Oulipost, Day 30 – Patchwork Quilt

Cut and paste, pastiche, remixing – Patchwork Quilt is the found poetry classic.  Our challenge is to take a line, phrase, or words from each of our Ouliposts, and use them to create a new poem.
For the last poem, my goal was to create an homage to my fellow Ouliposters.  I followed the rules, but didn’t love the result – too long, too wordy.  I’ve included the original version towards the bottom, but I’m started with a reduced version.
Wrap up in all the patchwork words of the Oulipost community at the Found Poetry Review.

Love Song for Oulipo

April –
morning on an unofficial
street. The world made weighty,
finite songs, storylines
that end up intersecting.

We grasped and clawed,
getting drawn deeper into
the unexpectedly beautiful,
the terrain of taboo.

Reality, leviathan, woke
us from sleep dazed beds;
lost us in the frenetic swirl
of breathless notes.

We started spore songs
called things by their
real names, dazzled
people with twisted lines.

We own a raw universe;
we have it right where
we want it. It’s a miracle –
we want to keep it going.


Original version

April –
morning on an unofficial street.
The goal came – create poetry, weighty
finite songs, storylines that end up
intersecting.  the world made us ready.

How can we make this harder?
We grasped and clawed, progressing down
the unexpectedly beautiful terrain of taboo;
we worked at habit, getting drawn deeper
into the writing.

When the leviathan known as reality
woke us from our sleep dazed beds, when
we lost ourselves in the swirl of breathless
frenetic notes, when we had to create more
or maintain an unaltered condition –

we amazed!  Embracing our fascination
with the unknown, we produced new expressions,
started spore songs, thinking which
twisted unstraight lines, we called things by
their real names, and dazzled the people!

Suddenly, it’s late; it’s been too long already.
We did much, but time is an issue this week –
we’re not sharing anymore.  It’s exciting,
it’s a miracle, it continues to enthrall us.
I want to keep it going.

We have just now begun to understand
what we can do. We are all self-taught;
whenever you need help, please call. We
own a raw universe; I thought we got it
right where we wanted it – who’s with me?



Oulipost, Day 28 – Melting Snowball

The reverse of our Snowball work from day 10; end the poem with one letter, and in each preceding line the word should contain one letter more.  Words should be drawn, in order, from your selected text.
Once again, I found myself unable to follow the rules and use only one word.  My words do have the correct number of letters, and they are drawn in order from the text, but, otherwise…  See a fantastic Melting Snowball with very creative use of punctuation by Ouliposter Lilian Necakov;  see those last Melting Snowballs from the month of April at the Found Poetry Review.



discipline, destroying, professors

including, establish, academics

probably, provided, pressure

require, review, results

recent, report, review

whose, those, shows



Boston Globe, April 28, 2014
Rocheleau, Matt. Suffolk to evaluate its tenured faculty

Oulipost, Day 27 – Irrational Sonnet

Oh thank heavens!!! A sonnet!!!! Do I care that it has screwy line breaks?  I do not.  I am grateful for the company of a familiar friend.  This sonnet is deemed irrational because the stanzas are broken in accordance with the irrational number pi – 3.1415…
I looked and looked for an article to inspire me, but, in all the Boston Globe Sunday edition, this was the only thing which caught my fancy.  There were many more birds listed, but I made a point of only selecting those birds that I have actually seen and could identify if my life depended upon it. Regular text comes from the paper; italicized text is the litany of comments which ran through my head as I was typing.  Rule-breaking, irreverent, I am an Ouliposter throwing convention to the wind!  See the saucy  and impudent writing of the other Ouliposters at the Found Poetry Review.

Bird Sightings
to Thorton Burgess, who taught me all the birds 

Migration was progressing this week (not reindeer; they don’t mean reindeer)
New migrants included: (oh look!  I get to use a colon! Fine punctuation, that)
Tri-coloured herons, solitary sandpipers, (colour does too have a U in it)

barn swallows, winter wrens, purple finches, (purple is really red – so Roman of them)

yellow-throated warblers, (must get the boy to  fill the bird feeders for the cats)
a rough-legged hawk, an upland sandpiper, (caught a hawk in a grocery bag, oncet)
two snowy owls, a peregrine falcon, (those snowies are tricksy to spot)
a common raven, twelve rusty blackbirds (no pie)

a pied-billed grebe, (bet you don’t know what pied means)

two pileated woodpeckers, (I REALLY want this call  for a ring tone on my phone)
nine ruby-crowned kinglets, (never saw a kinglet until I was in my forties.  Imagine.)
Ninety glossy ibises, a barred owl, (saw one in the graveyard, running at dusk)
two eastern towhees, (used to be called the rufous-sided towhee. Sigh. Taxonomists)
a vulture soaring over the great meadows. (as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun went down behind the purple hills)


