Oulipoem 17: April 17 — Haikuisation

If you are enjoying reading these, be sure to head over to today’s haiku page at the Found Poetry Review.

The prompt:

‘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.’

The process:

One thing I love about our oulipo-ing ourselves [aside from taking oulipo and creating every part of speech in existence for it], is that we can constrain the constraints, or tweak them. In the haikuisation of sentences in the newspaper, I went with ‘haiku-like brevity’ from the rules above. The one thing I tried to maintain is the volta, the turn from beginning to end, which in haiku, is rather abrupt.

The poem:


When you’re feeling foul
it isn’t easy to be fair –
your effort is appreciated.


Before it’s too late
straighten out these mixed signals:
you are pushing someone away.


When tempers are tense
you need to watch what you say:
insinuate, don’t agitate.


Profitable contacts are about;
you want to meet and greet.
Don’t let today go to waste.


For more breathing room
reshuffling is in order –
discover along the way.


Someone’s checking you out,
you, too preoccupied to notice –
offer an opening.


Skip the obvious choice;
only one will go the distance.
Go with the underdog.


People think you’re tough;
you should be more obvious.
Wear your heart on your sleeve.


You may not have the answer
to someone’s woes, but time.
Hours with you banish the blues.


Just another interview?
Stay alert. This could pan out
into something exciting.


Don’t try to cool the fires:
let tempers flare fierce and bright –
people will see reason soon.


Take a chance on love –
it’s better than sitting on the fence
watching the world go by.

The source:

Renstrom, Christopher. ‘HOROSCOPE’ San Francisco Chronicle 4/17/14

Yes, yes, I did have entirely too much fun.


Posted by on 17/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry


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Oulipoem 16: April 16 — Chimera

This exercise was great fun to prep. I can see, using other sources, that this has possibilities for my particular armoury. Before we get to the prompt, the Editors and Staff of the Found Poetry Review have taken the time [God knows from where. I'm pretty sure they don't even have time to breathe.] for a Halftime Report, where each of them have picked a few examples of what has been happening among the oulipoets. Should you have plenty of time on your hands [say during a commute, at the dentist, on a conference call] check out the main page for each day’s contribution. You’ll quickly identify a few poets to follow.

The prompt:

‘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.’ I did so. The only thing I tweaked was to repeat ‘no matter’.

The poem:

Gather the actor of your artist
the unflappable ultra skills. No matter

where the sales yell the role, it does not
slip — important to shout for the actor –

which throws why the instructor slips here,
to refer to the job. No matter. Win

your upper problem and warn for years
of life’s degrees, even the fictitious focus.

The sources:

Main: an ad for the Lincoln Financial Group

Nouns: Shellenbarger, Sue. ‘Typecast at Work Actor Finds a New Role in a Tech Job’ Work & Family Wall Street Journal 16 April 2014

Verbs: Robinson, Joshua. ‘Liverpool is in control but can the Reds hang on’ Sports Wall Street Journal 16 April 2014

Adjectives: Fowler, Geoffrey A. ‘Cool Tube: Testing Out Ultra High Definition TV’ Home & Digital Wall Street Journal 16 April 2014

Now, go read some of the wonderful work coming from ouliposters. Then try your hand at an ouliprompt.


Posted by on 16/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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Oulipoem 15: April 15 — Prisoner’s Constraint

Yesterday’s lost poem has been found!

Today’s prompt:

“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,i,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.”

The process:

I love my Wall Street Journal but I may have to resort to online newspapering so I can continue to use the SF Chronicle. The Journal lacks too much of the odd stuff like the comics, horoscopes, classifieds… we’ll see. Today, I picked an article from the ‘Health & Wellness’ section of the WSJ. I copied down all words that fit the rules [I found I had to go back and double-check myself].

My added constraint: I had to use the words in the order I found them, except for the two letter words, which I inserted where they help sense. My satisfaction quotient: middlin’.

The poem:


is a


over –






The source:

Wall Street Journal. ‘Health & Wellness’ Quick Cures/Quack Cures: under eye bags. 15 April 2014


Posted by on 15/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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Oulipoem 14: April 14 — Article to Ads, Column Inches

I can be a little slow. Admittedly, my focus has been divided a trifle, the past two weeks. There are many, many talented poets writing in the Oulipo Challenge, official and un-! Please wander over to their site on the Found Poetry Review and check a few out each day. For the unofficials, check the links in my comments, each day. There have been so many wonderfully creative poems.

