Category Archives: oulipost

Oulipoem 30: April 30 — Patchwork Quilt

So, here we are, at last. I hate to let it go. It has been an extraordinary month of camaraderie, learning, and poetry. So many thanks to everyone for the fun, but most of all to Jenni and Beth who orchestrated the project and Doug who designed tools to help with many of the prompts. You can find all three over at the Found Poetry Review, as well as the final poems of my fellow Oulipoemers.

For our final prompt, we were asked to ‘Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates the words and lines from all of your past 29 poems’. As happens so often, the poem went in its own direction. I couldn’t shake the train conductor.

The poem:

Crow woman is a season

— this was one piece
out of a moment,

a study of patterns
in isolation
even imprisonment —

when a train conductor (who secretly
has a story to tell locked in)
dances in a shaft of sunlight.

(all we can do is trace out patterns,
an exclamation point
missed moments,mercurial moments)

Night brings his lips tickly with still.
He ignores his thin chances,
never stops to think —
feels the power, sees no threat —

(don’t try to cool the fires
let tempers flare fierce and bright)

a door closes
carefully    — important —

a death sentence on the run
lost terrified and besieged by the wild forest
the fictitious focus

(because we know what happens
— the real reason they jump —
a recent misstep,
a sense of abandonment
the end of the world —
the pieces will fall into place)

where a girl hangs
ghost-like from the washing line
roots cut loose
a duration in search of a translation
(her world     her window     her strange inspiration
takes flight — cyan woe. Pull.
The kite has small wings.)

Dahlias, acacia, jasmine,
long-stemmed roses,
powdery stephanotis, lilies
and hydrangeas —

the spreading of her ashes was at sea.

The sources:

The material is from my last 29 poems, therefore from the San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal, whose writers I give all my thanks.



Posted by on 30/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


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Oulipoem 29: 29 April — Canada Dry

As hard as the run has been, I am appalled that I cannot stop tomorrow from being the 30th. Is it 2015 yet? Be sure to see what other Ouliposters did with the freedom of this prompt, particularly Nancy Chen Long.

The prompt:

This was the most fun, so far, because the prompt let us be almost free from constraint. The only real constraint — aside from our brains — is that the words have to come from the newspaper. My added constraint: one article. ‘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 found an article on yesterday’s tornadoes and pulled all the phrases and words I wanted to work from. I almost left them as the fading form, below. Out of curiosity, I wandered over to Language is a Virus and tried out a couple of their tools. I went nuts with the Gyroscope tool and ended up using bits of Whitman, Pound and cummings, as far as stylistic devices. The line-breaks and order are mine, as well as some shuffling. The Oulipo constraints I might have been using are N-7, Chimera, and the Lescurean Permutation.

The original words:

skies darkened rain lashed unrecognisable unscathed
lashing ripped demolished volatile swirled collapse
combing through debris spawned outbreak
trees stripped clean of bark
roar roared touching down
grass scorched brown
a bedsheet hung from
an electrical pole
hurt upon

The poem:

give me clean hurt skies
give me darkened grass
— collapsed lashing —
give me a roar where the skies’
hurt grows, lashing through
debris spawned outbreak
roared swirled stripped hung
the branches ripped out of me
like arms

blue you are
brown you are
skies you are
swirled — so high — you are

the outbreak has ripped my hurt,
the hurt has collapsed my unscathed

stripped you are
and you are roar
with stripped bark above
volatile — so swirled — you are
and all this is dark to the unscathed

stripped I am

The source:

Campoy, Ana, Dan Frosch and Miguel Bustillo. ‘States Reckon With Tornadoes’ Toll’ The Wall Street Journal 29 April 2014


Posted by on 29/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


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Oulipoem 28: April 28 — Melting Snowball

It’s hard to believe it’s the end of April, with only two prompts to go. Be sure and head over to the FPR to see how others have melted their snowballs, and check later in the comments below.

The prompt:

A form ‘in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter. From your newspaper, select a starting word, and then continue adding words of decreasing length from the same source article or passage. Challenge yourself further by only using words in order as you encounter them in the text.’

The Monday WSJ is not ideal for anything other than straightforward articles, something that does not inspire me unless it involves a natural disaster [isn’t the creative brain a strange animal]. As I was about to cast the newspaper aside in despair and head for the computer, my eye was caught by a green square in the lower right corner of the front page and the words ‘Grow Old With’. I stopped to look. The green square was an ad. It was full of words of all lengths. I pulled my notepad towards me.

