Top 10: Perfectly Petrifying Classic Halloween Poems – Horrifying, Creepy, and Full of Valuable Moral Lessons!

Literature Reviews, Poetry, Thoughts

Halloween has always been my favorite time of year. I’ve long believed that Halloween is the only day that most people can be “themselves”. The reason for this is that on Halloween we are allowed to dress up, act silly, have fun, eat candy and simply celebrate in the most peculiar (or lovely) ways. It’s the one time of year when adults and children alike can be who they’ve always wanted to be. Whether you are a pirate fairy (my favorite), a gargoyle, or simply a cheeseburger- you can get away with being that character and nobody will question it. I often wish that every day was Halloween.

Photo by Thirdman
Photo by A Koolshooter

As a lady who studies the English language, poetry, literature, and of course all things shockingly terrifying I could not help but create this blog with some of my favorite Halloween poems. Some of them you might recognize, and some of them will be new. But finally – the spooky season is upon us, so here we go!

Samhain is an ancient Celtic holiday that was observed on the first of November according to current calendars. Samhain is where the tradition of Halloween originated. On that day, people would dress up in costumes and light bonfires in an effort to ward off the ghosts that they believed would visit their homes. It was believed that on Samhain, the souls of the dead would return to the land of the living.

In my small little personal bubble, Halloween and poetry are both very important. I will tell you why.

Photo by Monstera

One of the foundational elements of the humanities is poetry, just like any other kind of artistic expression. We can better comprehend and appreciate the world around us thanks to poetry. Poetry conveys information and human values by taking the routes of feeling, sensitivity, and imagination. Even better, it molds the entire human being—body and soul. Body and soul are key elements not just in poetry, but of course in Samhain as well. Halloween and poetry are both magic and have the capability to merge worlds in a number of ways. To better put it, the celebration of Halloween and the magic of poems can help you see the world in a new way. Let’s begin. Note: Some poems below are not full versions. If you want the full version click the links provided for each poem.

1. “One need not be a Chamber to be Haunted” – by Emily Dickinson

Photo by Beyza Kaplan
One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —
Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host —
Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a’chase —
Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter —
In lonesome Place —
Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror’s least —
The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O’erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —

The poem “One need not be a Chamber to be Haunted” by Emily Dickinson is about battling one’s inner demons. The speaker of the poem claims that no “External Ghost” is quite as frightening as people’s own darkest, most inside thoughts and feelings and that the “brain” can be just as “haunted” (that is, full of secrets and dangers) as any old house. The poem discusses the agony and terror that come from feeling in conflict with one’s own thinking.

Moral of the poem: Humans never really know themselves. People can be real monsters.

2. “The Spider and the Fly” – by Mary Howitt

Photo by Chris F
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome–will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

Mary Howitt released this poem in 1829. In the poem’s opening line, the Spider asks the Fly, “Will you go inside my parlour?” The tale describes a crafty spider that seduces and tricks a fly into getting caught in its web. When it comes to tricks and treats one must be careful.

Moral of the poem: Don’t be tricked by statements that seem nice and flattering. You might find yourself caught in a web that you can’t escape. Now that’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it?

3. Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble” – by William Shakespeare

Photo by Buu011fra
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

This post wouldn’t be complete without this poem by my guy, Billy. Shakespeare is one of my favorites. When you read these phrases out loud, they are certainly meant to sound as cryptic and chant-like as they do! Chanting as part of spell work is quite an ancient practice. (It’s part of the whole “words are magic” thing that you hear me say all the time). According to the witches, Macbeth would now face twice as much trouble (double the amount of problems). He should therefore be cautious. He’s in serious jeopardy because he killed everyone on his path to the throne.

Moral of the poem: What goes around comes around and for the love of the gods don’t piss off the witches.

4. “A Chilly Night” – by Christina Rossetti

Photo by Faruk
I rose at the dead of night,
And went to the lattice alone
To look for my Mother’s ghost
Where the ghostly moonlight shone.

My friends had failed one by one,
Middle-aged, young, and old,
Till the ghosts were warmer to me
Than my friends that had grown cold.

I looked and I saw the ghosts
Dotting plain and mound:
They stood in the blank moonlight,
But no shadow lay on the ground:
They spoke without a voice
And they leaped without a sound.

I called: ‘O my Mother dear,’—
I sobbed: ‘O my Mother kind,
Make a lonely bed for me
And shelter it from the wind.

‘Tell the others not to come
To see me night or day:
But I need not tell my friends
To be sure to keep away.’

My Mother raised her eyes,
They were blank and could not see:
Yet they held me with their stare
While they seemed to look at me.

She opened her mouth and spoke;
I could not hear a word,
While my flesh crept on my bones
And every hair was stirred.

She knew that I could not hear
The message that she told
Whether I had long to wait
Or soon should sleep in the mould:
I saw her toss her shadowless hair
And wring her hands in the cold.

I strained to catch her words,
And she strained to make me hear;
But never a sound of words
Fell on my straining ear.

From midnight to the cockcrow
I kept my watch in pain
While the subtle ghosts grew subtler
In the sad night on the wane.

From midnight to the cockcrow
I watched till all were gone,
Some to sleep in the shifting sea
And some under turf and stone:
Living had failed and dead had failed,
And I was indeed alone.

Okay, so this one is pretty deep. It was quite necessary to post the entire poem and not just an excerpt. Rosetti was a true master of horror and her poems clearly show it. Originally published in 1904, the poem explores elements of death, ghosts, and loneliness. The poem is about a young girl who is alone and wakes up at night to look for her dead mother’s ghost. In the moonlight, she sees the apparition of her mother and other ghosts. Her mother is trying to talk to her, but she can’t hear her. When her mother and the other ghosts leave for the night, she is left alone. It is a poem about feeling very alone, angry, and sad. The girl’s mother can’t talk to her, and the girl is scared and confused about what she wanted to say to her.

Moral of the poem: There is no bridge found between the living and the dead. Use your words wisely while you are alive.

5. “The Witch” – by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Photo by Pixabay
I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart's desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

The Witch is a short poem that tells a story. The witch, who is the first person to speak in the poem, talks about the trials she has been through and the hard times she has had as she has traveled around the world. In the third stanza, the change of voice is present as the narrator describes “her”. In the third stanza it is evident that by letting the witch into the home and over the threshold, the narrator suffers (it (fire) was never lit again).

Moral of the poem: Be cautious of who you help as it may cost you your own “light”.

6. “The Night Wind” – by Eugene Field

Photo by Artu016bras Kokorevas
Have you ever heard the wind go "Yooooo"?
'T is a pitiful sound to hear!
It seems to chill you through and through
With a strange and speechless fear.
'T is the voice of the night that broods outside
When folk should be asleep,
And many and many's the time I've cried
To the darkness brooding far and wide
Over the land and the deep:
Whom do you want, O lonely night,
That you wail the long hours through?"
And the night would say in its ghostly way:
    "Yoooooooo!
    Yoooooooo!
    Yoooooooo!"

My mother told me long ago
(When I was a little tad)
That when the night went wailing so,
Somebody had been bad;
And then, when I was snug in bed,
Whither I had been sent,
With the blankets pulled up round my head,
I'd think of what my mother'd said,
And wonder what boy she meant!
And "Who's been bad to-day?" I'd ask
Of the wind that hoarsely blew,
And the voice would say in its meaningful way:
    "Yoooooooo!
    Yoooooooo!
    Yoooooooo!"

That this was true I must allow -
You'll not believe it, though!
Yes, though I'm quite a model now,
I was not always so.
And if you doubt what things I say,
Suppose you make the test;
Suppose, when you've been bad some day
And up to bed are sent away
From mother and the rest -
Suppose you ask, "Who has been bad?"
And then you'll hear what's true;
For the wind will moan in its ruefulest tone:
    "Yoooooooo!
    Yoooooooo!
    Yoooooooo!"

In this poem, a mother tells her son an old wives tale about the wind revealing who has been up to no good. As the poem goes on and the wind yells “yoooooo” repeatedly, it’s quite obvious who the wind is talking about. Could it be that this poem was meant to teach a lesson? Possibly. The poem also leaves a soft spot on my heart because through the poem Field is teaching children to actually listen to what nature says. The ways to interpret this poem are abundant.

Moral of the poem: Don’t gossip about who has done what. Recognize your own actions and judge yourself first before others.

7. “Spirits of the Dead” – by Edgar Allan Poe

Photo by Pixabay
The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Poe wrote this lovely poem that explores life and death. He focuses in particular on what it means to transition from one world to another. The loss of individuals he loved throughout his life, such as his mother, stepmother, and wife is what led to his preoccupation with death. Through his narrators in his short stories and poems, Poe expresses his obsession with death, murder, fear, hatred, and worry.

Moral of the poem: Death is one of life’s greatest mysteries and should be admired for how lovely it is in its own right. Death is cyclical and a necessary part of the human experience.

8. “Halloween Party” – by Kevin Nesbitt

Photo by Charles Parker
We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.

I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.

My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.

This one is clearly not so terrifying – unless you have anxiety about being late, fear of missing out, and not keeping a strict record of your to-do lists.

Moral of the poem: You better check your calendars! LOL

9. “The Shadow on the Stone” – by Thomas Hardy

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV
 I went by the Druid stone 
   That broods in the garden white and lone,   
And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows   
   That at some moments fall thereon
   From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,   
   And they shaped in my imagining
To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders   
   Threw there when she was gardening.

      I thought her behind my back,
   Yea, her I long had learned to lack,
And I said: ‘I am sure you are standing behind me,   
   Though how do you get into this old track?’   
   And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf   
   As a sad response; and to keep down grief
I would not turn my head to discover
   That there was nothing in my belief.

      Yet I wanted to look and see
   That nobody stood at the back of me;
But I thought once more: ‘Nay, I’ll not unvision   
   A shape which, somehow, there may be.’   
   So I went on softly from the glade,
   And left her behind me throwing her shade,   
As she were indeed an apparition—
   My head unturned lest my dream should fade.

