Caution: Poetry at Work

June 8

The first year of Caution" Poetry at Work is now available for download as a PDF! In order to let people use these poems and prompts in classes, reading groups and more we've created the Caution: Poetry at Work workbook which can be downloaded and used by anyone interested in exploring the vital work of poetry. So please, download the workbook and work through the writing prompts alone, with friends, or with total strangers! We'd love to hear how you use this or what you think of it so please let us know on our Facebook group. Thank-you! If you use this workbook please make sure to cite it:

Erickson, Karen and Mara Faulkner, OSB. Caution: Poetry at Work workbook. 2017,

November 11

"Based on the classic poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Today’s poem comes from the Halloween Poetry Contest hosted by the Writing Center and Pseudonym, the creative writing club. Students across campus submitted spooky poems, along with a few flash fiction pieces. We’re pleased to present the winner – Genna Brakob – here on the Writing Center’s Poetry at Work Blog. Also look for Genna’s poem in Pseudonym’s literary magazine, Surfaced - to be published this spring.

Based on the classic poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” this poem is a wonderful blend of holidays. In addition, it references our lives here at CSB/SJU and some of the campus ghost stories we love. Enjoy!

Twas the Night Before Christmas Valentine's Day

Twas the eve of All Hallows and here at St. Ben’s,
Not a creature was stirring, from Gorecki to Centen.
The students were all huddled asleep in their beds
While visions of alcohol danced in their heads.

And I, in my PJ’s, all filled up with chocolate,
Had just drifted off when I woke in a cold sweat.
Outside of my window, I heard a low moaning,
So I leaped from my bed to see what could be groaning.

Away to the window, I flew in a flash,
I pulled up the shade and leaned over the sash—
The silvering streetlights, so shining and bright,
Could hardly bring light to that dark, starless night,

But there, to my eyes there appeared a phantasm,
Glowing and whitish just like ectoplasm.
Its face was so gaunt, and its pallor so like platinum;
I knew in a moment it must be a phantom.

Slow like a cat stalking, it drifted right towards me,
Floating through air like a ship on the calm sea.
And as I watched it, a shivering thrill
Of panic shot straight up my spine like a chill.

Its clothes billowed behind it just like a white sheet,
And as it approached, I began to retreat.
I pulled back from the window, but as I withdrew,
It came up to the glass and then passed right on through!

It was dressed in a robe with a tunic and hood
And I recalled the garment as by me it stood,
For often on campus had I seen its twin
Worn by a congenial Benedictine.

The smile on its face and the familiar habit
Put me in mind of a jolly old abbot.
And though his pale flesh was a little decayed,
I began to suspect that I need not be afraid.

He spoke not a word, but reached into his pocket,
One eye rolling back in its withered eye socket.
Despite myself, while I was waiting, I shook—
But then from the pocket, he pulled out a book.

He offered out in a chill, haunting gesture,
This book that had been in his spectral vesture.
I took it on impulse, feeling wholly surreal,
And to my surprise, it felt solid and real.

I looked down at the title and near lost my mind—
It was a book that for weeks I’d been trying to find!
I’d searched in the libraries at both of our schools—
And now here it was, given to me by a ghoul!

I looked back up at him intending to say,
“Thank you,” but by then he was fading away.
But I heard him exclaim as he died out of sight,
“Happy reading to all, and to all a good night!”

~ Genna Brakob

Write your own: Write a Halloween poem of your own. Or, if the season is too late, try your hand at a Thanksgiving or Christmas poem.

April 12

backpacking in the mountains

As we move into spring, many students have begun thinking about travel, either studying abroad or traveling in the summer with friends and family. While some are excited by the prospect of living somewhere new, others are a bit hesitant. Spring is a time of growth, and traveling or studying abroad allows us to grow in our perspectives, friendships, and experiences. Whether you are traveling far from home, or just out of state, try to enjoy spending time somewhere new.

Traveling to new and exciting places often elicits a creative streak within. Many people document their journeys with journals, others with pictures, and some with poems. In the spirit of travel, here is a poem that evokes the feeling of adventure.

Through the Glen

The earth resounds of silenced songs
Old stories etched in stone,
Moss gathers on forgotten ruins,
Follow me on home.

Along those blissful rolling greens
The cry of tribesmen sound,
And echo on the craggy moors,
Follow me on home.

And for the weary visitor
A beaten path he roams.
It speaks to him through roots and weeds,
Follow me on home.

Through thistle glades and murky woods
The Highland chant resounds.
Imploring rueful traveler,
Follow me on home.

-Post and poem by Holly Ossanna, CSB 2020

Write your own: Write a poem about your experience with travel, or about somewhere you have always wanted to go. Or let your imagination run wild and write about how you would imagine traveling somewhere from a novel or a movie.

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