’s both powerful and weak,
controlling weather, fields, and men,
whether temptress or hag,

there’s no logic
only your greed, lust, and fear
she’s siren or witch
and she makes you twitch
when you examine her body for devil’s marks.

But she has the last laugh,
because death doesn’t end your fear,
you drive a stake through her heart,
and still, she haunts you in the dark.

-Merril Smith


Merfolk (Merrow F1:4)

Sea calls in wave-dance
and swaying gardens of kelp
where anemones flower.

We wear foam in our hair,
and our hands entwine hard
and fast as anchor ropes.

Bodies like bullets fit our space
we cleave to our own.

Our hands weave stories in deep water,
words spoken in fish-whispers,
legs fused to forge paths
faster than your thoughts.

Those born of the sea
will die seafolk,
and nothing,
not even your darkest desires
can change a single
silver-glittering scale.

-Jane Dougherty

Lament (F1.4 Merrow Clonfert)

The distant sea sings sadly over land
A tuneful tintinnabulation
that swells and breaks, flinging salt and sand
to scour and score this shameful transformation
of sea nymph to stone, sore desecration.
Her waltz of seafoam tresses plastered stiff,
Her coral smile coldly dead on granite lips.
This shiver of salt-kissed skin enshrined bone deep
cries out for release from the stone’s harsh grip.
She longs for her merman, her seabed, warm sleep
Trapped in black rock, the stone sea maiden weeps.

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen

Definition and Cargo (F1.4)

Not so much a quay
but a seawall, to lean over
and yearn for the mer-beings,
though there are in fact
berths for the small, nay
invisible, ships who hover
always at edges of
inexplicable human feelings.
So, a quay after all. Feel
the tiny sails brush
your blushed cheek
but don’t ask
what they’re after.

-Kyla Houbolt

Bios and Links

-Jane Dougherty

lives and works in southwest France. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, the Ekphrastic Review, Black Bough Poetry, ink sweat and tears, Gleam, Nightingale & Sparrow, Green Ink and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She blogs at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/ Her poetry chapbooks, thicker than water and birds and other feathers were published in October and November 2020.

-Eryn McConnell

is a poet originally from the UK who now lives in South Germany with their family. They have been writing poetry since their teens and is currently working on their second collection of poems.

-Spriha Kant

developed an interest in reading and writing poetries at a very tender age. Her poetry “The Seashell” was first published online in the “Imaginary Land Stories” on August 8, 2020, by Sunmeet Singh. She has been a part of Stuart Matthew’s anthology “Sing, Do the birds of Spring” in the fourth series of books from #InstantEternal poetry prompts. She has been featured in the Bob Dylan-inspired anthology “Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan” by the founder and editor of the website “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art” David L O’ Nan. Her poetries have been published in the anthology “Bare Bones Writing Issue 1: Fevers of the Mind”. Paul Brookes has featured her poetry, “A Monstrous Shadow”, based on a photograph clicked by herself, as the “Seventh Synergy” in “SYNERGY: CALLING ALL WRITERS WHO ARE PHOTOGRAPHERS” on his blog “The Wombwell Rainbow”. She has been featured in the “Quick-9 interview” on feversofthemind.com by David L’O Nan. She has reviewed the poetry book “Silence From The Shadows” by Stuart Matthews. Her acrostic poetry “A Rainstorm” has been published in the Poetic Form Challenge on the blog “TheWombwell Rainbow” owned by Paul Brookes. She also joined the movement “World Suicide Prevention Day” by contributing her poetry “Giving Up The Smooch” on the blog “The Wombwell Rainbow”, an initiative taken by Paul Brookes.

-Gaynor Kane

from Belfast in Northern Ireland, had no idea that when she started a degree with the OU at forty it would be life changing.  It magically turned her into a writer and now she has a few collections of poetry published, all by The Hedgehog Poetry Press Recently, she has been a judge for The North Carolina Poetry Society and guest sub-editor for the inaugural issue of The Storms: A journal of prose, poetry and visual art. Her new chapbook, Eight Types of Love, was released in July. Follow her on Twitter @gaynorkane or read more at www.gaynorkane.com

-Dave Garbutt

has been writing poems since he was 17 and has still not learned to give up. His poems have been published in The Brown Envelope Anthology, and magazines (Horizon, Writers & Readers) most recently on XRcreative and forthcoming in the Deronda review. His poem ‘ripped’ was long listed in the Rialto Nature & Place competition 2021. In August 2021 he took part in the Postcard Poetry Festival and the chap book that came from that is available at the postcard festival website. https://ppf.cascadiapoeticslab.org/2021/11/08/dave-garbutt-interview/.

He was born less than a mile from where Keats lived in N London and sometimes describes himself as ‘a failed biologist, like Keats’, in the 70’s he moved to Reading until till moving to Switzerland (in 1994), where he still lives. He has found the time since the pandemic very productive as many workshops and groups opened up to non-locals as they moved to Zoom. 

Dave retired from the science and IT world in 2016 and he is active on Twitter, FaceBook, Medium.com, Flickr (he had a solo exhibition of his photographs in March 2017). He leads monthly bird walks around the Birs river in NW Switzerland. His tag is @DavGar51.

-Merril D. Smith

lives in southern New Jersey near the Delaware River. Her poetry has been published in several poetry journals and anthologies, including Black Bough Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic,  Fevers of the Mind, and Nightingale and Sparrow. Her first full-length poetry collection, River Ghosts, is forthcoming from Nightingale & Sparrow Press.  Twitter: @merril_mds  Instagram: mdsmithnj  Website/blog: merrildsmith.com

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen,

a retired teacher and children’s library specialist, considers herself an adventurer. She has meandered the country in an old Chevy van and flown along on midnight runs in a smoky old Convair 440 to deliver the Wall Street Journal. She is a licensed pilot, coffee house lingerer, and finds her inspiration and solace in nature in all its glorious diversity. Loving wife and mother, she makes her home in the wilds of Portland OR.

-Kyla Houbolt’s

first two chapbooks, Dawn’s Fool (Ice Floe Press) and Tuned (CCCP Chapbooks), were published in 2020. Tuned is also available as an ebook. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Had, Barren, Juke Joint, Moist, Trouvaille Review, and elsewhere. Find her work at her linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet. She is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

4 thoughts on “#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Four. To celebrate the launch of my new poetry collection “As Folktaleteller” I am downloading 93 folklore art images, 3 per day in October and asking writers to write poetry or a short prose inspired by one, two or all three images. Please join Gaynor Kane, Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, Kyla Houbolt, Jessica Whipple, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Chris Husband, Eryn McConnell, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

  1. Pingback: Folktober Challenge Day 4 – Jane Dougherty Writes

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