Oulipost, Day 5 – Tautogram

“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.


Sector Six

strobes search
soldiers shooting
sirens, scanners, sparks
smoking, shadows, shrapnel
suddenly –


Lewiston Daily Sun, April 5, 2014

Associated Press. U.S. regains the jobs lost in recession
A.P. Drugs sneaked into jail on baby
A.P. Man accused of being fake cop
A.P. Gunman had argument with other soldiers
Burnham, Emily. UMaine students creating VR demo for Oculus Rift
Charlton, Angela. Acclaimed photographer Anja Niedringhaus dies
Harrop, Froma. Adelson not shy about stating his wish
Hartill, Daniel. June’s Emerge Film Festival expands
Obituary, Denise P. ‘Nise’ Springer


2 thoughts on “Oulipost, Day 5 – Tautogram

  1. Too funny, I talked about the B Book in my comments for this poem as well! And yes, I still have the majority of it memorized, and am a Dr. Seuss fan as well. Great stuff… still keep them on my shelves, even tho my kids are mostly grown. Great S poem BTW. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Sonja! Your poem hits all the senses in five short lines. So effective…and the ending, each ‘still’ a soldier down. Excellent!

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