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.”

Oulipost #20 Lescurean Permutation (Roussellian)

Today’s original challenge, the Lescurean Permutation (Plain): “Select a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article as your source text. Switch the first noun with the second noun, the third noun with the fourth noun, and so on until you’ve reached the end of your text.” Several variations were suggested including the Roussellian Permutation, which worked best with my text. That variation: “ROUSSELLIAN PERMUTATION: The 1st noun changes place with the last, the 2nd with the next to last, etc.”

The World of the End as We Know It

On this breakdown, Kingsnorth was silent.

It was the final size of machine,
an outdoor human
run by Dark Ritual Festival,
loose others of ecologically minded writers and artists, and
he was standing with several dozen networks,
waiting for the project’s midnight mountain to begin…

The “Festival Uncivilization,” as he sometimes puts it,
has grown to such a night that an occasion is


(Source: 04/20/14 The New York Times Magazine, p.30. Smith, Daniel. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It…And He Feels Fine.”)

Oulipost #19: Sestina

Today’s challenge: “This will be one of your most challenging Oulipost prompts! A sestina is a poetic form of six six-line stanzas. The end-words of the lines of each stanza repeat those of the first, but in a differing order that in each successive stanza follows the permutation: 615243. The entire sequence of end words is thus: 123456; 615243; 364125; 532614; 451362; 246531. All words and phrases must be sourced from your newspaper text.”

This. Challenge. Kicked. My. Butt.


The bug was introduced this way.
The invisible backbone did not show.
Making the free software run
did not expose the critical damage.
A computer system needed a patch,
an encrypted network hacked this time.

The programmers ran out of time.
It took an entire year this way
to solicit donations for the patch
and for the updated fixes to show
responsibility for the damage,
the widespread panic of the run.

The debit cards some banks have run
expose stashes of data over time,
still vulnerable to damage.
Online security is on the way –
a small embedded chip will show
a full and integrated patch.

The volunteers will work to patch
open-source software set to run.
The bugs are shallow and they will show,
given enough eyeballs over time.
Programmers can be helped this way,
no longer vulnerable to damage.

A contradiction to the damage,
a major corporation assessing the patch,
seeing evidence of harm along the way.
Hackers use Heartbleed on the run,
using vulnerability to attack over time
as the flaws in software security show.

The confirmed cases of hacking will show
the widespread evidence of damage.
Infiltrations originated over time.
For code problems, we’ll create a patch.
Working together to make this run,
encouraging others on the way.

A ubiquitous Heartbleed of damage to patch –
A minimal option of time to run –
Unproved technology to show the way.

This bizarre effort comes to you courtesy of the following sources from The New York Times 04/19/14 Business Day section, pp. B1 and B2.  Perlroth, Nicole. “A Contradiction at the Heart of the Web.”  Perlroth, Nicole. “Hackers use Heartbleed to Hit ‘Major Corporation’.” Harris, Elizabeth A. “Michaels Stores’ Breach Involved 3 Million Customers>”

Oulipost #18 Homoconsonantism

Today’s challenge: “Choose a sentence or short passage from your newspaper to complete a homoconsonantism. In this form, the sequence of consonants in a source text is kept, while all its vowels are replaced. For example:

ORIGINAL: To be or not to be: that is the question.
CONSONANTS ONLY: T b r n t t b t t s t h q s t n
FINAL PRODUCT: As burnt tibia: it heats the aqueous tone.

A Shiny Pop Song

Man leader
Woe me now.

Why snit?

they vie, shun, yap.

Original Text: “I’m an older woman who’s not going to have a shiny pop song,” from The New York Times, 04/18/14, p. C30. Itzkoff, Dave. “Sometimes a Bad Birthday Gift Has Its Uses.”

Oulipost #17: Haikuisation

Today’s challenge: “The haiku is a Japanese poetic form whose most obvious feature is the division of its 17 syllables into lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Haikuisation has sometimes been used by Oulipians to indicate the reduction of verses of normal length to lines of haiku-like brevity. Select three sentences from a single newspaper article and “haiku” them.”

warmed up, made tactile
marble can flow like fabric
a saffron city

(Source: 04/17/14 The New York Times. Lasky, Julie. “Putting a Pretty Face on It,” pp. D1 and D7.)

crouched at that campfire
some crackle of resistance
something that is us

(Source: 04/17/14 The New York Times. Brantley, Ben. “Hey, George, We Made It Back to Broadway,” pp. C1 and C5.)

Oulipost #16: Chimera

Today’s challenge: “The chimera of Homeric legend – lion’s head, goat’s body, treacherous serpent’s tail – has a less forbidding Oulipian counterpart. It is engendered as follows. Having chosen a newspaper article or other text for treatment, remove its nouns, verbs and adjectives. Replace the nouns with those taken in order from a different work, the verbs with those from a second work, the adjectives with those from a third.”  

This proved to be my most frustrating challenge by far in that I accidentally erased my completed poem and ended up spending twice the time on this and posting it late.  I am not at all sure that my second effort is as good as my first, but this challenge is now complete.

