Oulipost #30: Patchwork Quilt

It’s with a touch of sadness that I give you today’s final challenge: “Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.”

In reviewing my poems from the month of April, I found that there was an ongoing metapoetic theme.  I spent some time writing about writing, sharing some of my hopes and fears along the way.  Thanks to everyone for sharing the poetry, the encouragement and the fun with me on this journey. The title of my final poem is a headline from the 04/30/14 New York Times.

A Marathon Performance (Aches, Too)

Waiting for the project’s midnight mountain to begin

A time of soul-searching, not cynicism.
“You have to have an open mind,” he said.
A voice remains we never use,
a medium for transmission.
The whole straitjacket –
crazier, conspicuous – posing…

Fallen deeply and hopelessly,
in a hole with no way out.
Outrage and transgressions.
In the anxious smiles of others,
an invitation to loss.
The invisible backbone did not show.

But here was the inappropriate verb –
continuing evolution in the wilderness,
some crackle of resistance.
Arise, spar, shine, brazen heirs!
A brighter prognosis tweaks the mash-up.
Concoct a sassy creature.

(The 17th of Interesting)

I slipped and slid and tiptoed back.
He, she, him, her – each the same.
Sweet center between them.
Secret power, a full cup,
inspired byzantine statements.
The stars remain aligned.

…and that’s how this all started.


Oulipost #29: Canada Dry

Today’s Challenge: “The name of this procedure is taken from the soft drink marketed as “the champagne of ginger ales.” The drink may have bubbles, but it isn’t champagne. In the words of Paul Fournel, who coined the term, a Canada Dry text “has the taste and color of a restriction but does not follow a restriction.” (A musical example is Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes.”)  Be creative, and write a poem sourced from your newspaper that sounds like it’s been Oulipo-ed, but hasn’t.”

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that it took me forever to think this challenge through, only to determine that the only constraint is the use of the newspaper; beyond that, there is no constraint.  So I selected appealing words and phrases at random, all from Section D, “Science Times” in the 04/29/14 edition of The New York Times and arranged them in a bit of a snowball/melting snowball (using both individual words and phrases with spaces as “letters”)  that tries to sum up my experience in Oulipost this April.

Mistaken Impression

Not safe!
a risky method
Powerful questions,
near panic,
At our peril,
ominous results.


Not for the timid
hapless bystanders,
limited as some were.

Interconnected series –
both savior and menace –
stunningly successful.

Continuing evolution
in this wilderness-
safe and feasible.


To experiment =
consequences =
happy ahhhs.

Dissecting potential quandary –
Unknown beauty, acute edge.

Oulipost #28: Melting Snowball

Today’s challenge:”A text in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter.”

Sometimes I hope that I am creating some real art, somewhere in the midst of all these challenges, so in honor of that:

Real Art

Characterization –


Sources from The New York Times 04/28/14. Kennedy, Randy. “Museum Draws Donatello From Italy,”  pp. C1, C6.  Kakutani, Michiko. “Two Brothers in the Icy Grip of Midlife,” pp. C1 and C4. Oestrich, James R. “A Conductor, Rehired, Now Must Rebuild,” pp. C1 and C6.  Parker, Laura. “A Gaming Company Devoted to Narrative Tackles ‘Thrones,'” pp. C1 and C2.  Healy, Patrick. “Hoping to End a Dubious Streak,” pp. C1 and C2.

Oulipost #27: Irrational Sonnet

Today’s challenge: “Create a 14-line sonnet sourced from lines from your newspaper that is divided according to the first five digits of the irrational number pi – that is, into stanzas of 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines.”

Knowing that I had relatively little time to meet this challenge today, I decided to see if I could create a sonnet using only the headlines from 04/27/14 edition of The New York Times.  Given the size of the Sunday paper, I had many headlines to choose from and began my work by writing down any that caught my attention, occasionally writing only a selected phrase, but usually the entire headline.  When I reviewed what I had written and broke the headlines into syllables, I had 15 that were 10 syllables in length, which is as close to iambic pentameter as I could get today.  Without further ado:

Irrational Headlines: A Raw Nerve

Conversation began and never stopped.
Ice climbing in a glacial paradise,
but her friends may have been more dangerous.

Architect of witty designs is dead.

Scots ponder, should they stay or should they go?
From outside or inside, the deck looks stacked.
Negatives seem to outweigh positives.
Time of soul-searching, not cynicism.

An audience stands up for a stand-in.

Unrelenting will toward victory.
The search for our inner lie detectors.
A portrait and the history it holds
giving voice to troubled relationships.
Returning to an “impossible” role.

Oulipost #26: Beautiful Outlaw (Belle Absente)

Today’s challenge: “The outlaw in question is the name of the person (or subject) to whom the poem is addressed. Each line of the poem includes all the letters of the alphabet except for the letter appearing in the dedicated name at the position corresponding to that of the line: when writing a poem to Eva, the first line will contain all letters except E, the second all letters except V, and the third all letters except A.