Thomas Hardy wrote “The Shadow on the Stone,” which alludes to his wife’s spirit after his wife passed away.
In the poem, Hardy wants to be sure nobody is following him. He struggles with whether or not to look.
He worries that if he looks back, he will be alone. Hardy saw himself as a poet first and foremost.
His poetry displays a depressing outlook on life and draws inspiration from Romantic authors like William Wordsworth. He had a somewhat pessimistic view of his own time, and many of his poems express contempt for the ideals and issues of the Victorian era.

Moral of the poem: Allow yourself time to grieve the loss of a loved one. If you don’t, it may start to drive you mad.

10. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340) – by Emily Dickinson

Photo by Micael Widell
 And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space - began to toll,

But then, according to one reading or analysis of the poem, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” is about becoming crazy, losing one’s sense of reality, and having one’s sanity ebb away. Dickinson explores the notion of what it could be like to remain conscious after death in this disturbing poetry. She feels like a part of her is dying, or that her reason is being overtaken by the absurdity of the unconscious, and Dickinson employs the metaphor of a funeral to depict this. A funeral is a fitting metaphor for this experience. This is a poem that expresses the fear and helplessness that come with losing one’s sense of reality.

Moral of the poem: Don’t lose your grip on what is real vs. what isn’t.

If you have made it to the end, thank you for reading. These are just a few poems that I think are always worth reading. If you have any poems you think I should have included, feel free to comment below. Which one of the ten listed here was your favorite? I’d love to know! Stay safe ‘n stay spooky. ❤ K.A.

Fundamentals of Forbidden Love with Tristan & Isolde

Literature Reviews, Mythology, Poetry, Psychology, Thoughts

Note: If you are a student, I don’t mind if you reference my work. Just cite your sources. Purdue has this amazing tool that you can use to copy and paste links, and automatically generate MLA (and other) formats for your source. Research and Citation Generator Purdue Owl

The themes of romance, love, and other aspects of medieval culture are found in the story of Tristan and Isolde. These themes that are historic yet contemporary fill the ancient tale of Tristan & Isolde. This epic story of forbidden love is perhaps one of my favorite love stories ever. Themes of romance, love, loyalty - and even betrayal, have carried over into contemporary media through generations and thousands of years. This media is given to us by the dozens in the form of books, operas, plays, comics, and movies. Tristan & Isolde, the 2006 film directed by Reynolds which features James Franco and Sophia Myles is a direct adaptation of the classic Celtic love story that features two beloved characters (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).
Tristan & Isolde, 2006 film

The themes of romance, love, and other aspects of medieval culture are found in the story of Tristan and Isolde. These themes that are historic yet contemporary fill the ancient tale of Tristan & Isolde. This epic story of forbidden love is perhaps one of my favorite love stories ever. Themes of romance, love, loyalty – and even betrayal, have carried over into contemporary media through generations and thousands of years. This media is given to us by the dozens in the form of books, operas, plays, comics, and movies. Tristan & Isolde, the 2006 film directed by Reynolds which features James Franco and Sophia Myles is a direct adaptation of the classic Celtic love story that features two beloved characters (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). The movie was inspired by the medieval literature version of the tale that was first popularized in the 12th century (Greenblatt, 2018). In this lesson on the Fundamentals of Forbidden Love, we will go over why forbidden love is just so extremely delicious and tempting, as well as how this timeless theme has survived over hundreds and thousands of years.

Tristan and Isolde. Schloss Nueschwanstein, August Spiess, 1881
Tristan and Isolde. Schloss Nueschwanstein, August Spiess, 1881

Picture this: The Roman Empire is in pieces, and chaos is in charge of the British Isles. Angles, Saxons, and Jutes live on the east side, while Irish King Donnchadh rules the west side. Tristan becomes an orphan at a very young age due to his village being attacked by the Irish. His parents were murdered in front of him, and at the same moment – Isolde was mourning the death of her mother, the Irish Queen of King Donnchadh. As time goes on, the orphan Tristan becomes a man and fights many battles. In a mysterious way, he finds himself swept up on the shores of Ireland all alone; that is until Princess Isolde finds him. Isolde nurses Tristan back to good health until he is well enough to set sail again. Isolde the Irish princess can’t escape her fate that she is to wed Lord Mark, the very man who brought up Tristan after his parents were murdered in cold blood during battle (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). Though this summary is of the 2006 film, I highly recommend all to read the original and much older versions of Tristan and Isolde.

“If things were different; if we lived in a place without duty, would you be with me?” Tristan says, “That place does not exist.”

In an instant, both of their hearts shatter as Isolde tells him, “I’ll pretend it’s you…” just before she disappears behind the royal chamber doors with her new King.

Tristan and Isolde, 2006
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, exh.1902 by Sir Frank Dicksee
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, exh.1902 by Sir Frank Dicksee

Tristan would be the one who would earn her hand in marriage during a tournament set up by Isolde’s father, King Donnchadh. Tristan would win her not for himself, but for his master and leader: the future King Mark of Cornwall. Without knowing who she truly is, Isolde was won by Tristan for Mark. Isolde hid her royalty from Tristan from the moment she found him on the shores. She never told him that she was the princess (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).  However, their romantic passion and love for each other would cause a schism that has devastating consequences as a highlighted case of forbidden love. Tristan and Isolde were subject to torture in the form of not legally being able to stay together. Since Isolde now belonged to the King, Tristan was devastated and the amount of pain and psychological suffering that he endured was enough for him to be completely broken and shattered. For Isolde, the feeling was of course the same. Imagine, you are forced to marry another with zero way out when your heart belongs to someone else. Long before Romeo and Juliet, there existed this sad and beautiful story based on legends from Cornwall, Ireland, and various characters from the British Isles. Some tales say Tristan was one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table (Hodges, 1993), (Stevens 1973).

The young fairy-tale characters that are prohibited from being in love are only a small fraction of the romantic elements found in the 2006 movie, Tristan and Isolde. Ancient manuscript-based tales and contemporary films both incorporate the valiant hero and other more conventional components of chivalry-style romances. Forbidden love often walks hand in hand with “courtly love”. If you are unfamiliar, allow me to explain. What separates courtly love from romantic love? The majority of us associate romance and attraction with love. Romantic love may be frequently made public when there is a marriage or other public agreement. On the other hand, courtly love had nothing to do with getting married.

Courtly love, a highly conventionalized medieval tradition of love between a knight and a married noblewoman that was commonly employed in medieval European literature, was created by the troubadours (French medieval lyric poets) of southern France. Because love was regarded as an ennobling passion, the knight and his lady frequently did not marry. According to some academics, the term “courtly love” now refers to an idea of love that first appeared in the Middle Ages and caused a revolution in thought and emotion that reverberated throughout Western culture.

The courtly lord’s main goal was to please his lady, even though marriage was never an option. Courtly love was characterized by a series of stylized rites between a knight and a married, high-status lady in Europe during the Middle Ages. These idealized customs were based on the established codes of decency, courtesy, and valor associated with knights. So, though courtly love was and is a well-established concept, that does not mean it is widely accepted. Thus, we have Forbidden Love.

H. WESTON TAYLOR oil painting, TRISTAN & ISOLDE.

A forbidden love story’s famous characteristics and core components include romance, heroism, adultery, and doomed lovers who are categorically prohibited from being together (Stevens, 1973). Tristan, a valiant hero, confronts the adversary and kills him, but he subsequently sustains his own wounds. The fatal couple keeps their relationship a secret from their Kings and kingdoms (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). Romeo and Juliet have the same concepts. The notion of forbidden love—love that is outright banned by individuals, nations, or kingdoms—remains present not only in Romeo and Juliet but also in Spielberg’s most recent West Side Story film.

Both the medieval texts and the movie of Tristan and Isolde make extensive use of literary tropes and aspects. The story has a love-centered tone and mood, yet it also unfolds as a tragic drama. There are many parts of living in a royal environment that are quite pertinent, such as how Princess Isolde is compelled to hide the fact that she met Tristan; and the fact that she is made to marry against her will twice in the film (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). In the movie Tristan and Isolde, foreshadowing is a literary element that plays a key role. The philosophical underpinning of the entire movie is the foreshadowing of love and death. The film emphasizes how these two ideas are intertwined and can certainly be viewed as a single entity or concept. Due to his adoration, love, and respect for Tristan, King Mark downplayed the relationship between his wife Isolde, and his long-time companion Tristan. King Mark couldn’t accept the relationship and betrayal of the both of them, despite them having been in love long before Isolde was forced to marry him. This downplaying by King Mark is a prime example of an understatement being used and developed as a literary device within the movie (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).

Because it emphasizes an unbreakable love even when it leads to catastrophe, the Tristan and Isolde story has inspired artists since the middle ages. In addition to the surviving texts and film, Tristan and Isolde are portrayed in literature, music, paintings, and other various media. The medieval romance theme continues to be told today in all forms of storytelling and media (Stevens, 1973).
Rogelio de Egusquiza, Tristan and Isolde

Because it emphasizes an unbreakable love even when it leads to catastrophe, the Tristan and Isolde story has inspired artists since the middle ages. In addition to the surviving texts and film, Tristan and Isolde are portrayed in literature, music, paintings, and other various media. The medieval romance theme continues to be told today in all forms of storytelling and media (Stevens, 1973). Plays, poems, and operas have all been readapted with several different versions of this classic medieval tale. “Tristan and Isolde seem to have been drawn into the Arthurian orbit in the second half of the twelfth century. Marie de France wrote a lai (Chevrefoil) about them; another Anglo-Norman poet, Thomas, a long romance of which only fragments survive. From Thomas’s romance derives the greatest Tristan poem, Gottfried von Strassburg’s (c. 1210); and incidentally, a Norse version, Tristrams Saga (1226) (Stevens, 1973). Several great poems were composed during the 1800s and were based on the story. Matthew Arnold’s Tristram and Iseult; are one of them (Encyclopedia of World Mythology, 2022). The archetypes, motifs, and symbols of heroes, romance, forbidden love, and betrayal found within the movie have been repeated for as long as stories and poems have been written.

