oulipo pic

Shall We Play a Game?

For this week’s In-form Poet, we’re going to be going in an unusual direction, in that there are a number of ways you can approach your poetry writing using this particular ‘form.’

Actually, form (singular) is a bit of a misnomer since, there are several different invented forms connected with the Oulipo style of poetry writing (oo-lee-poé; acronym for “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle,” meaning ‘workroom in a convent for potential literature’).  So actually, it is more subgenre than any particular form, per se.

According to John Drury, in his book, The Poetry Dictionary, this was a, “…poetic movement founded in 1960 by a group of poets and mathematicians, led by Raymond Queneau.”  He further explained how this group used games and numbers to work their poetry, with forms like the (eeeek!) Sestina, Cento, and the infamous Rhopalic Verse (you know, where each word has one more syllable than the last, hence the nickname ‘Snowball’).

Some other fun forms in this subgenre are:

Holorhyming – every syllable must rhyme. (Why cry, sly shy guy?)

Lipogram – text that eschews one or more letter.  (Nixing the letter ‘e,’ for example.)

Permutational poem – verse in which the lines can be read in any order.

Tautogram – where each word begins with the same letter.

Antonymic translation – where antonyms are substituted for words in a text, thereby giving a sentence, paragraph, etc. an opposite-ish meaning.

Boolean poem – where you use ONLY the words which are common in TWO distinct poems to create a new poem.

Haikuization – where (ready for this one?!) a poet keeps the rhyming parts of a poem, but gets rid of the rest of it.  Drury’s example here is:

Take the last stanza of Yeat’s ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ and turn it into this: “Never take/any natural thing./Make/enameling/awake./Sing/of Byzantium/to come.”

Perverb – a mixing of the first half of one proverb with the second half of another one.

One of Drury’s examples here is, “Still waters/starve a fever.” …and… “The Lord helps those who/gather no moss.”

S + 7 – a poem where a poet replaces each substantive noun in a text with the seventh noun after it – in the dictionary.  The example given here is: Andrew Marvell’s “Had we but world enough, and time/This coyness, lady, were no crime” might become, “Had we but worry enough, and timeserver,/This crab laetrile, were no crinoline.”  Obviously results may vary, depending on the dictionary you choose to use.

Palindrome – a phrase or sentence which reads the same way, front to back, or back to front.

Portmanteau word – a nonce word, per Lewis Carroll, which combines a part of one word with a part of another.

Spoonerism – accomplished by switching the initial sounds of words with nearby words.  (Invented by the Reverend W.A. Spooner, 1844-1930.)

Your job, you brilliant In-form poets, is to use one or more of the above, and create your own Oulipo masterpiece.  (Or several of them!)

Here’s a couple of examples by yours truly:

Double reversing Rhopalic Verse:

Nocturne for a Nighttime Sky


Palindrome (and by the way, ‘aibohphobia’ means fear of palindromes!):


Ah no, is it?
T’is I on?  Ha!


S + 7:

Souvenir from a Lost Love

Jack found a gold locket
in his rear blue jean pocket
when he went to the laundromat.
He opened the locket
and found quite a shock – it
belonged to his ex, Wretched Pat.
Jack thought he would walk it
to the pawn shop to hock it,
telegraphing to her, “Yo! Take that!”
Then, he said he’d just chalk it
up to life and not knock it
and then he sledge-hammered the darn thing flat.

Okay…that was the original poem I wrote (quite a while ago, actually.)  Here’s the ‘new & improved’ version:

Sow Bug from a Lost Lower Case

Jack found a gold lockstep
in his rear blue jean podagra
when he went to the lavabo
He opened the lockstep
and found quite a shoemaker – it
belonged to his exaggeration, Wretched Pat.

Jack thought he would walk it
to the pay load to hock it,
telegraphing to her, “Yo! Take that!”
Then, he said he’d just chamberlain it
up to light and not knock it
and then he slight-of-handed the damn thing flat.

podagra – gout in the foot

lavabo – a large stone washbasin, also, ritual washing of hands



So…think you can ‘play?’  Good.  Ready…set…start poeming!



