Halloween Costumes for Writers and Poets
Okay. You’re a lit type and it’s Halloween. Who should you be? The question seems to be unanswerable, but you’ve come to the right place. Let me solve this perennial quandary once and for all. There are five quintessential Halloween costumes that every self-respecting word smith should know well, and I’m talking carnal, experiential knowledge here. So stop wondering and start assembling the necessary materials. Make it work, designers.
1. An Iconic Author. The list is a lot shorter than you think. Ultimately, the premise is the same as for good writing: you’ve got to know your audience. If this costume is for a group of mainly non-writers, you’re limited to the writing visages most folks recognize and that list is short: Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman top the list–and dressing up like them would be even more cool if you’re a woman. Others include Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe.
2. An Iconic Author—ghouled up, vampirically turned or zombified. Take the icon from step one, add blood and fangs, maybe a fake mangled arm, and voila! Instant costume and spookily apropos. Here’s what I mean:
A variation on this theme–a favorite author at the moment of a bad situation: Percy Shelly being immolated on the beach, William S. Burroughs on the night of the wife shooting, Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the midst of having his Kubla Kahn dream. There’s loads of fun buried alive in this category!
3. Famous LITERARY Character. Okay, now things get good. Here’s where we separate the lit types from the posers. This category is for characters that appear in books only, not in movies or on TV. Books! Remember those? Writers do.
It’s challenging, but the costume should contain enough recognizable elements so that semi-literary onlookers will get it. Here are some possibilities: Guy De Maupassant’s Horla, from the famous short story of the same name. Kafka’s Gregor Samson in bugged-out transition. Poe’s Berenice, skeletal and grave, real grave, with lots of cool dental adornments–the tooth necklace, hair clips made of teeth, sunglasses with bicuspid rims.
In fact, you could go Poe-crazy with this category. What about the wife from the “Black Cat”? A woman could have half a sheet of drywall in front of her, a fake cat on her head, with an axe going through kitty and head. Or you could be Fortunado from “Cask of Amontillado”, wearing a fake brick wall for a front (cardboard would be perfect) through an aperture of the brick facade onlookers would see you immured in your harlequin outfit.
Or you could be Raskolnikov with a raving mad look in the eyes, wearing a heavy blood-spattered overcoat, under which hangs an axe looped to your shoulder. There’s also Dickens’ Miss Havisham: a once-white wedding dress covered with rust, ash, and cobwebs. A very old cake as a prop would help too. Extra gross out points for eating parts of it during stylized performances of jilted sobbing.
4. Famous Characters From POETRY. Novels are easy. For experts, try dressing up as a figure from a famous poem. Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” has loads of creepy imagery in it. I can see your costume now. Berenice would have nothing on you: ”
O my enemy.Do I terrify?–The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
Anyone would have a field day working up the makeup appropriate for a figure who says:
Out of the ash I rise with my red hairAnd I eat men like air.