Tristan and Isolde, Death Rogelio de Egusquiza y Barrena (1845-1915) was a Spanish painter, known for his friendship with the German composer Richard Wagner, whose works he helped make familiar in Spain. Tristan and Isolde, Death (Oil on Canvas), by Rogelio de Egusquiza
Tristan and Isolde, Death Rogelio de Egusquiza y Barrena (1845-1915) was a Spanish painter, known for his friendship with the German composer Richard Wagner, whose works he helped make familiar in Spain. Tristan and Isolde, Death (Oil on Canvas), by Rogelio de Egusquiza

More often than not, Hollywood is criticized for its lack of creative movie plots. This is an understandable statement, yet one that overlooks the ageless nature of certain stories. Regardless of their distinct outward traits, these forbidden love stories will always have a lasting impression on audiences. Romantic dramas, such as the tale of Tristan and Isolde, are especially effective in this regard. The numerous versions and adaptations of Tristan and Isolde demonstrate how reinterpretation may manifest itself in diverse media. Heroes and damsels in distress are one of the oldest and most repetitive character archetypes of all time; both of which can be seen in the 2006 movie, manuscripts, and even contemporary fiction novels. Although Isolde is a princess, nothing can save her from the torture that she experiences internally through forced marriages to men that she doesn’t love. Her heart belongs to Tristan, and the both of them know it and as the movie goes on the devastation becomes clear (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).

“Yesterday at the market, I saw a couple holding hands and I realized we’ll never do that. Never anything like it; no picnics or unguarded smiles. No rings. Just stolen moments that leave too quickly”

Tristan and Isolde, 2006

“Yesterday at the market, I saw a couple holding hands and I realized we’ll never do that. Never anything like it; no picnics or unguarded smiles. No rings. Just stolen moments that leave too quickly” (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). This line takes place in a scene where Tristan and Isolde are talking in a common market and manage to exchange a few words while they hope and pray they aren’t being watched.

There are plenty of gut-wrenching and heartbreaking lines within the film that display aspects of medieval culture and even courtly love on top of the forbidden love theme. On the wedding night of Isolde and King Mark, Isolde manages to whisper to Tristan on the way to consummate the marriage, “If things were different; if we lived in a place without duty, would you be with me?” Tristan proceeds to tell her, “That place does not exist.” In an instant, both of their hearts shatter as she tells him, “I’ll pretend it’s you…” just before she disappears behind the royal chamber doors with her new King.

Herbert James Draper,(1864-1920), (Tristan and Isolde 1901)
Herbert James Draper,(1864-1920), (Tristan and Isolde 1901)

The 2006 movie which derives from medieval literature has made a large impact on contemporary Western culture. It is amazing to experience how the narrative has changed throughout time. The story even served as inspiration for Shakespeare, in which some versions of Tristan and Isolde utilize drinkable poison as an element of the story. We can directly relate various other love stories to Romeo and Juliet. If you’ve ever seen West Side Story, you know that William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet served as the basis for the musical.

Humanity can always relate to love, which is the one part of life that unites all living things. Until the end of time, stories of love, including those about unrequited love, lost love, and desire for such love will be told.

Humanity can always relate to love, which is the one part of life that unites all living things. Until the end of time, stories of love, including those about unrequited love, lost love, and desire for such love will be told.

A more recent adaptation of this particular story is set in the world of King Arthur in the 2009 book Twilight of Avalon. Isolde is the daughter of Guinevere and Mordred in this trilogy’s first book, which was written by Anna Elliott. In this version, Mark is the obvious and repugnant villain. Tristan is revealed to be Mark’s son—not his nephew—by a different woman. The internal conflict in Britain is a major source of drama in this book, as it was in the film. The story of Tristan and Isolde is a noteworthy example of how diverse media in Western culture can result in various interpretations of the same subject.

Photo by Pixabay

Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde from 1865 also addresses this tragic love story, thus movies and books aren’t the only media for this narrative. Tristan and Isolde have the capacity to move viewers because it is a love story with a tragic and dramatic finish, regardless of the platform used to follow the adventure.

“But since I could not come in time and did not hear what had happened and have come and found you dead, I shall console myself by drinking of the same cup. You have forfeited your life on my account, and I shall do as a true lover: I will die for you in return!”

– Isolde on Tristan’s death. Tristan with the ‘Tristran’ of Thomas
Gottfried von Strassburg

“But since I could not come in time and did not hear what had happened and have come and found you dead, I shall console myself by drinking of the same cup. You have forfeited your life on my account, and I shall do as a true lover: I will die for you in return!” (Greenblatt, 2018). There’s just something that will forever be incredibly powerful about love that is so strong and so real that one would rather die than live without their lover – especially a forbidden love.

How on earth could someone say something like that? Would you rather die than live without your lover? Have you ever recalled feeling that way once, or more? What is it about this forbidden love that makes it so unique? The answer is that a forbidden romance offers you a sense of excitement. Forbidden love provides an adrenaline rush and a thrill that makes it highly appealing.

medieval mirror case depicting Lancelot and Guinevere
medieval mirror case depicting Lancelot and Guinevere

Think back to a time when someone warned you not to do something, but all it did was make you more eager to go ahead and do it anyway. We look for things that are risky and sworn as forbidden in the hope that doing so would make us happier and give us more power than the other people in our sphere of influence. Behavioral scientists make use of a concept known as the “forbidden fruit effect,” which describes the tendency to focus greater attention on topics that one has been told specifically not to think about.

Today, a popular motif in films is a love that is banned and forbidden. These stories are commonly used in literature and films for a very specific reason: it is because they are rife with melodrama and give audiences the opportunity to experience powerful feelings. The overall impact of Tristan & Isolde on contemporary ideas and Western culture is still relevant today and going strong. From von Strassburg’s Tristan and Isolt as well Joseph Bédier’s modern adaptation, all the way up to the University of Chicago presenting a live-stream concert series based on the Tristan saga (Rantala, 2021) – it is clear that this story (and the archetypes and themes found within) will be part of human history until the end of time. Themes of romance, love, devotion, and even betrayal have penetrated modern society and will continue to be found in a wide variety of literary works, including operas, plays, comic books, and movies.

And now, I will leave you with this beautiful poem that was recited in the movie titled “The Good-Morrow”.

The Good-Morrow

By John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

Works Cited:

Greenblatt, Stephen, and James Simpson. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. W.W. Norton, 2018. 

Shakespeare, William, et al. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet: Folger Edition. Demco Media, 2004.

Reynolds, Kevin, director. Tristan And Isolde. 2006.

Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia of World Mythology. 2022.

Stevens, John. Medieval Romance: Themes and Approaches by John Stevens. Hutchinson, 1973.

Elliot, Anna. Twilight of Avalon: A Novel of Trystan & Isolde. Touchstone Books, 2009.

Hodges, Margaret, et al. Of Swords and Sorcerers: The Adventures of King Arthur and His Knights. Scribner, 1993.

Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883. Tristan Und Isolde. Leipzig :Druck und Verlag von Breitkopf und Härtel, 1859.

Spielberg, Steven, director. West Side Story. 2021.

Rantala, M.L. “Quince Bears Fruit with Tristan and Isolde Adaptation.” Hyde Park Herald, 27 May 2021

Donne, John. “The Good-Morrow by John Donne.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44104/the-good-morrow.

A Smattering Selection of Lexical Analyses on Edgar Allan Poe & H.P. Lovecraft

Fiction Writing, Literature Reviews, Psychology
Photo credit: MCrassus Art

Note: If you are a student, I don’t mind if you reference my work. Just cite your sources. It’s too easy to NOT cite sources. Purdue has this amazing tool that you can use to copy and paste links, and automatically generate MLA (and other) formats for your source. Research and Citation Generator Purdue Owl

Lovecraft and Poe are two of the most well-known horror authors of all time. The two chosen pieces in this essay are classic examples of horror-themed literature. “Memory” by Lovecraft and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Poe, each makes excellent use of various linguistic branches. Within the essay, you will uncover exactly how these authors mastered linguistic techniques such as syntax, semantics, morphology, and phonetics. Starting with Lovecraft’s Memory, it’s important to point out that he was directly influenced by Poe himself. Additionally, “Memory” by H.P. Lovecraft and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe were published eighty years apart. American horror and science fiction author H. P. Lovecraft wrote “Memory” as a flash fiction short story in 1919, and it was published in May 1923 in The National Amateur. Unfamiliar with contemporary living, a genie and a demon question one another about societal developments in this short story. The narrative is about a demon’s ignorance of its past and shows how the current world disregards its own cultural history. Lovecraft’s story is brilliantly detailed. He didn’t extend the story, kept it short, and ended it on a quiet note, giving the audience time to absorb such a meaningful tale.

Photo credit: Beyond Easy

An example of phonetics is how the letter “b” in the word “moonbeam” is spoken – you start out with your lips together.  Here’s an example from “Memory” by H.P. Lovecraft. “The Genie that haunts the moonbeams spake to the Daemon of the Valley…” (Lovecraft, 1923) When speaking aloud, pushing your lips together causes the “b”, sound to emerge. The vocal cords vibrate and generate noise as a result of the air being pumped over them from your lungs. Your lips then split abruptly, letting the air out, creating a “b” sound. This is a simple example of phonological techniques within H.P. Lovecraft’s memory in comparison to his other works, such as the story of Cthulhu. H. P. Lovecraft frequently uses the adjectives “obscene” and “blasphemous” throughout his body of work to express a sense that something is the subject of revulsion or that it is in some way debased. “B” sounds are often found in his work and the word blasphemous or blasphemy has been discovered within his works almost 100 times making this a major phonetic example in his writing (Ruth). 

