Oulipoem 3: April 3 — Definitional Lit

03 Apr

Today’s prompt can get wild and crazy. The biggest challenge is to have the poem not sound like a dictionary [unless you want it to].

The prompt:

‘Select a single sentence from a newspaper article. Replace each meaningful word in the text [verb, noun, adjective, adverb] by its dictionary definition. Repeat this treatment on the resulting sentence, and so on, until you’ve had enough! Note that after only two such treatments with a relatively compact dictionary, even a two-word sentence can produce an accumulation of 57 words.’

The Confession:

After jotting down definitions for my words, I was taken with the list and did not continue to further devolve? evolve? the definitions. Instead I used the definitions, example sentences, and synonyms provided by the dictionary, for the words in my original phrase.

The poem and the phrase, as title:

The Big Bang Theory


He was a big man in his field:
the theory that there is life on other planets;
considerable in extent and intensity
important, as in power, influence, standing
(elder) generous, magnanimous,
brimming full
(large, as in size, height, width)
extravagantly boastful
conceited and unduly self-confident
(grown-up, mature,
big enough to know better)
a big liar; a big success.

On a grand scale,
of major concern,
a big problem.


He started with a sudden movement, a show of energy
(a sudden intense pleasure, thrill, excitement).

Loudly, abruptly, violently, she fell against the wall,
a resounding stroke, a blow: a nasty bang on the head,
a loud, explosive noise, as the discharge of a gun

A door closed noisily,

an exclamation point.


My theory is he never stops to think,
a speculative view, a guess.


The sources:

The San Francisco Chronicle T.V. Guide


Posted by on 03/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry


Tags: , , , , , , ,

18 responses to “Oulipoem 3: April 3 — Definitional Lit

  1. Misky

    03/04/2014 at 2:59 pm

    Is number 3 the original sentence?

    Mine is at


    • margo roby

      03/04/2014 at 3:04 pm

      Original sentence: The Big Bang Theory

  2. Nancy Chen Long

    03/04/2014 at 3:31 pm

    I love the way you tweaked the process and mined so much wonderfulness from one small phrase. Brilliant,

  3. Reiser Perkins

    03/04/2014 at 3:47 pm

    I like how you’ve managed to create a story, and your use of parenthesis really works here.

  4. whimsygizmo

    03/04/2014 at 5:03 pm

    Margo, I love love LOVE your take on this! So much better than mine, that’s for sure! 😉 I especially like:
    “A door closed noisily,

    an exclamation point.”

    The sentences in the dictionary always make me smile, intrigue me. I.LOVE.This.

    • margo roby

      03/04/2014 at 6:28 pm

      I love how much fun you are having, de. Hint for tomorrow: an Oulipian take on the Fibonacci. I’m looking forward to the play but suspect much reading might be required.

      • whimsygizmo

        03/04/2014 at 6:32 pm

        Ooooo! I LOVE to Fib! Yay! Thanks for the heads up. Fridays run slower and easier. Thursdays are hectic in my world.

  5. sonjajohanson10

    03/04/2014 at 6:00 pm

    Nice spacing, breaks – they gave me time to absorb the text.

  6. Hannah Gosselin

    03/04/2014 at 7:58 pm

    Excellent process!! I agree about the breaks and spacing…and I think your choice to not evolve or devolve was a good one too…I might come back to this one…like De, Thursday is a busy day for me, too. Just now turning on old Betty to try n’ catch up. :/

    See you tomorrow. 🙂

    • margo roby

      03/04/2014 at 8:10 pm

      Tomorrow is a challenge. I’ll look for you 😀

  7. Beth Ayer (@bethdayer)

    04/04/2014 at 12:26 am

    I love the last stanza, and the way you managed to create a story from this constraint. Well done!

  8. Pamela

    04/04/2014 at 10:07 am

    Great prompt, Margo. I love your end result. These are going to get more difficult I imagine. Keep poeming, my friend.


    • margo roby

      04/04/2014 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks, Pamela! I shall strive.


  9. nwian

    04/04/2014 at 1:34 pm

    This was a very cool prompt. Here’s my attempt 🙂

    • margo roby

      04/04/2014 at 2:23 pm

      I enjoyed it and am on my way to your place.


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