Boston Globe, April 27, 2014
Recent bird sightings as reported to the Massachusetts Audubon Society

Oulipost, Day 26 Belle Absente (Beautiful Outlaw)

Oy vey!  What a constraint!  This took me hours – five hours, and without Doug Luman’s amazing Oulitools, it would have taken twice that.  I cannot imagine going through the article and selecting out words, by hand.  Well, I can imagine it, but doing so gives me hives. Huzzah for technology!
So, Beautiful Outlaw (great name).  Select your text, and select a name.  Your poem will be as long as the number of letters in your selected name (the name IVY would generate a three line poem).  In each line, you must use every letter of the alphabet except the letter which corresponds to that line.  So, with the name Ivy, the first line would use every letter except I, the second line would use every letter except V, the third line would use every letter except Y.  Oh, and your text?  All your words should be drawn from that.
I found this prompt to be extremely…challenging.  The name I chose was New Sweden, which was the setting of my article.  The only word containing Z in the whole article was “blazing”; I also ran into some difficulties with J and X.  In the end, I had to decide between not using all the required letters, or selecting words from outside my article.  I chose to honour the spirit of the constraint, and use 25 letters, drawing them from elsewhere in my paper if I really needed to.  When I was able to draw everything from my article, I did so, but this resulted in a rash overuse of the word blazing, and highly stilted language.  I’m not crazy about this poem, but I would try the constraint again.  Just – next time – source text not requisite.
You can go see the Belle Absente work of other Ouliposters at the Found Poetry Review.

New Sweden

Our bodies had aged by quick years, we awoke, lax, from those sleep dazed beds, just lives.
Just quick hands and partial paralysis, still convincing doctors that blazing dawn claims to fix
exacerbating memories. Masking graver questions, blazing distress from younger years, they have just planned

a blazing antidote to rid the body of toxicology. Prepared for equal damage, reviewing joked
effects and courageous battles, blazing anthrax victims. Yet possibly questions just mask
vividly quick poisonings, blazing radiation. Full with anthrax, full with major suspicion,

experts possibly masking the blazing, bitter taste, we fear equal lives, we just stockpile
a bunch of rapidly blazing applications. Major talk was far from our quick minds, a varying fix
for the bitter discovery, exams that cause such distress, dazed jokes perhaps equal great work.



Lewiston Sun Journal, April 26, 2014
Farwell, Jackie. Nurse recalls identifying arsenic as the poison in New Sweden case

Oulipost, Day 24 – Homosyntaxism

Select a section of text, and replace each word with another word which represents the same part of speech.
My seventh grade teacher did teach me to diagram sentences, but I played loose and fast with this.  I wanted to preserve the feel of the original quote (stanza one), but I also wanted to create a narrative and maintain a sense of cohesion through similar meter and internal rhyme.  I’m becoming quite the rule breaker here…
To see a homosyntactic poem that followed the rules quite cleverly, read Ouliposter Kelly Nelson’s offering of the day. See how other Ouliposters are bending the rules with more homosyntaxism at the Found Poetry Review.



How can I make this
harder? she mused a
few minutes later.
It was less a question
than a threat.

When will you take her
seriously? you wondered
this mere days ago.
Distance seemed smaller,
time still an issue.

Now shall we push them
faster? hours tumbled,
the new dimension
afterward. We grew taller,
late sun against the soil.