Photo credit: Andrew Mar

Moving on to Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story that was first published in 1843. In this work, the unnamed narrator of the tale attempts to persuade the reader of the narrator’s sanity. In doing so, he simultaneously narrates a murder that he has committed. “The Tell-Tale Heart” appears in the gothic and horror fiction categories. The narrator freely boasts about his intelligence and his cunning behavior. He insists that he is not mentally ill. He chooses to murder the elderly man despite his affection for him. Regardless of the fact that he has no malice toward the elderly man, for no apparent reason he resolves to kill him. Many examples within this story feature grammatical, syntactical, and morphological elements. “True! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” (Poe).

Edgar Allan Poe Canvas Print
by Leah Saulnier The Painting Maniac

In linguistics, morphology is the study of how words are put together. For example, the word dreadfully is put together from three parts: dread, ful, and ly. Morphemes such as dreadful are used in Poe’s work to enhance the drama and suspense of the story. His ability to select the ideal word to express semantic intent provides morphological awareness in addition to fluency when choosing specific words for dramatic effect. The use of the chosen words found throughout each of these works relates to morphological and phonological concepts. The other author noted here, H.P. Lovecraft, is notorious for the use of his phonological techniques, particularly with the story of Cthulhu. Edgar Allen Poe may be considered more of a morpheme genius who utilizes repetition and specific word usage in his poems to get the idea of morphological words across, whether people are aware he is doing it or not. The below example shows morphemes within, “cautiously” as well as the repetition of the word; thus creating a poetic and dramatic suspense effect in writing. “And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously — oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked) — I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye.” 

Great writers employ a multitude of literary devices, branches, and techniques. Personification is one technique that writers use to capture the attention of their audiences. “Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow”, (Poe). The semantics used by these two authors and writers have a great effect on readers. “In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing a path for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a great upas-tree” (Lovecraft).  We know very well that death may not physically approach us as if it walking towards us. We also know that the moon cannot tear a path, unless its crescent tips are described metaphorically. Both writers used various techniques for semantics. Such techniques are found in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Memory”. Both are written in a fashion that allows them to be candidates for the subject of linguistic analysis.

Photo by IrenHorrors

Analysis of language, words, and stylistic elements are easily reviewed when examining the works of Lovecraft and Poe. Semantics connect language structures to non-linguistic concepts and mental models to explain how native speakers understand sentences. The use of registers in the language is also critical in terms of linguistic analysis. According to Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction., a register is a “manner of speaking or writing style adopted for a particular audience (e.g., formal versus informal)”. There are several registers that we either consciously or unconsciously switch between each day depending on the nature of conversation or writing. Register types may include formal, frozen, intimate, casual, and consultative. “Every language in the world has five registers, or levels of formality: frozen, formal, consultative, casual, and intimate, according to Dutch linguist Martin Joos” (Language Registers OEYC).  At the formal and consultative levels, both require careful word choice and sentence structure. The register that Lovecraft and Poe primarily write in is formal, although the register may change within stories. An example from “Memory” is, “These beings were like the waters of the river Than, not to be understood. Their deeds I recall not, for they were but of the moment” (Lovecraft). This excerpt displays formal language usage. “Deeds that may not be recalled” are formal when compared to “actions that can’t be remembered”. This register appeals to the audience of Lovecraft who is composed of writers, readers, and horror and science lovers. The specific language choice by Lovecraft creates a conspicuous effect. 

Photo credit: IrenHorrors

In Poe’s work, the narrative comes off as less formal, and more descriptive. “Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly — very, very slowly so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep” (Poe). The narrative confession of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, is created to sound as if the protagonist is speaking to a friend.  There are several instances of figurative language, repetition, and patterns, in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” that help inform the reader of the meaning behind the story. Hyperbole and specific syntax are employed to highlight the tension and paranoia the narrator is experiencing. The narrative structure and word arrangement are employed to justify the actions the narrator performs against the man. Another important signal is the unceasing heartbeat, which alludes to the sound of the narrator’s inner conscience or anxiety creating a pattern of suspense and repetition. Poe uses several terms repeatedly for emphasis throughout this short narrative, including louder and louder, very, very, and uneasy. There are numerous instances of the term “mad” used. These linguistic examples inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s future literary acknowledgments. 

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The word selections in “Memory”, by Lovecraft, are examples of linguistics that help readers understand the meaning of the story. “Daemon of the Valley”, a Lovecraft character, is one example. The spelling of Daemon was used instead of the modern American English dialect: demon. According to Etymology Online, the spelling and usage of the word “daemon” originated around c. 1200 and stemmed from the Latin version, “daemon” which meant “spirit,” and was translated from Greek “daimōn”. Lovecraft’s “Memory”, was initially published in 1919. By this time, the word “demon” was already in use in language and texts, indicating this choice of spelling was deliberate. Lovecraft’s choice of using “Daemon” instead of “Demon” for his character, “Daemon of the Valley” stems from the style of his writing which contains elements of Latin. Lovecraft was known to play with words and would later go on to create a fictional language. He was familiar with Latin and French despite American English being his primary dialect. The choice to use “daemon” gives the work a more ancient and mysterious quality, corresponding directly to the linguistics of his literature and the overall feel he presented to his audience through his writing. The overall style of each short horror tale by these authors adds suspense, drama, and beautifully demonstrated literary devices that convey the messages of each story to their respective audiences. 

When Poe utilizes repetition, he indeed makes the narrator look more and more insane throughout the passage. His lack of punctuation and instances of improper grammar also adds to the suspense of the story. In Lovecraft’s short horror story, his style, use of semantics, and register dramatize the tale. “Memory” was a reference and metaphor describing the ancient earth. The chaotic ancient planet indicates the presence of congestion in the contemporary world. These techniques and linguistic styles are what truly made these stories worth studying and worthy of reminiscing old gothic horror literature. Memory” features very specific word choices and grammar in a nonstandard way. What is standard about Lovecraft’s linguistic ability is the simple fact that he is deviant with his writing. The words “sooth” and “spake” are found in the story, both of which by modern definition are considered “archaic” forms of “truth”, and“spoke/speak”. “For all time did their builders erect them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the grey toad makes his habitation.”

Photo credit: Consequence

The writing is poetic, full of imagery, and anything but basic. His grammar has subtle hints of the past. This sentence for example; “Their aspect I recall dimly, for it was like to that of the little apes in the trees” (Lovecraft). There is an inappropriate use of “to” within the former sentence according to modern American English grammar.  Despite dozens of missing commas, it’s still easy to redirect analysis to grammar instead of punctuation within, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, by Poe. An example of grammatical error in this classic piece can be found here, “Yes, he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.” The underlined portion of the sentence shows improper grammar. When referring to “suppositions” of the narrator, “all in vain”, would appear proper, or standard if “of it” or “of them”, had been included in the sentence. Yet, in using repetition perhaps Poe excused himself politely from following grammar and punctuation rules for the sake of toying with syntax and semantics – which may be useful if you’re one of the greatest suspense writers of all time. 

Photo credit: Welt.de

Poe’s writing style may be extremely infuriating (to some), despite the fact that we admire his precision and his densely packed, elegantly phrased, yet oddly harsh lines; each of which is subject to a lengthy discussion. There are no dialogues in the ever-famous “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and it reads more like a confession than a conversation. The old man’s vulture eye, a sign of the narrator’s conflict between his mind and heart, is one of the most crucial emblems. Poe’s use of language may hinder the original text due to the fact that the syntax utilized in the era he wrote is far less common now. Because our culture has become considerably less formal in regards to communication over the course of these years, our syntax has altered a great deal as a result of this shift to contemporary English. By analyzing an excerpt from “The Tell-Tale Heart”, it is evident that a dramatic shift in word use and placement within writing has transformed over the last few centuries since, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, was originally published. The following example will reveal such evidence. 

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Excerpt: II. 7-15, by Edgar Allan Poe: “It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so, by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever (Poe). 

Here is a rewritten excerpt suited for contemporary audiences. “I’m not quite sure how I first came up with the idea, but once I did, the thought haunted me day and night. There was no objection, no passion. It’s true, I did love the old man. He had never done me wrong. He never insulted me at all. He had money sure, but I never had a desire for that. I think, it was his eye. Yes, it had to be his eye… His eye was bright and blue, with a strange film over it. His eye looked just like a vulture’s eye. Whenever he looked at me, I felt sick. So, over time I decided to kill him. If I could kill him, I’d never have to look at that eye again.”

Photo credit: Welchtoons

The first change was to rewrite the excerpt in a modern form of American English. Poe was a notorious Gothic literature writer. His form and style of writing focused primarily on tone, figurative language, punctuation, and sentence structure (which I’ve now rearranged.) Poe’s tendency to add suspense is expressed through the use of specific punctuation. There are many dashes and choppy sentences. The rewritten version has full sentences yet the idea of the excerpt is still comprehended the same. Instead of a dash, quotations like so “…” are utilized. These quotations are more common in this era in terms of written communication. The largest change is the syntax of the excerpt. The tone is quite similar even though the sentences rewritten sentences have more fluidity. Despite the changes, the overall theme remains – horror. The semantics are fairly unchanged in the updated version. To better suit the present audience, specific changes were considered for the passage. We do not generally say “by degrees” nowadays, so the sentence is reworded with similar words or a synonym phrase to say, “So, over time”.

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The horrific elements that made Poe famous are evident in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which was first printed in 1843 in The Pioneer (Britannica). Poe participated in the 19th-century American gothic literary movement, which rose to prominence at the same time as Romanticism. American gothic literature addressed the human experience via irrationality, lunacy, tragedy, and otherworldly horror in contrast to Romanticism, which placed an emphasis on the individual’s power and the magnificent reality of nature (Hume). The barrier between fiction and actuality is frequently blurred by the presence of characters who are afflicted with melancholy, madness, and obsession.

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Lovecraft’s use of language in the narrative, “Memory”, may also be viewed by some as difficult to understand due to the nature of the words and syntax being used. In this short quote from “Memory”, we can observe how much language has changed since the narrative was originally written in 1919. “Vast are the stones which sleep beneath coverlets of dank moss, and mighty were the walls from which they fell. For all time did their builders erect them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the grey toad makes his habitation” (Lovecraft).  If this were reworded to modern syntax it might say, “Many stones rest underneath a bed of damp moss. The stones fell from the walls that long ago, were mighty. The walls were built to last, but now have become the home of the small gray toad.”