The poem:

Capture snowball

The source:

Advertisement for Ameritrade The Wall Street Journal 28 April 2014



Posted by on 28/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


Oulipoem 27: April 27 — The Irrational Sonnet

As our brains turn to a condition I refer to as mind mush, it seems fitting to be working on an irrational sonnet. I had a great deal of fun writing this [now that the spectre of a traditional sonnet has been put aside]. I admit that the poem got to a point where I knew I was going to post it, sonnet-like, or not, because I liked it. It does have 14 lines and it is irrational in its stanza breaks. There is even an iambic-ness in many lines. Unusually for me, I decided against starting and ending punctuation.

My sources are primarily two articles from the Book Review section of The Wall Street Journal and one phrase from a third review. I pulled lines and phrases and then started braiding. I was startled when I found myself heading on a surreal tack, not something my literal brain does. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process.

Be sure to check for links in the comments below, as well as heading over to the FPR.

A heads up to all the people who have been following and writing and posting poems: the final poem requires that we take one line from each previous poem and combine them to form a new poem. I know!

The prompt:

‘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. As with the preceding sonnet assignment you may interpret “sonnet” as formally or as loosely as you wish.’

The poem:

two women waiting for a tram peer through a wall
a girl hangs ghost-like from a washing line
a train conductor dances in a shaft of sunlight

denying his traitorous actions to the end

a hunter, a searcher for something simple, a jigsaw
puzzle with the image emerging, a shaping hand
a collection of eyewitness reports, a study of patterns
in squares, in isolation, even imprisonment

reiterating the broken circle painted on the boards

emerging from sun-shrouding dust, how they remained
silent for decades, for decades silent, and how they met
through light this year without summer, fit together
as the final piece slipped onto the board, reiterating
the broken circle painted, his traitorous actions

The sources:

O’Donnell, Michael. ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ Books The Wall Street Journal 27 April 2014
The Editors. ‘Photo-Op: The Figure In The Carpet’ Books The Wall Street Journal 27 April 2014
Winchester, Simon. ‘A-Once-a-Millenium Blast’ Books The Wall Street Journal 27 April 2014


Posted by on 27/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


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Oulipoem 26: April 26 — Beautiful Outlaw/Belle Absente

I’m late, today. My apologies to any out there waiting for the prompt. Should I be later than is good for you in the next five days [and you have not discovered this yet], head to the FPR, scroll down and you will see the latest link to the latest prompt.

For other examples of responses to today’s prompt, head over to the FPR.

One way or another we have done this exercise, so it shouldn’t stress you, other than the actual doing of it [:-D]. The name I ended up picking is Ory. The reason for my lateness is that my husband’s beloved uncle died last night and I had to get Skip on the road to Baton Rouge and me provisioned for several days. Ory was 95 and the entire family were with him last week for his birthday. I think Ory was waiting for that. A special gentleman he was.

The prompt:

Belle Absente or, Beautiful Outlaw. ‘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.’ I chose, instead, the name of my husband’s uncle, Ory.

The poem — two forms [I liked both, couldn’t decide]:

To Ory: As Your Soul Takes Flight

Fly. Carve gentle, ever larger, ever farther, arcs in the air. Pull. The kite has small wings — in a breeze, a quiet air, sails like a hang glider. Take flight. Experience.

Laze. Take flight in the faintest wind. The quiet box pulling off swoops loops and dives needs no assembly. Dance.

Tumble. Bounce back into the air, no parts to break. The star flake when it hits the ground, rises, not even a breeze required, takes flight, dancing impossible to resist. Ascend.


To Ory: As Your Soul Takes Flight

Fly. Carve gentle, ever larger, ever farther,
arcs in the air. Pull. The kite has small wings —
in a breeze, a quiet air, sails like a hang glider.
Take flight. Experience.

Laze. Take flight in the faintest wind. The quiet
box pulling off swoops loops and dives
needs no assembly. Dance.

Tumble. Bounce back into the air, no parts to break.
The star flake when it hits the ground, rises, not even
a breeze required, takes flight, dancing
impossible to resist. Ascend.

The source:

Kronsberg, Matthew. ‘At Play: High and Mighty,’ Gears & Gadgets. The Wall Street Journal 26 April 2014

The article was one on kites and kite-flying. I picked the phrases I thought matched Ory and was amazed how easily the ‘use every letter’ part was. The only letters I could not find and did not want to force, were the letter ‘j’ in each stanza and the letter ‘x’ on the final.


