Poetry Monday: “Monstrous” by Jim Hill

July 9, 2012 27 Comments by Renee M. LaTulippe

Midnight. The house is quiet save for the soft breathing of family members all snug in their beds. Except for me. I’m in bed, but you wouldn’t say I’m snug. No, I’m frozen stiff with terror, covers tight around my face, every molecule of my body trained on the noise by the window.

Shhhhhhhhh………clump clump.   [soul-rending pause of eternity]   Shhhhhhhhh………clump clump.  [soul-rending pause of eternity]   

Immense, unblinking eyes, the only part of my anatomy capable of movement, dart from the blackened window to the attic door, disturbingly located at the foot of my bed.

Shhhhhhhhh………clump clump.   [soul-rending pause of eternity]   Shhhhhhhhh………clump clump.  [soul-rending pause of eternity]

I work my jaw, left right left right left right…it’s loosening. {Mom.} A pathetic, strangled rasp not even loud enough to disturb the dust in the air. {Mom. Mommommommommommom…..}

Shhhhhhhhh………clump clump.

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! The voice breaks free!
MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Stampede of feet from all corners. Faces at the door. Concern. What is it? What happened?

TURN ON THE LIGHT TURN ON THE LIGHT TURN ON THE LIGHT!

Snap. The noise disappears.

Eight o’clock. Breakfast. I make my sheepish entrance into the kitchen. What’s this? A regular morning greeting? No jeers from the siblings, no teasing from the parents? Well, thank you, family. This is good. Comforting toast.

Dishes to the sink, and…”So, uh…hear any other noises in the night?”

Blast you, older brother! General mockery ensues.

Before you think my family is a bunch of beasts for making fun of a small child’s fear, I feel I should disclose one fact: I was eighteen at the time. Yeah, a little embarrassing. But that noise was real, I tell you! SomeTHING was THERE!

And now, twenty-eight years later, I remember it like I just heard it last night. My brain has always been susceptible to the possibility of bogeymen. I have been terrified of hedges and hallways since reading The Shining, and even worse, after reading The Amityville Horror, I woke up at 3:15am every single night for years. I still think of it now if I happen to be up at that time, and pause a moment to listen for marching bands. And I still can’t sleep with doors ajar or appendages dangling over the side of the bed.

And then along came today’s poet to dredge up all these anxieties once more. Thanks, guy! But perhaps his words will be of some comfort to full-grown adults small children who need someone to turn on the lights and chase the ghoulies away.

So creak open your doors and give a gurgling growl of welcome to…

Jim Hill!

(Can’t see the video? REFRESH your screen or watch it on YouTube here!) 

 [heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Jim Hill[/heading]

What’s Up with Jim

Jim: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
Who am I? How much time do we have? Short answer: I’m a graphic designer, writer, and illustrator. I’m also currently a grad student at VCFA (more on that in a bit). I live on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in a little village called Centerville, just 1.2 miles from my favorite ice cream shop.

I have an eclectic background (isn’t that the best kind?) that includes stints as an illustrator for a computer game company, art direction for an online textbook, writing/producing/acting/directing for a children’s theater, and a lifelong love of creativity. 

What was your weapon of choice for fighting off under-bed ghoulies when you were a wee boy? And now? (Oh, please – don’t tell me you don’t think they’re really under there…)
One large teddy bear, a pillow for a shield, and the ability to jump long distances when getting in or out of bed. Come to think of it, that probably led to my mad long jump skills on the high school track team!

Now I have to pretend I’m brave for my wife and son. Stiff upper lip and all that.

Did a particular run-in with a drooling closet dweller inspire this poem, or is this just the sweet tale you use to send your own kiddies off to Nightmare Station Dreamland?
I have a four-year-old son who is very often my muse, and who is very frightened by the shadows from the trees outside his window. The lines “I know there are no monsters / but when I close my eyes / I think there really are some” is an almost direct quote from Isaac. (Awwww!) I wonder how he felt when I stopped comforting him to grab a notebook and write it down? Oh well, that’s why there are therapists.

I had lots of frights as an over-imaginitive pre-schooler, and an older brother who took great joy in driving me to tears. Shadows, creaks, and wind became killer clowns, monsters, and giant gorillas. I was always pretty sure Bigfoot was going to reach in my window too. Ah, brotherly love.

Have any of your poems been published, or has your path to poetic stardom been waylaid by trolls (that’s my excuse, anyway)?
I’ve had one poem published. “Draft Dodger” appeared in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of SCBWI Bulletin. It’s the only poem I’ve ever submitted and it was published. An unblemished record! Why would I want to mess with that? Oh, right, the only way to get published is to submit, submit, submit. I have a batch of recent poems that will be going out soon – “Monstrous” included.

