Poetry Monday: “Monstrous” by Jim Hill

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!

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


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!

Video Location: Cape Goblin, Monsterchusetts, MA.

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