Posted by on 26/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


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Oulipoem 25: April 25 — Braiding (Larding)

The official title of the prompt is Larding which has interesting connotations, but Braiding, given to us by ouliposter Jody Rich, is so much prettier. I had a ball putting this together but then anything that smacks of remixing… My only problem, as I posted to our Facebook group, was finding a way to lay the work draft out so that I was able to see the places where I needed to add lard. I was using highlights as a code and going nuts, so when you take this on, my advice is to break after each sentence and triple space between, so you know where a new sentence needs to go.

To watch how one builds, head over to Amanda Earl’s and you can watch paragraph by paragraph. After I had my final paragraph, I chose to play with line-breaks. My sources were diverse [and became a mash-up of two newspapers]and while it may sound like I relied heavily on the horoscope, I used several phrases from the great lime crisis article. I didn’t know such passion was connected with limes.

To read what others have come up with wander over to the FPR’s page for today.

The prompt:

‘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.’ Yes, all sentences from the newspaper.

Original sentences:

Never underestimate the power of imagination.  Stay true to your vision and the pieces will soon fall into place.

The poem:

the warfare between man and wife

Never underestimate the power of imagination: Imagine
being alone in a strange place with peculiar scents,
frightening noises, and no food, water or shelter. One minute
you’re cold and aloof and the next minute you’re distant
and unfriendly, cloudy with a chance of rain. Warnings are posted.

The last thing anyone needs is more finger pointing. You
weren’t sure these past few days, but you stood your ground.
The timing could hardly be worse. Don’t make it a guessing game.
Ask straight out. There’s such a thing as being in the right,
at the wrong time. A recent misstep, some signs of the times.

One might have a sense of abandonment. Overcast with a chance
of a thunderstorm and rain showers isn’t the end of the world.
Stay true to your vision — the pieces will fall into place.

The sources:

Alter, Alexandra. ‘The Warfare Between Man And Wife’ The Wall Street Journal Book Club 25 April 2014
Duffy, J.C. ‘The Fusco Brothers’ Comics The San Francisco Chronicle 25 April 2014
Jordan, Miriam and Jose DeCordoba. ‘Yes, We Have No Limes: Shortage Squeezes Bars, Eateries The Wall Street Journal  25 April 2014
Mitchell, Eileen. ‘Fellow homeless kitten becomes blind cat’s buddy, guide’ San Francisco Chronicle 25 April 2014
Renstrom, Christopher. Horoscope. San Francisco Chronicle 25 April 2014
San Francisco Chronicle Weather Report 25 April 2014


Posted by on 25/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


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Oulipoem 24: April 24 — Homosyntaxism

I am using a recording app on my phone to read notes into. I knew it wouldn’t have homosyntaxism, but I was curious, so I spoke. It responded with: ‘almost in taxes’.

Be sure to check out some of the other posters, both in my comments below and at the FPR.

The prompt:

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.

I, in my restless sleeping, had an epiphany. Of course, this is just a copy change, but with prose. For those who have never done one, it’s like a giant mad lib. Take out the nouns, verbs, adjectives and some adverbs, noting which are where. Leave a structural framework. When I did this exercise with poems, I left words like when, but, and, anything that was not major in meaning but helped me see the structure.

With this, you can try that with a bunch of short sentences, or find a short passage you like, put in line breaks, then replace words and tinker. After much casting about, I elected Option 1. I was helped in my decision when I read Mildred’s. She chose a VERY short sentence. Thus I was inspired.

The poem:

I am trying
I am looking
I am calling
I am searching
I am hoping
I am missing
I am seeking
I am leaving
I am passing

I am dying

The source:

I went for the Classifieds in the end. My source sentence was: I am searching.


Posted by on 24/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry


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Oulipoem 23: April 23 — Inventory…

.. not just any inventory, but one that requires knowing the parts of speech, or at least knowing how to look them up. I love the possibilities of list poems. I think today’s technology lends itself to list poems and creative presentations. However, I am a tech-challenged person, so while I thought,Yes! Great concrete poem potential!’ I wrote a regular looking poem.

The prompt:

‘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… Bonus points for creative presentation of your final lists.’

