The Day of the Dead is fast approaching in Mexico; and Mexico celebrates it with color, food, music, and a touch of humor too. It is not a day of mourning but rather a day to celebrate the lives of those who passed on; and to appreciate the mortality of our lives.
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Poetic Sundays: Calaveras or Calaveritas for the Day of the Dead
While the term calavera (Spanish for “skull”), the term is most often applied to edible or decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar or clay, used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. It can also refer to other artistic representations of skulls, like lithographs and drawings, as well as poems or written expressions related to death. Calaveritas simply means “little skull.”
This takes me to today’s poetic form, which is, well, the Calaveras or Calaveritas, written especially around the Day of the Dead. These poems can be written as dedications (many times filled with both humor and nostalgia) for the dead, or as satirical creations for the living. The people being satirized are often people in the public eye (like politicians or celebrities) and even family or friends.
These poems help mix life and death, kind of bridge them together, which is kind of one of the main aspects of the Day of the Dead. They also make it easy to express thoughts and feelings that we couldn’t or cannot – both about the deceased and those living among us.
What is the Calavera or Calaverita Poetic Form?
As mentioned earlier, the calaveras are “satirical poems that critique or poke fun of the living individuals many times political figures or other in the public eye.” The calaveras are written by adults and kids alike for fun, so it is a no-worries, no-rules poem.
While the rules of writing the Calaveras are pretty flexible, most often, they are composed of one or more quatrains (four-line stanzas) of eight syllables lines (others are acceptable too) and simple rhymes schemes per the poet’s choice. Many Calaveras are only made of one to three stanzas, though the length is up to the poet.
The Calavera’s Characteristics
So the Calavera’s /Calaverita’s elements are that it is:
- stanzaic (optional): very often written in one or more quatrains. The length of the poem itself is left to the poet, so it can be just one stanza or many.
- rhymed (again optional): poet’s choice; some of the most commonly used rhyme schemes are aabb or abab or abba or or xaxa or axax or unrhymed or other rhyme scheme of your choice – you the poet!
- syllabic (optional as well): often eight-syllable lines, but if you chose a different number of syllables remember to keep it similar for all the lines across the poem (the length of the first line thus sets an example for the length of remaining lines)
- ironic, humorous, satirical, joking, or, well, you get the gist!
- written as an epitaph, describing the life of the “dead” (double quotes indicating the person does not really need to be dead!); or written about death itself
- often accompanied by a drawing or picture related to death
- simply a poetic roast of sorts!
How to Write a Calaveras (or Calaveritas)
- Select the person (either living or dead) to whom you want to address your poem. You can even select something too. For example, there is a Spanish calaveras about the song “Despacito” – if you can read/understand the language, check it out here!
- Get your vocabulary / key phrases /ideas ready
- If you are writing in English or another language, you can still add a few Spanish words to help set the spirit of the poem, and of course, have a list of humorous words that can help add to the irony, satire, and such for the theme of the poem
- Write down a few words and phrases associated with this person (favorite foods/drinks/things/quotes they always said/some unique quirk of theirs; sounds/smells/words you think of when you think of them – maybe their laugh, even their snoring, or maybe the scent of their favorite perfume; even and of course, fun/humorous words)
- What would you say to them in the poem that you didn’t or couldn’t or cannot say in person? Imagine a conversation of sorts.
- If choosing to write about someone deceased, pick something fun to write about them using the above ideas (or other) and something nostalgic too. This poem can be a bridge of sorts, which is one of the themes for the Day of the Dead – to create a bridge between life and death.
- If choosing to write a satirical piece about someone (or something) living, think about their quirks or habits; and use those to write about how they might just meet La Muerta (death) and maybe they cheat her (or not). Note that this is all in humor…
- Note that all these are just tips and ideas, and you can make your calaveras your own.
My Calavera Attempt Ahead of the Day of the Dead
My first attempt (I know I am going to try to write a few more, but this is just to have an example/placeholder here) – this one is a Calaveritas (little poem after all)
Things That Go Kaput
My sink, it did shine so bright, –
gleaming, glistening,,, empty.
But my eyes shed tears despite (this)
For my dishwasher died on me!
h/t and further reading
- These wicked Day of the Dead poems don’t spare anyone (PBS)
- Calaveritas (CulturaColectiva)
- Day of the Dead terms
- ThinkMakeShare – A How To (h/t) and also has great examples in both English and Spanish
- Literary Calavera (Wikipedia)
On My Blog And the Homefront
One whole week of posting (I admit to playing catch up once again!)
- Would You Look at This Duo?
- The Fascinating Friday Flash Fiction 55: An Attempt to Revive
- 13 Haunted Places and Such to See in California
- A List of Other-Wordly Otherworldly Words So Wondrous!
- 10 Great Halloween Movies Based on Books to Watch Together
- 7 Great Children’s Books About Diwali
- Sunday Scribblings #120: Wishing Everyone Wonderful Never Ending Prosperity
Not much on the homefront except of course, Diwali in the early part of the week, and ended it with the fall concert at the school, where my daughter is part of the band.
On My Blog and On the Homefront
Not sure yet on this, but as the week unfolds, I will know more.
Literary Celebrations (close-to-it also!)
- Literary birthdays this week include: John Keats on Oct 31; Stephen Crane on the 1st of Nov; Joyce Maynard on the 5th of Nov; James Jones and Colson Whitehead on Nov 6th;
- October 31st is Books for Treats Day (I can stand behind this one) and National Knock Knock Joke Day too apparently!
- November is a month for lots of literary celebrations!! It is Family Stories Month, National Life Writing Month, National Family Literacy Month, and of course NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month!
- It is also National Authors Day and National Family Literacy Day on Nov 1st
- October 31st is National Caramel Apple Day
- November 1st is National Calzone Day, National Cinnamon Day, and World Vegan Day
- National Deviled Egg Day is on the 2nd of November
- Nov 3rd is National Sandwich Day
- The 4th of November happens to be National Candy Day
- While Nov 5th is National Doughnut Day followed by National Nachos Day on the 6th
- National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day is on Nov 7th
- And National Fig Week is celebrated November 1st through the 7th..
Note: for any excess Halloween candy that you have no idea what to do with, check out Operation Gratitude or Treats for Troops (this is for the US but I am sure there are similar efforts in other countries too)
Other Celebrations and Observations
- October 31st is of course celebrated across various nations as Halloween, Samhain. It is also Girl Scout Founder’s Day, , World Cities Day, World Savings Day
- November 1 through the 2nd is set aside in Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations, though other days, such as October 31 or November 6, may be included depending on the locality
- National Stress Awareness Day is on the first Wednesday in November
- Nov 6th happens to be Saxophone Day
- And National Bison Day is celebrated on the first Saturday in November (The American Bison is the National Animal of the US of A)
Wrapped Up: My Sunday Scribblings
So dear reader, you have reached the end of this Sunday Scribblings! As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about this post. Will you be attempting to write the fun Calaverita? And, of course, do let me know if you plan to celebrate any of these mentioned celebrations this coming week/month?