Boston Globe, April 24, 2014
Teitell, Ruth. Get the Balance Right

Oulipost, Day 23 – Inventory

Select text from your source paper, and collate it into the component parts of speech (nuns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, etc.).  Bonus points for creative presentation of these lists.
I chose a sentence from each of four sections of the Boston Globe for inventory.  Reporters have learned their lessons well; there were precious few adverbs!  I’m presenting them first in a chart which is a list horizontally, then a sentence if read vertically.  With the leftover words, I assembled a few sentences.  I changed plurality as needed, but otherwise the words are intact. It’s all pretty much nonsense sentences, but this was an interesting method of remixing the words.  The one unanticipated aspect of this exercise is that words may represent different parts of speech, depending on how they are used.  When I inventoried the words in these sentences, I categorized them based on their uses therein, but when presenting them in new sentences, they may take on new roles. See how other Ouliposters juggled this constraint at the Found Poetry Review.


Noun                     Mangoes            Symbols            Side              Bins

Verb                      are taken           are                       is going      are spinning

Preposition       from                    after                   on                  down

Article                  the                      the                       the                 a

Adjective            few                     short                   granite         seaside

Noun                     parks                 day                      parish           school

Preposition       for                      of                          as                    from

Pronoun             what                  that                      their              what

Noun                     cents                 king                     street             blocks


Leftover sentences

Noun sentence –           Here, maps mark Bristol fruit orchards; there, St. Peter brakes nine wheels.

Verb sentence –             Thought is found filling, is doing, started.

Adjective sentence –  Another Catholic Indian owns fifty tourists; status nails age.

Adverb sentence –        Seriously, not so still.


And so, a very Oulipian poem, comprised of these inventoried sentences.


Another Catholic Indian owns fifty tourists; status nails age.

Side is going down
the granite parish
as their street;

here, maps mark Bristol
fruit orchards; there, St.
Peter brakes nine wheels.

Bins are spinning
down a seaside school,
from what blocks?

Mangoes are taken
from the few parks –
for what cents?

Symbols are after
the short day of that
king; thought is

found filling,
is doing, started.
Seriously, not so still.


Boston Globe, April 23, 2014

Gopal, Sena Desai. Mango mania over India’s most revered fruit

Moskowitz, Eric. After 92 years, a hardware landmark closes

Powers, John. The time of his life

Woolhouse, Megan. Yachts and a food pantry in uneasy juxtaposition


Oulipost, Day 22 – Antonymy

After yesterday’s exhaustive journey through the paper, today I made only a brief excursion.  The constraint, antonymy, requires that you select a text, and replace all the words with their antonyms.  Ouliposter Robin Meister has a quirky piece involving bottled water and biodiesel.  You can explore the contrarian works of other Ouliposters at the Found Poetry Review.  Rather than spend hours wallowing in online dictionaries, I went with my gut, and sought to engage the spirit of the constraint.  The quote I selected (italicized) is practically an untreated piece on its own.  Here is today’s offering –


Specific Artifice

I tried to photograph trees
as if they were people.

Almost unconsciously,
I made a U-turn.

I found myself again drawn
to places without people,

as I was when I
was a young man.

You succeeded in recording
the voices of rocks because
they were without animus.

Thoughtfully, deliberately, you
continued straight down the road.

You lost yourself for the first time,
repelled by moments of solitude,

unlike the place where
you were an old woman.


Boston Globe, April 22, 2014
Feeney, Mark. Nature that’s personal

Oulipost, Day 21 – Confabulation

The task?  Using quotes from your paper, construct a conversation between two or more people.  Oh, gosh, I actually loved doing this one.  It took forever, but I felt like the prior cento work we’ve done here had really prepared me, and I definitely was able to transform the material.  By the way – the funnies? 100% quotes, everything.  I totally used those.  Misky has a really fun confabulation, here.  You can see the crazy conversations of other Ouliposters at the Found Poetry Review.

Phone Conversation 15 Years After Our Divorce


A Couple of Stitches, But a Long Way from the Heart

Look who the wind blew in –

I’m right here, right now.
It’s been too long already.

Well, there are a lot
worse places to be.

It’s important for us to
really grasp what we did –

– the way we grasped and clawed –

You don’t forget.

I was embarrassed, I was
hurt. It’s another thing to
learn it from the other side.

It was an error, a stupid mistake.

Then I went crazy. I just
tried to protect myself,
really bottle that up.

We talked about this – we knew
we could be better than we were.

I was probably a bit premature.

It happened, you know?
It happened. I’m amazed
it has not come out until now.

I guess, to tell you the truth,
I didn’t think we were very good.

As poor as we were,
I thought we got it
right where we wanted it.

And here we are, 15 years later.
I have a better idea.

