“Big. Big brown. Big brown bear. Big brown bear, blue bull. Big brown bear, blue bull, blowing bubbles, biking backward – BUMP!….” – The Berenstein Bears B Book. Stan and Jan Berenstein’s tautogram as children’s book has been seared into my brain since I was about three. The constraint Tautogram (tautos gr. ‘the same’) simply requires that every word begin with the same letter. I feared this constraint would alternately drive me to write nonsense or verse worthy of children’s lit. (let the record state that I am a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, but, still…)
As a writer, I appreciate the difficulty of this challenge. As a reader, I have a hard time paying attention after about two lines. Boring. So, I wanted to pull off something that would actually keep a reader engaged, and have some emotional punch. Boy, did I get lucky with my text. Both the title and the closing lines showed up, in order, as they appear in the poem. This piece really revealed itself to me, and I just had to go searching for some material to fill in the middle.
I knew from the warm-ups to this exercise that Nancy Chen Long owns this form. Check out her Oulipost for it; it does not disappoint. She allows herself some articles, pronouns, etc. which do not conform to her chosen letter designation. I really think this helps with the flow of the piece, and she has great rhythm. Take a look at offerings by other Ouliposters at the Found Poetry Review.
sirens, scanners, sparks
smoking, shadows, shrapnel
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