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In comparison to the worlds Poe and Lovecraft are from, ours is vastly different. In contemporary literature, there is now an ever-expanding body of past writings by authors from all walks of life that has made American literature more complex and inclusive than it was at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Britannica). With the sheer differences in word use, syntax, tone, and structure there is clear evidence of how historical and cultural influences have made their mark on the way we write, read, and communicate today. 

Works Cited

Ganguly, Rohit. “Memory by HP Lovecraft.” Wordbred, 26 Sept. 2017, https://wordbred.com/reviews/memory-by-hp-lovecraft/ 

Master List of Morphemes Suffixes, Prefixes, Roots Suffix Meaning … https://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/16294/urlt/morphemeML.pdf 

“Memory” by H. P. Lovecraft, https://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/m.aspx 

A Narrative Discourse Analysis of Poe’s Short Story The Tell … – Eric. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1239146.pdf  . 

Denham, Kristin E., and Anne C. Lobeck. Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013.

Zakyoung. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Poe Museum, 28 Dec. 2021, https://poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart/

 “[PDF] Language Registers OEYC .” [PDF] Language Registers OEYC, https://nanopdf.com/download/language-registers-oeyc_pdf

 “Daemon (n.).” Etymology, https://www.etymonline.com/word/daemon

“Sooth (n.).” Etymology, https://www.etymonline.com/word/sooth

“Spake.” Etymology, https://www.etymonline.com/word/spake#etymonline_v_48957

“The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Poe Museum, 28 Dec. 2021, https://poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart/

“The Tell-Tale Heart | Story by Poe.” Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Tell-Tale-Heart.  Accessed 27 July 2022. 

Hume, Robert D. “Gothic Versus Romantic: A Revaluation of The Gothic Novel.” PMLA/Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 84, no. 2, 1969, pp. 282–290., doi:10.2307/1261285    

“Periods of American Literature | Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannicahttp://www.britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/list/periods-of-american-literature.  Accessed 27 July 2022. 

X, Ruth. “It’s Not Squamous. the 10 Words H.P. Lovecraft Used Most Often.” Tor.com, 6 Mar. 2015 https://www.tor.com/2015/02/16/its-not-squamous-the-10-words-hp-lovecraft-used-most-often/

Top 10 Best Nature Spots and Parks in Chicago

nature, Thoughts, Travel

Originally posted by AG Digital Media Magazine. Written by Kimberly Anne

Michigan Avenue, mobsters, and more – There are many things for which Chicago is famous. However, the natural world is not considered one of them. Maybe I can change your mind! Some people may be unaware of the abundance of natural areas that are accessible within the city.  

Maybe some aren’t keen on the fact that there are more than 500 parks within the city limits alone. But the next time you are driving down the Kennedy Expressway in a fit of monstrous fury and about to flip off some jerk in a Jeep; try channeling that energy and finding inner peace at one of these 10 sites for a wilderness escape instead! 

Trust me, I know how terrible road rage can be in the city. Luckily, there are so many beautiful places that we can go and see to experience a nice and quiet moment away from the dreaded rush hour traffic. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Best Nature Spots in Chicago. 

  1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 
  2. The 606 
  3. The Emerald Necklace
  4. Lincoln Park 
  5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 
  6. Maggie Daley Park 
  7. The Garden of the Phoenix
  8. North Park Village Nature Center 
  9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
  10. Humboldt Park  

1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 

The first on the list is my favorite because this was my go-to as a teen! The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary serves as a stopover for several hundred different species of birds!

You will have the opportunity to see these birds as they travel through the area throughout the year. This majestic sanctuary home to wildlife, birds, and butterflies is a spot that you won’t want to miss. 

This portion of Montrose Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere. Montrose Bird Sanctuary is home to a dune habitat as well. This is one of the best sites in the city for trail trekking. 

Therefore, you will also experience breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan. And in addition to that, there’s a really great beach bar nearby. 

2. The 606 

What is The 606? The 606 is an old train track turned nature trail. The path, once forgotten – then nature took over. In the space between the train tracks, new vegetation and flowers sprouted, and animals settled back into their former homes. The narrative of the 606 picks up shortly after the devastating Great Chicago Fire.

As a part of its efforts to restore the city, the Chicago City Council authorized the Chicago & Pacific Railroad to lay tracks down the center of Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 North) on Chicago’s Northwest side. 

Almost a century ago, a railroad line offered service to a small manufacturing sector on the northwest side of the city. Trains passed overhead until the 1980s when activity dropped to a trickle. After that, they stopped.

By the middle of the 1990s, the rerouting of the few trains that still used the corridor and the entire cessation of freight operations had both taken place.

Above, the ancient rail line was recovered by nature, while below, the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square predominantly turned to residential use.

It was only a question of time before the neighboring communities found out about the location once more.

And in the early 2000s, people went up there informally and constructed an impromptu nature walk. They found a natural habitat with unrivaled views of the city.

3. The Emerald Necklace (Yes, the Boulevards!) 

It is quite well known that Chicago is home to epic parks including Grant Park and Millennium Park. Chicago is also home to an unprecedented network of eight parks. The Emerland Necklace area in Chicago is connected by a 26-mile boulevard system. 

Between the years 1869 and 1890, the city’s park system—also known as the Emerald Necklace—was built. The Emerald Necklace in Chicago continues to be regarded as a pioneering example of urban park architecture in the United States.

Large parks and green boulevards that presented naturalistic and formal landscapes provided residents with a place to get away from the rough edges of the city without actually leaving it. 

This allowed residents to find solace in the urban environment without having to leave the city. Within the boulevards, you will find plenty of streets and parks lined with trees. 

Starting at Logan Square, head south through a number of the city’s most beautiful parks, including Washington, Humboldt, Douglas, Garfield, and Jackson Parks.

After that, you should slap anyone who says Chicago isn’t a lovely city. It’s just not true.

4. Lincoln Park 

Let’s just start by featuring what kind of nature-y things you will find in, near, and around Lincoln Park in Chicago. By the way, these are all free of charge. 

  1. The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo 
  2. Alfred Lily Caldwell Pool 
  3. Lincoln Park Conservatory (Right next to the zoo!) 
  4. Lincoln Park Zoo (Yes – it’s really free to get in still) 
  5. Oz Park (Oz yes, like The Wizard of Oz!) 
  6. Northpond Natural Area 
  7. Lincoln Park (the ACTUAL park) 

The world-famous Lincoln Park Zoo is located in Lincoln Park, which is also home to the renowned Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago History Museum, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

Don’t forget the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, the North Pond Nature Sanctuary, and North Avenue Beach. Of course, there are also the important statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. 

My favorite has to be Oz Park though. It’s really great for kids! In the 1890s, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Lyman Frank Baum, who penned stories for children, resided in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

An annual Oz Festival was held at the park for the purpose of commemorating the former occupant of the park as well as paying homage to the groundbreaking book, film, and author who created The Wizard of Oz. Why are you still reading? Go and see the statues at Oz Park! 

5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 

The Garfield Park Conservatory is widely considered to be among the nation’s finest and most impressive examples of its kind.  I’m not an expert, but my guesstimate is that the Garfield Park Conservatory is around 30,000 plus square feet.

The amazing edifice known as the conservatory is often referred to as “landscape art under glass.” This one-of-a-kind massive indoor greenhouse is a place that houses hundreds of different plant species. 

There are eight rooms and the interior area is almost two acres in size. The conservatory may be explored in around one to two hours at a leisurely pace.

6. Maggie Daley Park 

The Chicago Park District is in charge of maintaining the 20 acres of land that makeup Maggie Daley Park. The Maggie Daley park is located in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

Scott Fishman Photography

It sits in the northeastern part of Grant Park, close to the water’s edge of Lake Michigan. Previously, however, it was once known as Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

This park is home to so many gardens, playgrounds, and epic spots that you will most likely not be able to see them all in one day! Here’s a list of what is there: 

The long-serving first lady of Chicago, Maggie Daley was passionate about enhancing children’s lives. She was working to give the entire population of the city access to vibrant cultural life.

Gallery 37, a summer arts program for teenagers, was co-founded by Maggie Daley.

Likewise, After School Matters was founded. This is a nonprofit offering Chicago kids cutting-edge programs. Subjects include the humanities, communications, sciences, sports, and technology.

It is currently the biggest after-school program of its sort for teenagers in the country. So, it kind of makes sense that Maggie Daley Park is so incredibly massive (it matches her heart!). 

7. The Garden of the Phoenix 

On March 31, 1893, the United States of America and Japan collaborated to establish the Garden of the Phoenix as a symbol of their friendship. The garden also is symbolic of a permanent venue where tourists might learn about and experience the culture of Japan.

The area has endured the ups and downs of the relationship over the past 120 years, and it is today considered one of the most prominent spots in America that serve as a symbol of the relationship between the United States and Japan.

One of the most significant and intricate historic landscapes in Chicago and the whole of the country is Jackson Park which is home to The Garden of the Phoenix. This is also the location of the 1893 World’s Fair. 

One of the most beautiful features of the garden is when the cherry trees are in full bloom in the spring.

These trees have also been planted outside the garden, and during the latter half of April or the first week of May, you can typically see them in full bloom. They are close to the Columbia Basin in Jackson Park.

The traditional Japanese practice of appreciating the aesthetic value of flowers is known as hanami.

During the springtime, the blossoming trees in Jackson Park reach their peak blooming phase, which typically lasts between six and ten days.

Visit the park at this time of year to have your very own hanami experience; the timing couldn’t be better.

8. North Park Village Nature Center 

The 155-acre North Park Village location, which is located on the northwest side of Chicago, is where the Nature Center and the 46-acre nature preserve are situated.

Pathways can be found throughout and they can take you through savannas, prairies, wetlands, and forests. There is a discovery room, an interactive exhibit area, and a table with natural objects within the North Park Village Nature Center. 