Potluck on the Page opens April 24 after sizable odds of panic inside and out on the modest, nearly cut-rate crowd attracted by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould.

The mousse has its herbal character, but is now an uninteresting clash, not a well-known dish. A narrow little recipe that suggests a brighter prognosis tweaks the mash-up, especially in the Luminous Chocolate, with its powerful lore, sense of honor, intriguing recovery and entry-level cult poem. The critic’s fatiguing theme is the Opulent Crockpot Cookbook, celebrating the Mercurial Kitchen and its knotty sensibility. Slightly fresher, with a syrupy example of cheese colonizing the treatment of cool rice and an adventure of the chef, it is offered with plush refreshing inducement and has a fresh, partly time-tested, prognosis along its rosy star. The exuberant Meaty Creation, refreshing, wet with unusual cultures and earthy potatoes, pops up beyond it.

All articles were taken from the Dining section of The New York Times, 04/16/14

(Base Text: Fabricant, Florence. “A Central Park Jewel Sparkles Again,” p. D5)

Tavern on the Green reopens April 24 after two years of work inside and out on the historic, nearly 150-year-old structure designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould.

The interior has its own grandeur, but is now a polished jewel, not an Oscar-night tiara. A dignified baronial setting that suggests a hunt club supplants the glitter, especially in the Bar Room, with its scarlet upholstery, sweep of mahogany, imposing fireplace and half-timbered cathedral ceiling. The tavern’s new centerpiece is the Central Park Room, replacing the Crystal Room and its showy excess. Slightly smaller, with a simple wall of glass facing the expanse of repaved terrace and a view of the park, it is outfitted with gracious pale upholstery and has a partly open 21st-century kitchen along its back wall. The elegant South Wing, pale green with leafy mirrors and traditional woodwork, extends beyond it.

(Noun Text: Willoughby, John. “In the Kitchen With Clementine and Ruth,” p. D5)

(Adjective Text: Asimov, Eric. “Making the Best of Bad Weather,” p. D4)

(Verb Text: Wells, Pete. “Where He Cooks, They Will Follow,” pp. D1 and D6)

Oulipost #15: Prisoner’s Constraint

Today’s challenge: “Imagine a prisoner whose supply of paper is restricted. To put it to fullest use, he will maximize his space by avoiding any letter extending above or below the line (b, d,f,g,h,j,k,l,p,q,t and y) and use only a,c,e,m,n,o,r,s,u,v,w,x and z. Compose a poem using only words that can be made from these letters AND which you source from your newspaper text.”

Today, I wanted to write something more formal, so I decided to try my hand at a cinquain.  Here goes:


a voice remains we never use.
we miss our narrow river so.
across one season, no new snow.
across our acre, no new views.
in common, we can save no crow.

Sources: 04/15/14 New York Times (on-line).  Bouton, Katherine. “They Crawl Right Into Your Head;” Bouton, Katherine. “A Son’s Deafness Prompts a Scientific Journey;” Gorman, James. “Moral: Aesop Knew Something About Crows;” Robbins, Jim. “Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds.”

Oulipost #14 Column Inches

Today’s challenge: “Refer to the advertising section or the classifieds in your source newspaper. Create a poem by replacing all of the nouns in your chosen ad segment or classified listing with nouns from one article in the same newspaper. You may use multiple ads/classifieds, presented in the order of your choosing.”

I am currently in New Orleans.  The New York Times, my basic source text, does not have classified ads, nor does The Wall Street Journal,  which the hotel has been delivering each morning to our room.  The Times Picayune is a shadow of its former self and does not contain such ads.  I had to go looking for the weekly urban paper, which in New Orleans is called “gambit” to find a paper with at least a few classified ads.  I found one for a “Giant Indoor Garage Sale,” as well as a source text article by Clancy DuBos (great name, eh?) entitled “Sex, Truth and Videotape.”

5th Annual Giant Indoor
Hypocrisy Day
April 19, 2014
8:00 am to 3:00 pm

Be a congressman. We do all the selling.
You do the philandering, hookers starting at $35.
Call our “friend” for scenes and sex.

Be a candidate. FREE BIBLE,
outrage parties, duck kissing, videotape, and transgressions.

Elmwood Self Videotape and Chance Values
1004 S. Clearview Threshold
Elmwood Philandering Campaign
Text “hypocrite” to 5555

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Oulipost #13 Epithalamium

Today’s challenge: “An Oulipian epithalamium, or marriage song, is one composed exclusively with the letters of the names of bride and groom (bride and bride, groom and groom, etc). Visit the engagement or wedding announcements section of your newspaper and select a couple. Write a poem using only words that can be made with the letters in their name. You may choose to use first names only if you prefer anonymity or full names if you’re desperate for more letters.”

I am currently on vacation, but was able to access the Weddings/Celebrations section of The New York Times (04/13/14) on line.  I thought it would be easier to limit word choices by selecting my words from the text of the wedding announcement accompanying the selected couple’s names, but this proved to be more difficult than expected.  My brief poem:

Jessica Lynne Miller & Joshua Herbert Frost

he, she, him, her – each the same
not just any romance
a team for the first time