Choose someone mentioned in your newspaper to whom to address your poem. Compose a beautiful outlaw poem following the procedure outlined above and using words sourced from your newspaper text.”

In reading the 04/26/14 New York Times, I felt compelled to select the name Maren to honor a sixteen-year-old stabbing victim who was killed in her high school on the day of her junior prom. I selected words from articles and letters to the enter that were on the topic of education, including the article about Maren’s Death. It should be noted that I was unable to find a word containing the letter “z” that did not also include the letter “e” – thus, there is no “z” word in the fourth sentence.

For Maren

In their high quality tuxedos and dresses, they find no way to apologize for the stabbing, just an attacker and his raw violence.

Network: the hopes of dozens of friends, vigil instituted by students to extend the requirement of justice to this victim.

Six dejected student witnesses saw no hospital equipment, no investigation, just the knife that stabbed the dying Ms. Sanchez.

An invitation to loss and mourning: Finding no quick lawsuit fix, a majority of officials campaign in opposition to stabbing in schools.

A prom drama: who will criticize, who will seek quick justice, who will tax the system, who will advocate for this beautiful girl?

Sources: Schweber, Nate & Schwirtz, Michael. “Girl Fatally Stabbed at School in Connecticut on Day of Prom,” pp. A1 and A17. Hurdle, Jon.”Shortfall May Force More Cuts at Philadelphia Schools,” p. A13. Rich, Motoko. “Obama Administration Plans New Rules to Grade Teacher Training Programs,” p. A12. Rich, Motoko. “A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools,” p. A1 and A14. I also used selected letters to the editor concerning education policy on page A18.

Oulipost #25: Larding

Today’s challenge: “Larding: AKA “line stretching.” From your newspaper text, pick two sentences. Add a new sentence between the first two; then two sentences in the new intervals that have become available; and continue to add sentences until the passage has attained the length desired. The supplementary sentences must either enrich the existing narrative or create a new narrative continuity.”

To complete this challenge, I selected a variety of sentences from the articles referenced below.  I took the liberty of using selected phrases on occasion, and also omitted one or more words in a given phrase.  For this challenge, I’ve decided to show my work, so the reader can see the process.

Typical American Themes

He has long been an orphan.
There are a lot of big-picture questions.

He has long been an orphan.
An open birdcage inscribed “DIOS.”
There are a lot of big-picture questions.

He has long been an orphan.
It was the scene of a smashup in progress.
An open birdcage inscribed “DIOS.”
In the anxious smiles of others,
there are a lot of big-picture questions.

He has long been an orphan.
An era of lost illusions had begun.
It was the scene of a smashup in progress.
The sinister was subliminal at first.
An open birdcage inscribed “DIOS,”
much that seems cold and cynical
in the anxious smiles of others.
We’re in hell almost as soon as we arrive.
There are a lot of big-picture questions.

He has long been an orphan.
The clues are there from the start.
An era of lost illusions had begun.
It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for him.
It was the scene of a smashup in progress.
The numbered stickers were everywhere.
The sinister was subliminal at first.
There’s something unnerving about the exhibition of a corpse.
An open birdcage inscribed “DIOS.”
It does put a damper on the festivities,
much that seems cold and cynical.
They’re clean and pale, as aristocrats once were.
In the anxious smiles of others,
we occasionally forget that we’re heading into the abyss.
We’re in hell almost as soon as we arrive.
Relax – loosen up- be yourself!
There are a lot of big-picture questions.

Sources from the 04/25/14 New York Times. Barry, Dan. “Going, Going…” pp B10 and B19. Brantley, Ben. “Old Chums Return, Where The Club is Home,” pp. C1 and C15. Cotter, Holland. “Most Wanted, Most Haunted,” pp. C21 and C25. Dargis, Manohla. “Mom, That Fugitive Nazi is Making Faces at Me,” p. C10. Garner, Dwight. “The Office Space We Love to Hate,” pp. C21 and C29. Repold, Nicholas. “Searching For The Life That Belonged to a Body,” P. C10. Rosenberg, Karen. “That Little Lost Boy in Red, Back With His Family,” p.C26. Smith, Roberta. “James Franco,” p. C28. Stevenson, Alexandra & de la Merced, Michael. “Bare Knuckles at an Auction House,” pp. B1 and B6.

Oulipost #24: Homosyntaxism

Today’s challenge: ”

Homosyntaxism is a method of translation that preserves only the syntactic order of the original words. To give a rudimentary example, if N=noun, V=verb and A=adjective, the outline NVA could yield solutions such as “The day turned cold,” “Violets are blue,” “An Oulipian! Be wary!”)

Option 1: Choose a sentence from your newspaper source text and write as many homosyntaxisms as possible based on that same variation.

Option 2: Complete a homosyntaxism of an entire paragraph or article found in your text.