Do you have formal training in writing poetry?
Not until recently. My undergrad life was spent as an art major, and for the last few years I’ve been an active dabbler in writing for children. In January 2012, I began an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. This past semester (my first) I had the privilege of working with Mary Quattlebaum. She guided me through a writer’s bootcamp in short story, picture books, novels, and a lot of poetry. The program at VCFA is very self-directed, and Mary’s background is as varied as my tastes. She was the perfect advisor for me coming out of the gate.

Through my amblings about the Interwebs, I have discerned that you are a monster of many talents: illustrating, singing, gee-tar pickin’, Jell-o sculpting (I might have made one of those up). Just what is up with Jim Hill, anyway, and what else do you do when you’re not scaring the bewillikers out of small children?
What can I say? I have a restless, creative brain and I’m much happier as a producer of stuff than a consumer of stuff. I got involved with theater in high school and have never looked back. That’s led to great friendships and taking on all kinds of new creative challenges: juggling, set painting, script writing, singing, very bad dancing, directing, etc., etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

And now of course, lots and lots of writing and reading. I may have to give Jell-o sculpting a try. Any art form that lets you eat your mistakes sounds pretty awesome! 

When did you write your first poem? Do you remember what it was about or the title?
I was always writing and/or drawing stories from the moment that I could hold a crayon. The first poem I remember was from fourth grade, and the memory is bittersweet. I wrote a simple couplet: “I know it’s Spring / I saw a robin on the wing.” My teacher read it to the class and complimented my sophisticated turn of phrase. What I didn’t admit to was the fact that I never intended to be sophisticated. “The Wing” was a section of the school, and I had seen a robin sitting on it! On the one hand, bravo to me for a simple, observational poem. On the other, shame on me for taking undeserved credit. I’m sorry, Mr. Kaplan!

I had fantastic high school English teachers. My 10th-grade teacher, Mrs. Williams, forced me to take creative writing (instead of research writing) as my 11th-grade English elective. In creative writing, I had the great fortune of finding a teacher, Mrs. Bendicksen, who really fostered my love of poetry (which at the time was your typical angsty, dark teenage stuff). 

What children’s poets inspire you that you would recommend children read?
Almost everyone I read inspires the bejeezus out of me: Lee Bennet Hopkins, Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Greg Pincus, JonArno Lawson, Bob Raczka, Sharon Creech. The Poetry Friday gang inspires me every week. I feel so new at this that every piece I read is a discovery and an adventure. I love playing with words and I love seeing how others do that, too.

Can we come visit you and peruse your wares? (Online, of course, not at your creeeeepy house with the creeeeeaking stairs and the duuuuuusty under-beds and wheeeeeezing nasties. Shuuuuuder.)
You can find me at my site – Hey Jim Hill! – where I mostly post new poems and occasional thoughts on writing.

Website: heyjimhill.com
Blog: Same as the website. I love WordPress!
Facebook author page: Hey, Jim Hill
Twitter ID: @heyjimhill

BONUS VIDEO: Click here to watch Jim and Co. performing his smash hit “Mr. Bug”!

Thanks for stopping by, Jim, and for adding “Monstrous” to No Water River’s growing video poetry library!

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities: “Monstrous”[/heading]

Ooga booga!

[divider=”1″]

Video Location: Cape Goblin, Monsterchusetts, MA.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
 
“Monstrous” copyright © Jim Hill. All rights reserved.

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26 Comments

  1. Iza Trapani
    5 years ago

    Love the rhythm of this poem! Good job!
    And Renee, I didn’t know you were such a scaredy cat ( me too ) Boo!

    Reply

    • Jim Hill
      5 years ago

      Thanks, Iza. I’m a huge fan of your “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read and sung that to my son. One of his favorites from infancy!

      Reply

    • Renee LaTulippe
      5 years ago

      Yup, doesn’t take much to make me jump. I’m pathetic, haha!

      Reply

  2. Linda Baie
    5 years ago

    There must be loads of children and yes, adults, too, who will love this, unless the adults don’t want to recall any of the old memories as Renee did! I have a few myself, but one we finally discovered because my son was jumping so far out of his bed that he hurt his ankle. That is when we discovered he thought there was a monster turtle living under his bed. I love the verse straight from your son-it happens! Thanks Jim & thanks Renee for another great interview.

