folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Six. 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 Kirsten Irving, 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 1.6. Enfield beast

F 1.6. Enfield beast

F 2.6. Corpse Bride

F 2.6. Corpse Bride

F 3.6. Cailleach Wonder_tales_from_Scottish_myth_and_legend_(1917)_(14566397697)

F 3.6. Cailleach

The Seven Youths of Beira
[F3.6 Cailleach]

An angry girl, I hammered out valleys
and lobbed great rocks at the space between.
Washday, always overdue, was a storm.
Ships tangled in my blankets and drawers.

I’d find a farmer to take me in for winter
and let him fashion me into a doll.

I had lovers and young
and none of them now.
I worked as a deer-herd and felt
their velvet piping on my palm.
I was always ugly. The loch would still
to show me again my rusted teeth.
And is this the last run? I won’t be off
to the Well. Won’t bend and sip. No more.

-Kirsten Irving


& with all the hard physics
of her craft
& with all the muscle
we do not admit
for our goddesses:
she struck. The first spark
leapt from her hammer
& a gibber of apes
palmed it.
She hid her smile
in a stone & carved
& clawed a hard paradise
for them to warm;
a deep rough bowl
to cool their tempers,
sharp comb-cliffs
& the wind pinned fast
to the fleece. She sweats
her kilt & the dye
inkblue & heathers
& tough green wool
for the graze.
Whitening cloth
tucks tender
round a callous
of hills & a fire
pops sparks. How loud
the echo, how we huddle
with our soft hands
as if we’ll make more
of her gifts.

-Ankh Spice – 6/10/22


The wise women of the world (inspired by the Cailleach)

They come in twos, the women
who turn the seasons, or more often threes,
bringing birth, plenty, and easing into death.

Always the women, who rock the cradle,
who sweep the snow, banish the ice,
and spring snowdrops from the damp earth,

they bring down the milk, raise the grain,
sooth and smooth the worried frowns,
touch the sky, walk the earth.

The faces change,
wrinkled with the drying winds of winter
full and apple-bright with spring,

but all walk in beauty or stately majesty,
the year long, taking their cue from the moon,
the tides and the singing birds,

leaving the sun with his one smooth face,
to cast his beams, bask in hero worship
when summer sprawls sweet and mild,

but careless that in wintertime,
when fires splutter and cold famine
sits at table, his smile has no warmth.

-Jane Dougherty


They call you Hag or Old Woman
Veiled One, Of The Woollen Cloak
Cailleach. Woman of Winter.

Or Queen of Winter indeed
The one who has shaped the
Very hills and mountains
Where you live in Scotland

You rule the night and thus
At Yule the Longest Night
You take your throne
But then, so they say
You drink of the magical
Waters so cold
And become a maiden
Once more.

When Samhain approaches
Do you climb the mountains
Cloak a waving, hair silvered
To claim your throne again?

Woman of the night and cold
Lady of Winter, the Crone
The Hag who controls the storm
The mountains are your throne
And there you lie.

-Eryn McConnell

Winter Bringer

My breath the cold wind, my cloak the
snow and ice covering you, world, you
will lie down before me now, and know
the truth of freezing, and all the ways
ice reaches a heart. Oh sure, after a long
time–and you’ll think it too long–warmer
days will come, but you will have come
through the cold with me, and you will have
learned something, or if not, at least
you will have known of me, and you will
not forget.
-Kyla Houbolt (10/6/2022)

Corpse Bride

(based on a Palestinian story, retold in Lilith’s Cave by Howard Schwartz)

When I was 16 and lacking care
I walked among the blasted olive trees
and thought not of jobs & pay
or commuting 3 hours a day each way.

I carried my dead mother’s ring
as a token of the world to keep
and thought nothing of the ocean or the heart so deep.
I rested on a log, there was a twig

that jutted out, like lover’s finger
and to see it (to see how love might feel)
I put her ring on it, bright gold,
and spoke my wedding vows.

The finger shook, turned into a hand,
an arm, a screaming skeleton.
“I will love you forever, dear husband
come into the tree, be mine!”

I ran. I tried to forget it.
It took a long time.
Years. And (believe it!)
I found a love. Then I understood

what I had mocked. But
Emily, took this knot and on our wedding
night sat down the screaming skeleton to tea
And they found a way to share me.

I live in two places now
with a wall in between, my love
is skeletal for an hour a day
and I cross between two worlds:

Emily here in Ramallah,
and my woman of work and bones in Beit El.

-Dave Garbutt

Corpse Bride

The mob is a monster that requires blood
to extinguish its incandescent rage.
Her bridal finery only triggers a flood

of more bludgeoning fury.
After the blood-lust’s complete,
her body’s tossed, unmarked, they scurry,

they want no descendants left to mourn,
though if the beast killed them all,
new targets would soon be found to scorn.

Years later, a young man on his wedding eve,
places his ring on the gnarled root of a tree,
but he discovers it’s bone, and he quivers with disbelief,

shivers as the corpse rises,
with death-breath, declares she is his bride,
and too late he realizes

he cannot hide. Before a group of rabbis,
the corpse bride demands marital satisfaction,
they agree the ritual was performed, then emphasize

(for redaction) the living and dead cannot wed.
At this, she crumbles, bones in a heap,
cries for her lost life, a spool without a thread,

she’s truly dead. The living soon-to-be spouse sympathizes
with her and her life cut short by hate,
she promises to tell her own children the storied surprises–

of the corpse bride who rose after dying in her prime,
so, she’s remembered in each generation, as love and hate,
her memory a reminder and blessing passed down through time.

-Merril D. Smith

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 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 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

-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.

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,, 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:

-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: She is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

2 thoughts on “folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Six. 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 Kirsten Irving, 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 6 – Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

  2. Pingback: Folktober challenge day 6 – Jane Dougherty Writes

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