It’s “us”, it’s “we”.

I think we’ve got to stay
out of  the nonsense; we’re just
going to try to stay patient.

I don’t know how to feel –
grateful? thankful? It’s an anxious time.

Take a deep breath honey,
and slow down.  Take all
the time you need.

There’s going to be some
ebb and flow. We have
to remain patient to that.

I think that’s important.

I think it’s finally starting to set in.
We are not alone.  We have just now
begun to understand what we can do.

We’ll soon find out.

Oh, I’m counting on it.

That always brings me
a little bit of comfort to me.
Sleep fast.

Sleep fast.

Bibliography, Boston Globe, April 21, 2014

Abraham, Peter. Napoli meeting goal

Abraham, Peter. Red Sox rally for wild walk off victory

Adams, Scott. Dilbert

Associated Press. After brawl, Brewers win in the 14th

Associated press. Kuchar chips in for the title

Billingsley, Ray. Curtis

Bliss, Harry. Bliss

Bombardieri, Marcella; Miller, Joshua; Sampson, Zachary. Resolute and ready

Cappiello, Dina. Corn-waste fuels no better than gas, study says

Cramer, Maria. Detective forced to retire 14 years after injury

Fox, Jeremy C. Father believes others helped dispose of boy’s body

Gaitan, Catalina. Visually impaired runner to be guided by radio show host

Graham, Jennifer. Even tutus have a place in the race

Johnson, Akilah. 3 in contest for governor striving hard for visibility

Mallett, Jeff. Frazz

Marrapese-Burrel, Nancy. Flustered Detroit needs to address identity crisis

Marrapese-Burrel, Nancy. In Game 2, problems weren’t limited to special teams

Murphy, Shelley. Hopkinton spruces up for Marathon’s crucial first steps

Pierce, Lincoln. Big Nate

Powers, John. Fast field has really come together here

Shaughnessy, Dan. When needed, they brought out their Sunday best

Shinzawa, Fluto. Lucic benefitted from a stick shift

Tziperman Lotan, Gal. Outdoor church invites homeless in

Vega, Michael. Rough spots cleared by bullpen’s clean work

Weintraub, Karen. 1 in 20 adult outpatients misdiagnosed, study reports

Oulipost, Day 20 – Lescurean Permutation

After the exhausting, but rewarding, sestina, it is with pleasure that I greet today’s substitution constraint.  Select your passage, and exchange nouns within the passage – 1st with 3rd, 2nd with 4th, 5th with 7th, and so on.  I chose just one short sentence, but after exchanging nouns, I added a couple additional stanzas.  There are a variety of choices in how you can rearrange your nouns, so I chose a different order for each.  It’s a simple piece, but may have some meaning for anyone who has tried to eliminate self from his or her writing.
Ouliposter Massimo Soranzio has a short but gracious Lescurean Permutation, and you can see many, many other permutations, configurations and general noun twisters at the Found Poetry Review’s page.


No More Confessional Poems

Working at habit
started out as just
a bad night, but
it soon became

Activities found
nothing getting drawn
deeper into writing;
that I had to do
with myself.

It decided, as a way
to the coal mine, duty
would go down into
the craft, so I could
work my I
out of I.


