Tag Archives: Sonnet

Poem Tryouts: Let’s Oulipo

10:07 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the sound of my laptop overheating

Hello. I’m a little late, this time because I had to wait for enough functioning brain cells to gather in one mass. Today, I want us to oulipo [Didn’t know it was a verb, did you? During my month long romp with oulipian forms during National Poetry Month, several of us delighted in using the word oulipo in every way we could.].

‘Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (OULIPO), or Workshop of Potential Literature, investigates the possibilities of verse written under a system of structural constraints’.

Several of you have played with a couple of the more well-known forms, such as the Snowball and N+7. If you know and like an Oulipo form, feel free to go with that, but if you want to hurl yourself into the unknown, I’m giving you the link to April. That gets you to April 30 and you can scroll back through the month looking at each prompt. For once, you will even have an example poem.

Oulipo is a type of found poetry. My source, during April, was the newspaper. You may use any written material you wish. Some of the forms lend themselves better to specific types of writing. You will need to play. You may also need to adapt.

For those who don’t have time to scroll through thirty days [!], I am giving you links to my favourites and you can choose from among those — or do more than one. It’s addictive.

1] Lipogram: Not easy, but great fun. Ended up one of my favourites and one I remember.

2] Definitional: This was the first where I strayed from the prompt and redefined the form for myself.

3] Univocalism: Fun. I liked this constraint.

4] Never thought I’d be saying this — Sonnet: I went from despair to euphoria on this one. I chose the ultra-modern form, once I knew it existed and loved writing the poem. You can try this, or one of the classic sonnet forms.

5] And, the Irrational Sonnet: Much more sonnet like but with stanza breaks that I found work better for me, than the traditional. I thoroughly enjoyed working this.

6] Lescurean Permutations: This one tickled me, possibly because I had good source material.

When you visit April, you will find the prompts, a brief comment or two, and my poem in response. All words are from another source. People approach the source material differently. Some cherry pick words, but that doesn’t work for me. I collect phrases and sometimes split them, if they are long. Of course, remove words that don’t work; change tenses and point of view and gender, for consistency; and place line breaks where the poem needs them.  PLAY.

I shall see you next Tuesday, not for the postponed prompt on sleeping/dreaming poets [I like the collection I have sitting on my other computer, so that’s waiting until post-summer, now.] Tuesday will be an unknown. Well, yes, I know.

Happy writing, all.

P.S. Check Wikipedia for some history, if you wish.


Posted by on 01/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


Tags: , , , ,

For ViV: A Sonnet

Many of you will have followed through the years, ViV’s challenge to me to write a full-blown, honest-to-God sonnet. As she often told me: ‘… please don’t think you can get away with calling them sonnets, even if you stretch the definition as a ‘modern’ sonnet. Fourteen lines do not a sonnet make nor four lines a volta. It is absolutely NO use counting syllables. You must count only the stresses, otherwise the rhythm simply doesn’t work.’

Yes, it has taken me this long, and even so I wait until ViV pronounces whether I may, in fact, term this as such. It started as an Elizabethan in structure and shifted into an Italian. Untitled, as yet.


What is the thing that passes in the night,
that as I tread the side-walks of behind,
hides something that I wish but cannot find,
the shadow I connect with out of sight?
When day arrives and I let in the light
— on looking I can see that out of mind
means only you have kept me undefined —
I pause to see myself again in flight.
I must not walk old ways but look my fill
then move ahead, where life is not askew;
forget old heartbreaks, all that was untrue,
and dream of when my fate is my free will.
Yet, when I think all old is made anew,
I find the doors I shut are open still.


ViV, any critiquing appreciated. I do know it needs revising, but figured if I didn’t post, I could revise forever.


Posted by on 10/05/2014 in poems, poetry


Tags: , , ,

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


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Poem in Response to Wordle #47 at The Sunday Whirl

Hello everyone! I am glad to be back amongst you. Bren, thank you for the words which entertained me on my flight home. ViV, almost, sort of, two Italian sonnets! They need work.

My first go at the words was turning hokey, so I left them and came back. I looked at the allusive properties of several of the words and that started me. This topic is hard to do and sound fresh, but I had fun in two directions. I have used all the wordle words in their original form, and I have used them all a second time in whatever form I needed. I also tried to work a double sonnet, as I have long promised ViV I would one day try the form again. I managed the fourteen lines and I am close to the eight and four division of an Italian sonnet. The poems are not iambic except here and there and there is no rhyme scheme. I do have the syllables running between nine and ten. I will keep working at it.

Happy Hour on the Red Planet

Martini, on the rocks:

The room was charged with anger. She saw
an aura, red like Mars, settle on her
husband’s shoulders. Her face mirrored her
confused thoughts. The accident at the toll
booth had been nothing she couldn’t handle.
The driver of the sedan wasn’t looking
for trouble, agreed they should settle,
did not ask for more than seemed fair for
a dented bumper. She did not understand
her husband’s anger, this time, watched from
her seat, as he poured bourbon over ice,
as the muscles of his face tightened,
heard his words buzz in her ears: me… ask…
trouble… sacrificed plenty — heard nothing.

Stirred, not shaken:

After he charged from the room, she moved
to the bar and poured a finger of scotch —
What had they called it when they courted?
A libation. She looked it up once: a drink
poured in sacrifice to the gods. She found
out soon enough, but not in time, that these
libations invoked in him one god. Once,
his temper had been nothing she couldn’t
handle. She knew how to settle troubled
Mars with Venus, but the years exacted
a toll. Asking little, she had sacrificed
plenty. Her confusion lay in whether
she felt ready to walk out the door. If
she could, let him whistle for her.

A nod to Gwendolyn Brooks whose sonnet on this topic, I love, and whose last line I adapted. Come on over to The Sunday Whirl and read how others used the words charged, trouble, accident, mars, libation, sacrificed, toll, confused, plenty, handle, ask, settle.


Posted by on 11/03/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , ,

  • creative commons license