If you are still wandering around in search of inspiration, check out Mildred, Jody, and Winston. They’ll show you just how far out you can go.

I was lucky in my source material. The Wall Street Journal has an article on flowers with, yep, lists of flowers. I parsed the article and tried to keep the parts of speech as distinguished from each other as possible, depending on what the poem needed.

The poem:


garden field farm

pick pluck select

photinia, lilac, astilbe
coral charm peony,
japhet orchid and Juliet
garden rose

choose collect snip

rosemary, basil, dill,
kale, artichokes, short stemmed
anemone, sweet pea,
and sunflowers

sprinkle spread place

flax, acacia, jasmine,
long-stemmed roses,
powdery stephanotis,  lilies
and hydrangeas

create build stand

dahlias, iris, sprigs
of rosemary, grandmother’s
peonies, white Japanese
ranunculus and hyacinth

snip remove arrange

bouquet flowers foliage
flowers flowers foliage stems
leaves stems spray greenery
Queen Anne’s lace blooms
foliage flowers bouquet
sprigs blooms flowers flowers

raw focal accent linear loose
hand-tied floral seasonal ideal
idealized ephemeral delicate
uncommon unique unusual
local bohemian wild short tall
manicured dated intimate lush


tall glass vases, canning jars,
buckets, vintage pewter,
ceramic bowls, clear glass,
clay pots and mason jars.

The source:

Dizik, Alina. ‘Even Flowers Try to Be Chic’ Personal Journal The Wall Street Journal 23 April 2014


Posted by on 23/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poetry


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Oulipoem 22: April 22 — Antonymy

Be sure to spend some time wandering the amazing and wonderful work of other ouliposters.

The prompt:

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.

The original lines are all headlines from the Op-Ed section of the SF Chronicle. I shuffled their order and get more of a kick from the original. I shuffled again in my final piece and played with line breaks and punctuation.

Original lines:
Playing deal or no deal with income inequality
Governments need to stand their ground on stock exchanges
Huge wealth gap caused backlash before and may again
Beware the Republican majority on the Supreme Court
Political parties irrelevant in the age of the super PAC
Business leaders’ double standards on workers’ rights
No dividing line on who cares about the value of work
The idea of nationhood fades, tribalism returns

The result of antonymy:

Disregard a monarchist minority
under a lesser disassembly, stopping
dissension and conception without
spending equality; tiny poverty parity
ended apathy after, or won’t anymore —
anarchists need not be irresolute
under unconventional stagnation.

Independents relevant out of a moment
of ordinary sloth. Unemployment followers’
single extremes under unemployed’s wrongs —
a reality of utopia growing — introversion
disappears, an existence of a uniting circle
which disregards a disadvantage of idleness.

The source:

Titles of today’s Op-Ed pieces in the San Francisco Chronicle 22 April 2014


Posted by on 22/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry


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Oulipoem 21: April 21 — Confabulation: He Said, She Said

The prompt:

Self-explanatory, isn’t it? Craft a conversation poem using “he said/she said” quotes that you find in newspaper articles.


Okay, I went down a different track [you like the way I say I broke the rules?]. I can tell you that the Monday Wall Street Journal does not lend itself to this and I can no longer access the complete San Francisco Chronicle [I can reach non-hefty parts, such as horoscope, and comics] So, I’ve mashed them. Part of the conversation comes from a WSJ article and part of it comes from five comics in the SFC.

The poem:


Okay, so what was that all about?

I don’t understand —
everybody’s in a panic.

Best guess?

It hit a nerve.

I’m shocked at how many people…

I’m not doing anything out there.

So tell me more about your idea.
I don’t quite get it yet.

Well my research tells me
that people like stories
but they don’t like words.


I have no idea what that means.

So what’s the plan?

Get out of here.


The sources:

Conley, Darby. ‘Get Fuzzy’ The San Francisco Chronicle 21 April 2014
Connors, Will. ‘Will Shortage Of Pussy Willows Put A Damper On Dyngus Day’. The Wall Street Journal 21 April 2014
Duffy, J.C. ‘The Fusco Brothers’ The San Francisco Chronicle 21 April 2014
Evans Greg. ‘Luann’ The San Francisco Chronicle 21 April 2014
Miller, Wiley. ‘Non Sequitur’ The San Francisco Chronicle 21 April 2014
Schulz, Charles. ‘Peanuts’ The San Francisco Chronicle 21 April 2014


Posted by on 21/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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