Boston Globe, April 20, 2014
Williamson, Eugenia. Robert Coover

Oulipost, Day 19 – Sestina

This has been the Oulipost I have both dreaded and anticipated – the sestina.  The sestina is a modern poetic form, but very well established.  Six stanzas, six lines each, with a selection of six repeating words (called teleutons) ending all 36 lines.  The order of operations for these words is as follows – (a,b,c,d,e,f );   (f,b,a,e,b,d,c);   (c,f,d,a,b,e);    (e,c,b,f,a,d);   (d,e,a,c,f,b);   and (b,d,f,e,c,a).  For the cherry to top it all off, you can include a final tercet which contains all six teleutons (the envoi).
I’ve been dreading this form because it is huge; for the most part, I write very tight, terse poems.  Sestinas are long, they are  repetetive (that’s kind of the point, really, that’s how you establish cohesion in this form) and they can be incredibly boring – think  Weather Sestina by Ted Kooser (and here I want to say that I simply worship Ted Kooser – he’s lucky he lives too far away for me to stalk – but that sestina is not the most exciting poems he has ever put out).  However, once I read Night Train, by Theodore Thompson Genoways, I knew I wanted to play with this form.  But still…afraid
I’m not the only one.  In our little Oulipo backroom, many of us have stood up to say “Hi, I’m poet X, and I’m afraid of sestinas.”  But we’ve also been sharing well-written sestinas that we know of, talking about stategies, and discussing what tools would help here (once again, all hail Doug Lumen and his Oulitools).   I have to say, for my first sestina, it went pretty well.  It’s coherent, I used an envoi (which is optional, but I prefer sestinas which employ them), I was able to enjamb effectively, and I even used my teleutons for the title, in yet another order – c,e,d,f,a,b.  Given the long nature of the sestina, and the brief nature of newspaper articles, I was worried that my article wouldn’t yield enough content for the piece, but it did, just barely.  I really enjoyed doing this as found poetry, actually – there was a lot of cento work put into practice here.
What will I do differently in my next sestina? (yes, there will absolutely be a next sestina)   In the first place, I’d go to the trouble of  writing out the order of operations!  I quickly decided that I didn’t actually want to use Doug’s Oulitool, because it prevented me from making punctuation and spelling changes.  I thought that I understood the form well enough to do it freehand – I didn’t.  I ended up having to rewrite the entire darned thing.  I’ll not be doing that again!  Next, if it were to be a found piece, I would combine several articles.  I wasn’t really able to transform the content, which is one of our missions, but I would have needed more word choices to do so.  Other Ouliposters used multiple articles, to great effect, and accomplished this.  If it were not a found piece, I would think long and hard about my teleutons, and select words which were homonyms or could be made into compound words.  My favourite sestinas are not obviously sestinas; I think the key to achieving that is careful selection of teleutons and deft enjambment.
Right then – enough tech talk.  I hope you like serpents, because that is what we have on the menu today.  But first, some appetizers –
My pick of the day from the Ouliposter offerings, a fabulous sestina from Joseph Harker.  Then, settle in and see sestinas from the rest of the Ouliposters at FPR.  And now, the main course.


These Snake People Are a Mystery to Me

Like a boogeyman, they’re a creepy mystery –
silky, almost glasslike on the belly, to me
they are a Holy Grail.  Enamoured with these
color combinations, dazzling the people
who don’t identify with them, my snakes
are purple, orange, yellow-albino.  They are

quite docile and predictable, so we published a guide, we are
producing new genetic expressions.  Breeding is a mystery;
I’m all self-taught.  They’re a wonderland, these snakes,
and I’m manipulating cycles, temperature, humidity.  Me,
I’ve converted a lot of people – they want corn snakes, people
want reticulated pythons, they’ve been wanting these.

Will they strangle anyone in their path, these
animals with no eyelids, that don’t blink?  We are
creating such a shroud of nonsense around snakes.  People,
feel the snakes’ pure muscle; they’re super-soft.  It’s such a mystery
that accidents inflame such fears.  Go on and ask me
why they have this image as ruthless mankillers,  my snakes.

I attend birthday parties with them.  I put heavy snakes
around my neck.  I’m deeply passionate about these
outreach groups, Cub Scout packs.  I want them to give me
a chance to bring snakes to a friend’s house.  Snakes are
just so interesting to watch, to present the mystery
at a fair table to  groups of fascinated people.

I’m decrying the effort to curtail their ownership.  People
say my industry is dying, people say snake
breeders are being shut down, rules will restrict this mystery
because of Burmese Pythons and Yellow Anaconda.  These
breeders are concerned the government will keep going.  We are
the loudest voices down the line.  Who’s with me?

Hand me a healthy animal with a different paint job; hand me
that same kind of money – I can polarize the debate.  People
find critters that slither alluring, but docile pythons are
the eerie instrument of horror movies.  Fans of snakes
and exotic reptiles are the reason why these
creatures that crawl draw such animated mystery.

Will he bite me?  They’re a vivid mystery;
a lot of people think they’re slimy.  These
are the misconceptions that blanket all snakes.


Boston Globe, April 19, 2014

Sullivan, James.  Snake Charmers; Snakes Alive



And dessert, if you are not too full…

An astonishing meta-sestina in McSweeney’s

Night Train, TheodoreThompson Genoways

Weather Sestina, Ted Kooser