The prompt:

‘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.’ Today’s prompt was a challenge until I saw Mildred’s response. Then, I knew what I wanted to do or, at least, had a direction.

The process:

Although I am back in Atlanta, my paper, the Wall Street Journal, lacks a few things, like classifieds, so I headed for the San Francisco Chronicle online to find what I needed: Horoscopes + Classifieds, a marriage made in, well… I ended up with something other than I started. I had a column of phrases from the classifieds and a column of nouns from the horoscope. I tried matching them to tell a story, but when I noticed a shape, I added a constraint: The lines had to lead up to and away from the longest line. That’s when I ended up with something I like better than the first something.

The poem:

[This is what I had when I went to open my document in Notepad, just now: no file... anywhere. I searched. I don't have the heart, or the energy, to recreate the poem, so am not going to, but it did occur to me that I needed to post this for links to be left! So, write poems. Post poems. Leave links. I shall retire to a corner and weep piteously. Piteously, I tell you.]


Where is     life?

lost      chapter
missing      page
searching for      faith
looking for       history
looking to      old habits
trying to locate     a map
desperately seeking      balance
in search of     a  translation
looking to find      changes
looking for an old      risk
hoping to find      nerves
if you know      people

I loved you     once

I didn’t even get your      name
please call, I miss     stars

truly, madly, deeply,


The source:

HOROSCOPE for Monday, 4/14/14 by Christopher Renstrom – SFGate


Posted by on 14/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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Oulipoem 13: April 13 — Epithalamium

Now, there’s a mouthful.

The prompt:

An epithalamium is a poem written to celebrate the wedding, or more precisely the wedding bed. ‘An Oulipian epithalamium is composed exclusively with the letters of the names of the bride and bridegroom [bride and bride, groom and groom]. Visit the announcements section of your paper and select one couple. Write a poem using only words that can be made with the letters of their names.’ You may choose first names or full names depending on what you are comfortable with.

The process:

I chose full names, so I thank Judith Orlando and John Tamagni, may they live long and prosper. I entered their names into Scrabble Finder‘s wonderful word maker and chose words from the list. As the names are too long, I entered them in several permutations: johnjudith, judithorlando, johnorlando… As I needed something quick and enjoyed today’s sonnet exercise so much, I chose that as my form, sonnets being particularly suitable.

The poem:

– morning
round –

The source:

I am away from my wonderful source so have used the wedding section of the New York Times, online.




Posted by on 13/04/2014 in poetry, writing, exercises, poems, oulipost


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Oulipoem 12: April 12 — Sonnet

First things first: A call for submissions for Red Wolf Issue #2? This will be their summer issue and you can read all the info by heading over… after you write a poem.

The prompt:

‘Write a sonnet sourced from lines found in newspaper articles. You may choose your own sonnet type and should feel free to be creative with the rules. One known Oulipo variation is “sonnets of variable length,” in which one must compose a sonnet in which the lines are either as short as possible or as long as possible.’

A sonnet. Silence. Throws minor fit of despair. Receives much ‘there, there-ing’ the most important of which came from one of my co-participants, Carol A. Stephen, in the form of: You can write a sonnet of one word per line. Really? Perks up. No metre, or rhyme, but it does have a roughly 4x4x4x2 structure and a volta.

The poem:

night –
drifting –

The source:

Wiegand, David. ‘Cash jazzes up songs of South’; Datebook Music Review, San Francisco Chronicle; 12 April 2014. E3


Posted by on 12/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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Oulipo 11: April 11 — Univocalism

A heads up: a call for submissions to Red Wolf Issue #2. I’ll post the info tomorrow.

Having enjoyed the lipogram, I was not as fearful as I might have been of this prompt. I played with the idea of structuring the poem with a different vowel per stanza, but finally settled on the vowel I originally thought I wanted, ‘i’.

My own constraint was to take all my words from one article in the Chronicle’s ‘Datebook’ [which is where I am sourcing all my poems]. The columnist, Jon Carroll, had wonderful words to play with. I copied them down in order, but ended up shifting some around, except for tickly/ with/ still, which is the serendipitous combination that caught me.

The prompt:

‘A univocalist text is one written with a single vowel. It is consequently a lipogram in all the other vowels. If he had been univocally minded, Hamlet might have exclaimed, “Be? Never be? Perplexed quest: seek the secret!” All words must be sourced from your newspaper.’

The poem:

his lips


his lips

win     I


The source:

Jon Carroll’s Column: ‘Datebook’ San Francisco Chronicle.  11 April 2014. E3


Posted by on 11/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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