Sue’s flue’s Lou’s new loo.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Carl August Ehrensvärd, Birth of the Poet, 1795)


Thanksgiving is the quintessential U.S. holiday. It was formalized by President Lincoln, who set aside the last Thursday of November as a day to thank God for blessings received. Thanksgiving days were an old tradition in the United States and the colonies that preceded the nation; Lincoln’s proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward and in response to a letter sent to Lincoln by Sarah Josepha Hale, was issued about a month before Lincoln gave his great address at Gettysburg. It attempted to make a unified national (or Union, at that time) holiday of the various state celebrations. The day has a strong religious flavor but is loved by all in the United States, believers and non-believers alike, as a time to pause and reflect, and, these days, to watch football games (or what passes for futbol in the U.S.). Write a poem about thanks, thanking, or thankfulness.  Thanks for participating.


One heart was freed
One soul was saved
One life unchained
One sentence waived
One died for me
One took my place
One sacrifice
One act of grace
One Holy God
One Trinity
One Perfect Lamb
One thankful me


© copyright 2009, Marie Elena Good



My world was but a sterile place
where all about seemed empty space
and noonday sun would hide its face.
Then love came out of the blue

to alter fundamentally
what was and is, and is to be:
a sea change covered Earth and me
when love came out of the blue.

So now I step a lighter pace;
rejoice in noonday sun’s embrace;
write words of love in upper case
since you came, out of the blue.

I thank whatever gods may be
that you have changed the world for me,
for now my soul is light and free;
for you came, out of the blue.

© copyright 2013, William Preston


William, your “personalizing” prompt produced some excellent results.  But I must say, it pains me to choose Blooms this week.  I’m afraid the other poems’ feelings will be hurt.  *ahem*

MARIE ELENA’S CHOICE:  London Bridge is Tired, by Marian Veverka

There were five poems submitted that took my breath away.  When I saw William had chosen one of my five, I removed it from my list.  Choosing one from the remaining four was so difficult for me, I nearly decided to give up and offer my Bloom to all four.  Then I thought better of it.  Marian Veverka simply did an outstanding job of personalizing her subject.  She seemed to get inside the head and heart of an inanimate object and breathe emotion and daily existence into it.  And she managed it with a bit of history.

Marian, you made me believe.  I humbly offer you my Bloom.

London Bridge is Tired (by Marian Veverka)

All I wanted was to get away from the fog
The cold, the damp, My trusses will never
Be the same, but yes, this hot air has helped
I never thought I would be homesick for mist.
Yes, mist and the smell of the sea and the little
Shops along my edges and the people hurrying ,
and sometimes lovers making out in a hurry
but always the tides in the Thames, yes, I do
miss that stupid river, all we did was argue,
but I’ll tell you something. If anyone wants
to find out what the atmosphere of Hell is like
they can come right down here to the (ugh)
Arizona desert.

Yes, the biggest mistake of my life! Retiring
Into a warm, sunny climate was not for me!
These tourists don’t even know that London
Is still there! They think the whole city
Disappeared into the sea of something and
Arizona gallantly offered to give me a home!
Some home! All right, I will admit to a bit
Of grousing about the rain and the damp and
That dreadful fog. Now, I hear, some measures
Have been taken (what, I have no idea) and the
Fog is not the heavy smoke-filled burden it
Used to be. NOW they tell me! Now, that I
Have been shipped halfway across the world
To this desert hell-hole with not even a
Puddle in sight and what is a bridge to do?

WILLIAM’S CHOICE:  Birch Defects, by S.E. Ingraham

I must confess that what first drew my eye to this poem was the pun in the title. It quickly became obvious, however, that the pun was not in fun, even within the title alone. What transpired was a heart-wrenching tale told by a violated tree as it is being cut down; it is difficult not to think it is being murdered. As if that were not sufficiently unbearable, the final stanza humanizes both the tree and its situation by linking the tree’s tears to the woman’s, and the reader does hope that the woman’s tears are indeed for the tree, which, after all, is a “weeping” birch. All in all, this poem is impressive, in my opinion; it certainly moved me deeply, hence this bloom.