These are the highlights of the Nature Center. In addition to the Nature Center and the preserve, guests have the opportunity to explore Walking Stick Woods, a wooded area that spans 12 acres and features Nature Play-themed pathways and nodes. 

9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park

A fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, pathways, an athletic field, a running track, and a hill that gives dramatic views may all be found in this dynamic park. Palmisano Park was previously a quarry called Stearns Quarry. It is located on the southwest side of Chicago, in the middle of the Bridgeport neighborhood.

It has been everything from coral reefs to a quarry to a landfill to a park over the course of its history, therefore its story is one of progression.

It should not come as a surprise that each incarnation had a significant part in the creation of the next.

The park is traversed by over 1.7 miles of routes, some of which are recycled lumber boardwalks, others are concrete walks, yet others are crushed stone running paths, and still, others are metal grating walkways.

Along the quarry wall, down to the pond, and through the terracing wetlands, these pathways provide access to a variety of different environments and activities.

In addition to the breathtaking views of the city that can be seen from the mound, the scenic overlooks provide dramatic views of the pond and the marshes.

10. Humboldt Park 

The 197-acre park has a lot to offer tourists, even if swimming isn’t their thing. There are playgrounds, natural areas, walking and biking routes, and community gardens. There is even “Little Cubs Field,” a miniature recreation of Wrigley Field.

If you want to spend the day at the water’s edge, you don’t have to restrict yourself to the lakefront of Chicago. Instead, you can go to the lagoon in Humboldt Park, which has its very own inland beach.

During the warmer months, the grassy areas surrounding this well-known neighborhood park are filled with people having picnics, using grills, and purchasing food from vendors.

The Puerto Rican Festival and the Latin Jazz Festival of Chicago are two more annual events that take place in Humboldt Park.

And if you’re lucky you just might see a crocodile in the lagoon. Just kidding. But that was a thing once. But please, don’t put your pet croc in the lagoon. It gets way cold here in the winter! 

Have you been to any of these amazing nature spots in Chicago? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Warmth

Poetry, Thoughts
I think there is a certain degree of warmth that comes with the feeling and emotions of bitterness and betrayal. Warmth. It has the capability to encapsulate the heart and soul with the feeling of release once you let go. The heat fills your stone-cold innermost being that was frozen due to the betrayal, due to the knowledge that a person just simply meant much more to you than you did to them. That is where the warmth comes from. The heat that rises in your body and seeps through every single cell once you feel the sense of relief that NOW - now that you know their true thoughts, you are set free and can reciprocate the same nonchalant not giving a single f--- attitude. Warmth. In a way, you might become so warm inside that you'll sweat. You'll become hot like fire blazing its way across lands and astray. Stay hydrated, and remember - some people are only meant for seasons, some of which are more prone to such fire. Nothing lasts forever. Does it? 

Words Are Magic

Poetry, Short Stories
The young boy came home filled with frustration. His mother asked him what was wrong, and by the squint of his eyes and fire on his face, he started to tell her how his schoolfellows are the ultimate disgrace.

They speak a language that he cannot understand. They speak words foreign, not from Oxford or Webster. Not a thesaurus in sight, swimming in a desolate word desert. And then he goes on to say...  

“It’s the worst mistake. They fill the air with insults and spite through words from a place that no child should ever face. Yes, it is true..they've stumbled upon a cursed lexicon called urbandictionary.com.”

The mother’s sweet little boy, radiating with rage, looked at her so sad and she said…

“Fear not my son, I have the perfect page! 

Fortunate for you that your mom studies words, now you will carry this knowledge and confuse the whole herd!”

Proudly she presented and exclaimed, “Here my boy, have a book blanketed with magic. Study these Shakespearean insults and let them have it!”

“The teachers will never understand, and you can tell those kids off with alluring words that come from another land.”

“Remember”, she spoke, “to tell them out loud -  that it's impossible to wager for wits when they walk around weaponless.” 

With a final chant, the mother told the boy, 

“Words are magic my little son, speak those words and POOF, they'll be gone!” 

Swimming in the Deep End

Poetry
When I was little my parents made sure I would learn how to swim. 

They figured that since we 
lived next to Lake Michigan 
that if I didn't learn to swim, 
it'd be wrong. 

It would be just wrong to 
live next to a Great Lake 
and not learn 
how to manage 
the waves. 

So when I was four I was put in swimming lessons. 
Here I'd be able to learn. 

I'd get a feel for the water 
and the way your eyes burn 
when you've been exposed 
to the chlorine. 
Yes, I think I had goggles
but you know what I mean. 

Feeling the flow of the water wasn't really scary. They strapped me into those floaties so 
I'd always be carried. 

Eventually you learn to let those floaties go. 

After time the deep end becomes the real prize. 
You know, when you first learn to swim you start with just a toe?
You dip it in the cool water
and then 

s l o w l y 


you put in a little more and keep going until 
your feet finally touch the floor 
of the swimming pool. 

It can take some time to get to the deep end. Some people love to just dive in. 
Not me.
I had to work my way up. 
Finally, when I did it 
I felt like the ultimate winner - 
like I was a real Olympic swimmer. 

I'd need a gold medal to showcase my mettle and to display to the world 
how I made it to the deep end 
and I'd be unforgettable! 
Little me, tiny little me -  
can you imagine? 

With all of the lessons I was more than prepared for Lake Michigan. 
I was prepared for the salty oceans, the streams, rivers and the little ponds. 
There was not a single body 
of water that I'd not dive upon. 

Head first as I
submerge 
myself into the wells of the world 
where maybe
just maybe 
I'd learn
something new about myself and everybody else. 

In the process of it all, it seems like it was so long ago 
that I really learned 
what it meant to 
go off the deep end. 

The deep end endeavor 
is all too heavy 
for any regular swimmer 
to comprehend. 

You'd need pristine training, and 
even then - 
you might not fit in. 
Sorry to be blunt, not everyone is meant for the deep end. 
I was just a lucky one. You might think of it as chosen. 

By experiencing the deep end, 
I learned not to depend. 

F r e e z i n g.

Ice cold waves resemble the ways 
of old and familiar former companions 
who shapeshifted into shadows and
who all became so shallow. 

S W I M. 

The waves, broken 
and choppy, 
they'll push you around 
and pull you down. 

Ride them. 

They will always try to drown, but there's a secret. 
Listen. 

In the deep end you can never feel the bottom. 
That may be part of the problem; 
In the deep end do you have 
the ability to feel? 
Or comprehend what is even real 
if you never hit the bottom? 

Once you've been in the deep end for a while, you despise all things shallow. 

When they say I've gone off the deep end, just know that it's true. I was built for this; no, trained for this. Not everyone can handle the deep end blues. 

Not everyone can swim. 
Not everyone can handle 
the weight of the waves.
Can you? 

Sophie’s Advocate: A Short Story for the Ages

Fiction Writing, Short Stories

This is a short story that was written sometime at the beginning of 2022. This is my first self-published fictional short story. It features elements of contemporary and political issues regarding women and teenage pregnancy. Take of it what you will. How the story ends is entirely up to you.

A strand of black hair fell in front of Sophie’s face as she sat in the bathroom silently crying. She was already running late for school. As she cried in the bathroom in complete stillness, her little sister Sasha knocked on the door.

Sophie knew she needed to get out of the bathroom and quickly dried her tears. Her mom shouted from the hallway and told her to open up because Sasha had to brush her teeth. It was 7:13 am on a crisp fall morning in Boston. Sophie opened the door and let Sasha in. Sophie picked up her little sister and embraced her with a huge hug. Her thoughts were running 1000 miles per minute as she set Sasha back down.

She coaxed Sasha over to the sink to help her brush her teeth. “Soapy?” little Sasha asks, “What’s that?”, as she pointed to the tiny pink pregnancy test on the counter. 

 Soapy was Sophie’s nickname since Sasha learned how to talk. She could never pronounce “Sophie”, so as a toddler she resorted to Soapy. Ever since then, it stuck. It’s like when Sophie was little and her mother laughed when she called chocolate milk “cawlet milk”. Sophie quickly snatched the test up and put it in the back pocket of her blue jeans.

 “It’s nothing, Sasha. Here, put some toothpaste on your brush.”

Sophie squeezed the toothpaste onto her sister’s toothbrush and made a fart noise. Sasha burst into laughter and Sophie smiled at her, satisfied that she distracted Sasha from the pregnancy test. Sophie turned on the water and rushed out of the bathroom. She told her mom she was leaving for school, grabbed her backpack, and ran out the door.  

Sophie ran down the gray, cold cement steps of the red brick two-flat condo. The smell of fall leaves on the ground swirled into Sophie’s nose. The thought of her dad crossed her mind. She wondered what he would think of her being pregnant if he was still around and didn’t abandon her, her mom, and Sasha. Slinging her blue backpack over her shoulder she ran toward the bus stop. She looked behind her and saw that the bus was nearby and catching up quickly. In unison, she and the bus raced to the bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue, side by side.

Catching her breath as the doors swung open violently, she got on the bus, waved her bus card, and plopped down onto a seat near the back of the bus. As she sat down, the pregnancy test in the back pocket of her jeans pushed itself into her as a reminder that it was still there. Her heart pounded and beads of sweat dripped down her neck.  She thought of what she would tell Russ.

Worried about how it might affect their relationship, Sophie realized how much she loved him. Sophie loved Russ more than anything. They had been together for three years. She envisioned holding a newborn and the idea of giving birth at the age of 17. As her thoughts scrambled, an elderly man got on the bus and sat in the handicapped seat. He pulled out a newspaper from his inside coat pocket and a bag of cocaine from the other. Sophie was amused at the sight and laughed quietly to herself waiting for the bus driver to notice. The man dipped a penny into his bag and held it to his nose. His clothes were raggedy and she could smell him from across the bus.

The bus sped over a pothole and the old man hollered, “Come on, man! Don’t you know how to fucking drive? Damn these potholes!”