Since many of the Ouliposters found themselves mystified by the parameters of this challege, I decided to interpret it in my own way by trying to create each of the four types of sentence (declarative, imperative, exclamatory and interrogatory) following the syntactic order of my source sentence.  My source text and all other words used in this challenge are from the 04/24/14 edition of The New York Times p. B1.  Grossman, John.  “Risqué Names Reap Rewards for Some Companies.”

Source text: “Everyone likes a little tongue in cheek.”


Risque´ Business

Anyone concoct a sassy creature of spam?

Somebody, export a salacious cupcake to Toronto!

Everyone enjoys a kickass wine in church.

They used a cheeky priest as attention-grabber!

Oulipost #23: Inventory

Today’s Challenge: “Inventory is a method of analysis and classification that consists of isolating and listing the vocabulary of a pre-existing work according to parts of speech. Choose a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article and “inventory” the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, articles, etc. Bonus points for creative presentation of your final lists.”

My source text for today is from p. C1 of The New York Times, 04/23/14. Brantley, Ben. “This is No Doctor. And No Lothario, Either.”

After making an inventory of the parts of speech in a selected passage from this article, I decided to rewrite the text omitting various parts of speech to create pieces of found poetry.  The truth is that the only found poem that seemed to work is the one that omitted the nouns and pronouns, so here it is:

No. And No, Either.

Do not be alarmed by recent that an irresistibly wholesome television has fallen deeply and helplessly into the that separates from, from and from.  Is no to fear for his, much less his. Quite the.

Playing an “internationally ignored song of undefinable,” in “And the Angry,” is in full of is and, most excitingly, has become with this.  Is a bona fide Broadway, the can rule with the of a sequined.

…And while may let see sweat as struts, slithers and leaps through shamelessly enjoyable, rousingly directed by (“Spring,” “American”) never makes feel like heavy.

The Inventory

Nouns: reports, Neil Patrick Harris, presence, gap, men women, East, West, celebrity, notoriety, need, safety, identity, contrary, stylist, gender, Hedwig, inch, Mr. Harris, command, performance, star, kind, audience, blink, eyelid, Mr. Harris, show, Michael Mayer, Awakening, Idiot, lifting

Verbs: do, be, has fallen, separates, is, to fear, playing, is, has become, is, can rule, may let, see, sweat, struts, slithers, leaps, directed, makes, feel

Adjectives: alarmed, recent, wholesome, television, no, his, his, ignored, song, undefinable, angry, full, this, bona fide, Broadway, sequined, enjoyable, heavy

Adverbs: not, irresistibly, deeply, helplessly, much less, quite, internationally, most, excitingly, shamelessly, rousingly, never

Pronouns: there, who, he, what, he, that, who, you, him

Conjunctions: and (5), with, as

Prepositions: by, into, from, from, from, for, of, in, in, through, by, that, that, like

Oulipost #22: Antonymy

Today’s challenge: “In Oulipian usage, antonymy means the replacement of a designated element by its opposite. Each word is replaced by its opposite, when one exists (black/white) or by an alternative suggesting antonymy (a/the, and/or, glass/wood).

Original: To be or not to be, that is the question.
Antonymy: To not be and to be: this was an answer.

Select a passage from your newspaper source text to complete this exercise.”

Saying the Opposite

That don’t I misname a nobody who
harvests facts, curtails assurance,
hinders thought that protects animal disease,
implants microscopic obscurity to failing to do so
and now mimes the opposite of, “That one? You?”

You’re oblivious to a particular unnatural verb
from the first-rate non-participator of that jumble.
But here was the inappropriate verb:
Jenny McCarthy!

Source: The New York Times 04/22/14. Bruni, Frank. ” Autism and the Agitator.”

Oulipost #21 Confabulation

Today’s challenge: Craft a conversation poem using “he said/she said” quotes that you find in newspaper articles.

I couldn’t resist two very contrasting articles from the front page of The New York Times 04/21/14 as my source texts for this challenge. Gabriel, Trip. “50 Years Later, Hardship Hits Back” and Kennedy, Randy. “MoMa’s Expansion and Director Draw Critics.”

Front Page Dialogue

She: “Mama couldn’t write, so, you know, there ain’t no names in it.”
He: “Something fundamental has been missed.”

She: “They want life to be better, but they just don’t know how.”
He: “It’s almost balletic the way they move and work together.”

She: “It’s like he’s in a hole with no way out.”
He: “I’m the kind of person who leads from behind, not in front.”

She: “ We’re isolated.”
He: “I’m deeply empathetic to the feelings that that has elicited from a community we care about.”

She: “I want to be one of the ones who get out of here.”
He: “If we were being criticized for being timid, that would upset me.”

She: “I really believe it’s my mission to do this.”
He: “We’re being criticized for engaging popular culture in interesting ways.”

She: “He’s going to be the next to die.”
He: “I’m a hyper-anxious person, so I’m always restless and anxious, and I try to compensate for that by breathing in and breathing out as calmly as I can.”

She: “It breaks my heart.”