    Reply

    • Jim Hill
      5 years ago

      That’s hilarious! Well, except for the ankle injury. Maybe he and I are kindred spirits in jumping.

      At least monster turtles are slow.

      Reply

    • Renee LaTulippe
      5 years ago

      Aw, Linda…a monster turtle! Where do they get these things?

      Reply

  3. Erik This Kid Reviews Books
    5 years ago

    I like the poem. And the interview. And the everything. 😉
    Great post!
    Erik

    Reply

  4. Tina Cho
    5 years ago

    Great poem! I, too, have a scaredy-cat son named Isaac! I’m afraid I can’t read this poem to him, because it’ll make him even more fearful. Maybe when he’s older…
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Jim Hill
      5 years ago

      Tina, my scaredy-cat Isaac loves this poem. Laughing at the monsters makes them no so scary to him. I think. Or hope.

      Reply

  5. Catherine Johnson
    5 years ago

    That’s such a fun poem Jim! I’ve been looking forward to this one. Are you sending your Monster poems straight to a publisher or via an agent?

    Reply

    • Jim Hill
      5 years ago

      I’m not yet agented, so straight to a publisher. You know, into the vast sinkhole of slush never to be heard from again!

      Reply

  6. Dana Carey
    5 years ago

    I love this poem and video, Jim (and your garden looks pretty nice too).! Being scared in a safe place with rescuers down the hall is one of the luxuries of childhood.
    Hey Renée– I read The Amityville Horror when I was in high school while babysitting. I was very scared and probably a bit crazy for reading it when I was the one in charge (those poor kids).
    Thanks, Renée & Jim!

    Reply

    • Renee LaTulippe
      5 years ago

      Yeah, bad plan, Dana! I read both those books in HS and they are still with me, like ghosts…

      Reply

  7. Cathy Mealey
    5 years ago

    Fiendishly fun Jim!

    Renee, I’ll send you a bottle of my patented “Monster B Gone” spray. Works every time. PFFFT!

    Reply

    • Renee LaTulippe
      5 years ago

      Please do, Cathy. In fact, I put a link to some monster spray in the extension activities — always good to have on hand for things that go bump in the night!

      Reply

  8. Carter Higgins
    5 years ago

    SO MUCH FUN. Super awesome, Jim Hill. Like duh.

    Reply

  9. Hannah Holt
    5 years ago

    This poem is perfect. We’re going camping this week and I need a few good ghost… er, monster, stories for around the camp fire. Thanks, Jim and Renee!

    Reply

  10. Penny Klostermann
    5 years ago

    Loved the poem! You really brought humor to the whole monster thing.

    And I’m so glad to know where long jumpers come from…monster leaps.

    Reply

  11. Lori Degman
    5 years ago

    Your poem was great – I especially like that it’s a bit scary for kids!! I enjoyed your interview too!

    Reply

  12. Robyn Hood Black
    5 years ago

    So great to get to know Jim a little better! I well remember those long leaps from the bed so as to avoid anything under it… Heck, I still sleep with a light on somewhere, too. You all think it’s just a creative-mind thing? ;0)

    Thanks to both of you for sharing. (And especially, Jim, for your confessional “robin on the wing” bit – LOVE it!)

    Reply

  13. Katya
    5 years ago

    Great poem!

    I’m a terrible scaredy cat. I can’t watch scary movies or read scary books. When I’m alone in the house at night I can’t fall asleep because every noise is something terrible or terrifying… and I still can’t fall asleep with the closet door open.

    Reply

  14. Mary Lee
    5 years ago

    Hey, Jim HIll — keep up the good work!

    Thanks for another wonderful interview, Renee!!

    Reply

  15. Irene Latham
    5 years ago

    My favorite part of the interview, because I can relate SO MUCH: “I have a restless, creative brain and I’m much happier as a producer of stuff than a consumer of stuff.” Jim, send those poems in! And Renee, thanks, as ever, you beam of light. xo

    Reply

  16. Tabatha
    5 years ago

    I was one of those kids who was sure I was safe AS LONG AS NO PART OF ME WAS OUT FROM UNDER THE COVERS. Thanks for the poem, interview, and extension activities, Renee! Good luck with your manuscript, Jim!

    Reply

  17. Ruth
    5 years ago

    I love the image of taking a break from comforting a kid to write down a few words to use in a poem later! 🙂

    Reply

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  1. […] books at Chronicle Books. Irene shares a poem about what she learned from five and six year olds. Renee is featuring a poetry video and interview with fellow Poetry Friday guy Jim Hill, with his […]

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