The bus driver had surely upset him now for making him spill. “I’m not sure who you’re getting loud with. Yell at me again, and you can walk the rest of the way.”

The old man got up from his seat and he slipped the tiny bag into his pocket. Hobbling over to the bus driver he started banging on the dashboard.

“That’s it! You’re off!”, the bus driver yelled.

He stopped the bus and stood up appearing much taller than the old man.

“This is bullshit! It’s freezing out there this morning!”, the old man yelled and cursed the bus driver’s name all the way off the bus and down the cold pavement. This caused Sophie to arrive at school even later. 

Sophie continued to daydream about lunchtime because she knew she’d see Russ in the cafeteria. She slouched at her desk and stared out the window, unable to focus. Chewing gum helped her with her anxiety, but it was not allowed. Her English teacher always made sure to give Sophie a hard time about it. Sophie chewed away relentlessly. She suddenly felt the heat of a million eyes staring at her. The entire class was silent.

“Sophie?!” her teacher exclaimed.

Her head snapped right into the direction of Ms. McCauley.

“Huh?”, said Sophie. “You’re chewing gum again. You know it isn’t allowed,” Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie’s eyes squinted and her brows pushed together in the middle of her forehead as if they were trying to touch each other.

Sophie yelled back, “UGH! I’m not hurting anyone.”

 Sophie, you can go to the office and claim your detention slip, Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie got out of her seat, scooting her chair back so loud that it screeched on the floor. She purposely wanted to disrupt the class for disrupting her daydreams.

Slamming the old wooden door on her way out she heard Ms. McCauley’s voice echoing down the hall.

“Shakespeare’s plays can be divided up into different categories: Comedies, histories, and tragedies.” Sophie heard the words; Comedies, histories, and tragedies. If my life were a play it must be a tragedy, she thought to herself. 

She sat in the office waiting to schedule her detention while still chewing her gum when she saw Mr. Tuffin, the school social worker. Peering through the glass window of the main office door she spotted him instantly. His hair was silver and white making him look as cold as ice, which Sophie always thought was ironic considering he was the opposite.

His blue plaid button-down shirt was part of an unwritten dress code that all the staff his age also wore. Mr. Tuffin used his hands when he talked. His ring finger had a gold band and his hands looked as wrinkled as laundry that hadn’t been folded for days. He was talking to the sophomore science teacher. Mr. Tuffin was the only person who truly was able to see the good in Sophie. They met when she went to peer-mediation for a fight she got into with another girl on the first day of freshman year. He spotted her sitting in the office.

Ending the conversation with his colleague he came into the office where Sophie was sitting.

“By the looks of it, you’re not excited to be here, huh? What happened?” he asked her. 

“I was chewing gum”, she said, as a giant bubble formed on her lips and popped carelessly.

“A classic Sophie Seskas move! Nice,” he exclaimed. He was always cheerful and tried to find humor in everything.

“You know the rules,” he said. “Yeah, yeah. And you know more” she hinted.

“Soph, you’re a good kid. You shouldn’t be in trouble so often. I know things have been rough since your dad left, but you’re smarter than that.” he told her. 

She looked at him like a puppy looks at its owner after having an accident in the house. She knew he was right. Mr. Tuffin said she was just a diamond in the rough. Chewing gum was the least of her worries now. She didn’t care about detention or her dad. She wanted to speak to the Dean and head to lunch so she could see Russ. Besides that, she really could use a cigarette, or maybe a joint.

After getting her detention slip from the Dean to bring home to her mom to sign, she finally got to the cafeteria. Russ was standing near a corner of the lunchroom with a group of friends. Dressed in hoodies and sweatpants of all colors of the rainbow they resembled a living canvas of spilled paint. She managed to get Russ alone. 

 He was much taller than her, and his eyes were the color of dark chocolate. His hair was long and brown and flowed naturally like a river. His olive skin was opposite to hers, and she liked that about him.

“Sophie, relax,” he assured her. “Russ! How can I?” she said with tears in her eyes. She looked around at the other kids in the cafeteria. The smell of burgers made her want to throw up. She hoped nobody would notice her crying.

“This is serious,” she said.

“Maybe it’s a false positive,” he assured her. 

“Maybe that’s a false hope.” She mimicked him.

“What are we going to do?” she asked. Russ was shocked by the news and could tell that Sophie was more than upset.

In a reassuring tone, he told her, “We will figure it out together. Meet me by the tree after class.”

The tree was their spot. It was where they always hung out after school. A giant oak stood tall on the lawn near the track and football fields. She anticipated the last bell’s ring more anxious than a child on Christmas morning.

 After school, they smoked under the tree.

“Did you tell anyone, Russ?” Sophie asked him as the smoke blew out of her mouth.

“No… Well, I told Johnnie,” his voice cracked. Her eyes widened.

“You shouldn’t have told anyone yet! Damn it”, she kicked the tree.

“Everyone will find out sooner or later anyway if we decide to keep it” Russ told her. They stayed near the tree for hours as they contemplated what to do. They stayed near the tree until the stars came out despite the cold winds of autumn.

 Sophie strolled home after dark. Her mom waited up for her.

“Anything you want to tell me?” her mother asked quietly so as to not wake Sasha.

Sophie closed the door softly behind her. Her mother, Maria, gave her the look of death with green eyes that pierced her like the sting of a bullet. Her mother looked just like her, only older, wiser, and a little more stout. Maria knew that Sophie was acting out due to her dad leaving them. She tried to go easy on Sophie when she could, but Sophie’s behavior was impossible to manage at times. Maria missed the days when Sophie was still innocent and ignorant of the evil and heartbreak of the world. 

“Mrs. Bernardi called tonight,” Maria announced. Sophie’s heartbeat thundered in her chest. She knew Johnnie told his mom. Johnnie Bernardi was the biggest snitch and unfortunately, best friends with Russ.

“Asshole” Sophie mumbled under her breath, “Hell, of course, she did!”

The next day Maria and Russ’s mom, Angelica, spoke on the phone and decided that Sophie would get an abortion.

“They are simply too young. This can’t happen,” said Mrs. Angelica Jones.

Russ’s mom also wasn’t fond of Sophie. Sophie felt confused, alone, and unsure of what to think or do. What would happen to her if she had an abortion? She wondered if it would kill her. Would it damage her insides? How could she go through with it? There was a baby inside of her. It was her and Russ’s baby. There was no way she could go through with it. Maria and Angelica scheduled Sophie’s appointment as soon as they found out.

On the morning of the procedure, she didn’t bother to style her hair or put on makeup. It’s not like she had any reason to be glamorous. She was nervous and shaking the entire car ride to the clinic. When she and her mom pulled up there was a large group of people standing outside on the sidewalk just near the entrance. They dressed in bright orange vests and were carrying large signs; the enormous signs that you only see at a protest. The signs had blood-red paint which Sophie thought was used as symbolism.

Crosses were painted on the signboards, and the group chanted about how abortion is murder. God will give you hope. God will give you strength. Don’t kill your baby. It’s an innocent child. They shouted. They weren’t new to what they were doing. They must have rehearsed more than a cheer squad getting ready for finals.

“MURDERER!” they screamed at her.

They spewed hatred and verses from their bibles as she went into the clinic, not even 18 years old, with her very embarrassed mother by her side. Sophie and her mother said nothing. The air was filled with such a strong silence that it consumed them entirely.

 Sophie had a decision to make. She considered the words of the women outside, even though they seemed like religious nut freaks. She thought of Russ and his dark chocolate eyes and his olive skin. She wondered how the baby would look. She felt it inside of her. Sophie was not ready to part. She thought of what the baby’s nose would be like. Would it be wide or upturned? Would the baby be a boy? A girl? Sophie wondered. 

 “Sophie.”

Her mother called her to the desk where she was filling out paperwork.

“You need to sign this. You need to consent to the procedure.” 

 She couldn’t look her mother in the eye. She took the pen. As she lifted the pen, she imagined running out of the clinic and the protestors cheering her on. They would shout for her. Those protesters would celebrate for her. They’d celebrate as if Sophie had just crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The applause was so loud now in Sophie’s mind. Her hand trembled as she held the pen. She reminded herself of who she was and how much she’d endured in her life so far.

Sophie realized that this decision was solely up to her; and was one only she could make. The only one who could truly advocate for her in this world was herself. 

If you were Sophie – what would you do? This story was written with the intention of sharing a fictional point of view of a direct inside look at millions of stories just like these. While fictional, this story has many truthful elements that take place not just in the USA but across the world.

Teenage pregnancy and abortion will forever be debatable and controversial issues that people may in fact never agree on. What I hope readers take from this story is the fact that we all make our own choices. While the choices we make might not be agreeable to some – it is best to remember that the choices we make must be ones that benefit our own lives regardless of what other people may think. Life is short and pretty wild. Be careful, stay safe, and be smart.

The Best Female Painters of All Time – Top 10

art, Thoughts

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

– Helen Frankenthaler

Whether the brush stroke is wet-into-wet, feathering – or the art incorporates polka dots and mosaic elements; women painters have long been creating masterpieces. Some of the best female painters may not have been recognized initially because people didn’t see value in their work or simply couldn’t stand the competition, however, their vision, talent, and voice couldn’t remain in the shadows forever. The best female painters in the world have made their mark and this list will highlight 10 of the finest that you should know about!

  • Frida Kahlo
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Mary Stevenson Cassatt
  • Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 
  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Hilma af Klint
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Artemisi Gentileschi
  • Helen Frankenthaler
  • Laura Wheeler Waring
  1. Frida Kahlo  

Beauty and pain never looked so divine and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo harmonized the two so beautifully. She primarily used oil on copper to create deliberate and striking self-portraits and still lifes.

Frida Kahlo knew physical pain and emotional turmoil, which she used to fuel her artistic fire. Born July 6, 1907, in Coyoacán, Mexico. Frida produced roughly 200 small paintings that merge elements of fantasy, folklore, realism, symbolism, and surrealism to depict not only hauntingly sensual originals but relate fierce personal narratives as well. 

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often

alone; because I am the person I know best.”

