Tag Archives: poem

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


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Oulipoem 20: April 20 — Lescurean Permutations

The prompt:

Select a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article as your source text.

Plain Permutation: 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.

Alternate Permutation: The 1st noun changes place with the 3rd, the 2nd with the 4th, etc.

Bracketed Permutation: The 1st noun changes place with the 4th, the 2nd with the 3rd, etc.

Roussellian Permutation: The 1st noun changes place with the last, the 2nd with the next to last, etc.

I tried each but, for my passage, the plain works best. The passage I chose is part of an essay on Dante’s Divine Comedy as self-help book [Dreher makes an interesting case]. To see what others have done be sure to check in my comments, as well as the Found Poetry Review‘s page.

The original passage [with minor deletions]:

On the evening of Good Friday, a man on the run from a death sentence wakes up in a dark forest, lost, terrified and besieged by wild animals. He spends an infernal Easter week hiking through a dismal cave, climbing up a grueling mountain, and taking what you might call the long way home.
It all works out for him, though. The traveler returns from his ordeal a better man, determined to help others learn from his experience. He writes a book about his to hell and back trek…
…..In a letter… the poet said that the goal of his trilogy… is “to remove those living in this life from the state of misery and lead them to the state of bliss”.
The Comedy does this by inviting the reader to reflect on his own failings, showing him how to fix things and regain a sense of direction, and ultimately how to live in love and harmony with God and others.
This glorious medieval cathedral in verse arose from the rubble of Dante’s life.

The poem:

On the Friday of good evening
a death sentence on the run from man
wakes up in a dark animal

lost, terrified, and besieged by the wild forest.
He spends an infernal Easter cave hiking
through a dismal week, climbing up a grueling

long way home and taking what you might call
the mountain. The ordeal returns from his traveler
a better other. Determined to help man learn

from his book, he writes an experience
about his to hell and back trek. In a poet,
a letter said, the trilogy of his goal

is to remove those living in this misery
from the state of life and lead them
to the state of bliss. The reader does this

by inviting the comedy to reflect on his own
things, showing him how to fix failings
and regain a sense of love and ultimately

how to live in direction and with God, harmony
and others. This glorious medieval verse in cathedral
arose from the life of Dante’s rubble.

The source:

Dreher, Ron. ‘Dante’s Path to Paradise.’ Review Section. Wall Street Journal 20 April 2014


Posted by on 20/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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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 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 exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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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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