-Frida Kahlo

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone because I am the person I know best,” she once said

Frida’s muralist husband Diego Rivera was instrumental in helping her hone the techniques she used in her paintings, which featured vibrant colors- reds and yellows- rooted in her rich Mexican tradition. 

She died in July 1954, after which her reputation soared. In 2000, her 1929 self-portrait, Portrait of a Lady in White, was sold at auction for over $5 million, further cementing her status as one of the best women painters in the world, 

2. Georgia O’Keeffe 

Among the greatest female painters is the mother of American modernism and the queen of abstract art Georgia O’Keeffe. Born in November of 1887, O’Keeffe made significant contributions to modern art.

Throughout her career she experimented with abstract art, focusing on composition colors, brush strokes, and shapes. 

However, she remained true to her love for nature, painting desert landscapes and flowers to exude the feeling it evoked in her.

Georgia ÕKeeffe Art in New Mexico | Museums & Tours | New Mexico True

“I had to create an equivalent for

what I felt about what I was looking at –

not copy it.”

– Georgia O’ Keeffe

Over time and through the influential ideas of American painter Arthur Wesley Dow, who advocated simplifying forms, Georgia O’Keeffe developed her style, fusing abstraction with realism. She continued painting up until her death at 98 years old.

3. Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary is one of the best female painters of all time and is considered the only American impressionist painter to have exhibited her work with the impressionists in Paris.

Her depictions of family life, particularly the bonds between mothers and children set her apart from other painters. 

Mother and Child in Boat, 1908 (oil on canvas), Cassatt, Mary Stevenson (1844-1926)

Formal training didn’t appeal to Mary and she primarily educated herself and was influenced by the works of influential painters Edouard Manet and Gustave Courbet, and Diego Velázquez.

She also had a close working relationship with Edgar Degas who became her mentor and whose pastel work she admired. After coming across some of Degas’ pastels in a shop window, it made an impression on her.

“It changed my life! I saw art then as I wanted to see it.” 

Mary showcased her first Impressionist work in the U.S, the 1878 painting, In the Loge, a depiction of her modern woman.

In the Metropolitan Museum is the Havemeyer Collection; to which Mary was an invaluable contributor. She died in 1926.

4. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 

Eighteenth-century turbulence in Paris, France, and obstacles to women’s advancement did not deter the self-taught, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun from pursuing her art, which has landed her in the top 10 women painters category. 

Élisabeth was accepted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1783, becoming the fourth female member with the help of Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait with her Daughter, Julie, 1789, oil on canvas, (Musée du Louvre).

Her painting, Peace Restoring Abundance helped contribute to her recognition. She was the queen’s official artist and painted more than two dozen portraits of her. Élisabeth is known for her sympathetic portraits of the aristocracy.

Élisabeth fled during the French Revolution, but commissions from European nobility and royalty for portraits kept coming. Of the war and its impact on her art, she said, “But I could now paint no longer; my broken spirit, bruised with so many horrors, shut itself entirely to my art.

I could now paint no longer; my broken spirit, bruised with so many horrors, shut itself entirely to my art.

– Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

It’s believed that Elizabeth produced some 600+ paintings throughout her lifetime. She died in Paris in 1842.

5. Yayoi Kusama

One cannot talk about the greatest female artists without mentioning the Japanese painter, Yayoi Kusama, who is affectionately called ‘the princess of polka dots. 

Yayoi recalls how as a little girl she experienced a hallucination that was freakish and frightening. Pictures this: talking polka dot flowers that were everywhere. This hallucination left her feeling what she described as ‘self-obliterating’. These dots became a prominent feature in her paintings. 

Yayoi recalls how as a little girl she experienced a hallucination that was freakish and frightening- of talking polka dot flowers that were everywhere. The hallucination left her feeling what she described as ‘self-obliterating’.

Yayoi Kusama | Biography, Art, Infinity Mirrored Room, Pumpkin, & Facts | Britannica

‘Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.”

Although her mom destroyed her canvas in an attempt to discourage her, she continued with her art and eventually left Japan and made it to New York, where in 1959, her art was on display in various exhibits. Yayoi voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo in 1977, where she is a resident to this day.

6. Hilma af Klint 

The Swedish painter Hilma af Klint is a part of an elite group of females who are the best women painters in the world. The abstract painter began producing radical abstract paintings in 1906, that were vibrant, colorful, and out of this world.

Born in Stockholm in 1862, Hilma was a medium that was involved in spiritualism and Theosophy (any of a number of philosophies maintaining that a knowledge of God may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations, especially the movement founded in 1875 as the Theosophical Society by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907).

Her abstract paintings can be described as occult-inspired and magical-looking.

She was called a crazy witch and between 1906-1915, she produced 193 paintings known as the Paintings for the Temple. Hilma explained that the pieces were painted “through” her with divine “force” saying, 

“I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” 

– Hilma af Klint
Group IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 1 (1915) by Hilma af Klint | The Guggenheim Museum

“I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” 

Before her death in 1944, she instructed her heir to keep her abstract paintings from public viewing until 20 years after her passing.

Her work was first seen in public in the 1986 Los Angeles show The Spiritual in Art. Hilma only received widespread recognition as a pioneering abstract painter when the Guggenheim Museum hosted a major survey of her work from October 2018 to April 2019 titled “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future.” 

7. Artemisia Gentileschi 

Artemisia Gentileschi is in this top 10 women painters category because she is a pioneering Italian painter whose paintings reflect historical-art innovation.

Some speculate that her traumatic past -surviving rapeperhaps fueled her inspiring works of art and have characterized her paintings as autobiographical. Her paintings are also dramatic with a level of sensitivity in how color is handled and the female form is depicted.

She’s arguably the best female painter of the 17th century, with paintings that reflect the stories of women, including ambition, motherhood, and passion.

She paints herself as a woman completely in charge.

Self-Portrait as a Lute Player by Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, is an oil on canvas from 1616-18 with dimensions 77.5 × 71.8 cm. The painting is housed in the Wadsworth Atheneum collection in Connecticut, USA.

“As long as I live, I will have control of my being.” 

– Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisa is the first to portray sexual predation in “Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art.

She was a champion of the oppressed woman and her dramatic Baroque paintings reflected that position. Artemisia admired Caravaggio and her art was heavily influenced by him and she became recognized for her realism and use of chiaroscuro. The exact date of her death remains a mystery.

8. Louise Bourgeois 

Born in Paris in 1911, Louise Bourgeois was not formally linked to a particular artistic movement, but exhibited her work with the abstract expressionists of her time, like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.

The themes in her paintings were dramatic and sensitive, such as anger, jealousy, abandonment loneliness, sexuality, and unconsciousness. This modern contemporary figure is one of the greatest female artists whose work often reflected her own experiences or was inspired by her memories and was emotionally charged.

“My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” 

– Louise Bourgeois

Louise has stated, “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” She had her first solo exhibition of paintings in New York in 1945 at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery. Louise was more than just a painter and also became known for her large-scale sculptures. She died at the age of 98 in 2010.

9. Helen Frankenthaler 

Helen Frankenthaler has long been recognized as one of the best women painters in the world and a great American painter of the twentieth century. This American abstract painter is widely credited for being instrumental in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting.

She developed the soak-stain technique (thin washes of pigment that soak into the fibers of the untreated canvas), which expanded how abstract painting could be presented.

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

– Helen Frankenthaler

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

Born in 1928, Helen’s professional exhibition career kicked off in 1950 with her painting, Beach (1950) in the exhibition titled Fifteen Unknowns: Selected by Artists of the Kootz Gallery. A year later, she had her first solo exhibition in New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Helen’s true inspiration came not only from her contemporaries but from the “old masters” as well. She died in December 2011 at age 83 after an illustrious career, cementing herself as one of the best female painters of all time.

10. Laura Wheeler Waring

Among the best female painters is Connecticut-born African American artist Laura Wheeler Waring. Born in May of 1887, she was displayed in the USA’s first exhibition of African American Art in 1927.

Laura Wheeler Waring is renowned for her portraits of prominent African Americans made during the Harlem Renaissance and her beautiful landscape paintings.

She studied the works of master painters like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet, which influenced her style achieved through vibrant and realistic techniques, with an emphasis on light, vivid colors, and atmosphere.

While she studied romanticism and impressionism, she leaned towards realism. Some of the portraiture subjects included Mary White Ovington, W.E.B. DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson. She was also an art educator for over 30 years. She died in 1948.

Laura Wheeler Waring, “The Study of a Student” (ca. 1940s) | PAFA

These 10 greatest female artists have left their mark on the art world and should be celebrated for their achievements.

This is just a small number of female painters, which hopefully piques your interest to explore more women painters and artists in general. Happy discovery!

Product of Consumerism – Freeverse Poem

Poetry
 
I’m just a product 
In a department store. 
Waiting on a shelf 
To be used like a whore. 

And when they are done they 
Turn their backs 
On the shelf once again.  

They consume me 'til they’re done. 
'Til they have no use for me anymore. 

It never matters that I cared. 
It never matters how long I was there. 
It never matters the time we spent. 
It only matters what they spent. 

They want a return. 
They want a refund. 

They want the newest model, the next best thing. 

Except, now -
I’m vintage. 

They don’t make ‘em like me anymore. 

The new models are not as efficient. 

They say the new models are cheaply made - 
or that they’re all the same. 

They break down easily and they don’t work. 
They’d never have a warranty. 

Maybe the consumers should have thought of that before. 
Maybe the consumers should have recognized my value. 

I’m a product with nothing left to prove. 

They made their choice, they are the 
Ones who choose. 

I don’t have an option and really -
I never did. 

Donate me NOW to some “less fortunate” person - 
Maybe they will bid! 

Maybe they will cherish me, 
And keep me safe. 

They’ll look at me and say: 

“This one’s a keeper.” 

“A real collector’s item - she’s rare - she’s got old school features.”

Unique - I’d be. 
Complete - I’d be. 

Finally - I’d be 

Loved.  

© KIMBERLY ANNE INC. 2022