BIRCH DEFECTS (by S. E. Ingraham)

Birches are tough, hard-woods to be sure
and I, a weeping birch, no different
But dying, feel my mortality to the marrow
of my rings, and fear the thwack of the axe
attacking my trunk this cool Fall morning

Two deep vee-cuts enter my one side
before my henchman—accomplished, he
knows what he’s about, I can tell that—
starts in at equal height on my other side

With blade gleaming, whetted sharply,
he swings from shoulder height full-force,
makes a guttural sound from deep within;
a sound so loud it drowns out my groan

As the axe slices clear through
to the cuts begun opposite, I know
I am coming down; I see pieces
of my snow-white bark curling;
tree tears tumbling to the ground
around my roots…

I feel myself falling as if in slow motion
and catch sight of a woman in the window
of the house near me
The sun is shining full on her face and I
see that she is weeping; I wonder does
she cry for me…

RJ’s IN-FORM PICK(S):  Centipede by Andra Negroiu and The Song of Stradivari by Michelle Hed

Well, I know this week sent a lot of people into paroxysms, but that’s what I’m s’posed to do, right?

Anyway, this week was especially hard in terms of making a Blooms choice – and to be honest, although I did manage to whittle it down a bit (don’t ask me how!) I still cannot choose between two poems.

I simply adored Andra Negroiu’s ‘Centipede’ for its exuberance and joy. Her poem was fun, funny and cute. It made me laugh and also, it made me think of some of the kids’ books I used to read to my own two kidlets.

However, I also went symphonically crazy on Michelle Hed’s ‘The Song of a Stradivari.’ It was nothing short of brilliant – and it sang to me in ways I could never have expected. It was literally (and yes, I am using the word correctly here) fantastic.

So…for this one week, can I have two? Pretty please, with sugar on top?

And HOW am I supposed to say no when you put sugar on top? ~ Marie 😉 

Centipede (by Andra-Teodora Negroiu)

If I were a centipede
straded on a bike’s backseat,
my excitement guaranteed
and my breath a bit offbeat,
I would try to be discrete.
So, my friends, don’t intercede
and reveal my small deceit –
the world’s fastest centipede!

The Song of a Stradivari (by Michelle Hed)

Mountains were not ambitious
for her to think of scaling;
Challenges were propitious
omens from which she’s sailing.

She made her own commotion
as she fought her way higher,
her strength was her devotion,
an excellence, high flyer.

Life had become amusing
while throwing coins in fountains,
wishes were worth perusing –
no, never enough mountains.




Question:  Is there anyone out here who did not suspect that our own William Preston would be the Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides 2013 Poet Laureate?  I suspect not. This gentleman is not only an amazingly prolific writer of superb poetry, but is also one inexhaustible encourager.  My kind of guy!

MARIE ELENA:  Bill, I’m going to take back something I just stated.  I do think there was someone who was genuinely surprised when Robert Lee Brewer announced that you were selected as the PA Poet Laureate:  YOU.   I’m going to start you off with what may be a difficult question:  How do you actually feel about your own writing?   Continue reading


For this week, I thought it might be interesting to go with a quatrain a la seven.  The Ae freslighe (ay fresh lee) is a fascinating, but fairly challenging Celtic poetic form.

As the superb Terry Clitheroe of The Poets Garret ( states:

Ae freslighe: (ay fresh lee):

Each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Lines one and three rhyme with a triple (three syllable) rhyme and two and four use a double (two syllable) rhyme.  The poem should end with the first syllable, word, or the complete line that it began with.

x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)
x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)

Here are a couple of examples by moi:

A Walk in the Lark

Whereby, I write humorous,
quirky, offbeat and funny.
My poems are numerous
but don’t make me much money.
Still, I write such laughable
poetry because witty
work makes me feel affable,
but broke, so more’s the pity.
Some say this stuff’s easier
than if I had to rely
on real jobs, but cheesier
simply works for me, whereby.

No Lack of Attention

 “Life is denied by a lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.” ~Nadia Boulanger

Whereas, lack of attention
can wreak havoc on pizzazz,
your eyes see no pretension:
you must focus now, whereas…
…create a fine masterpiece,
as your words become soulmate,
clear window, or golden-fleece.
You must focus now.  Create.



Arresting Arrhythmia

I’m against this principle
Of leaving rhythm unfenced.
Rhyme three, then two syllables?
What have I come up against?
Iamb, I love completely
And in her defense I scram
-ble to save her discreetly.
Un-victorious, I am.
© copyright 2013,  Marie Elena Good


Dear Ms. Clarken:

I do not like Ae freslighe, Ma’am.
I do not like her sans iamb.
She messes with my rhythmic ear.
I wish that she would disappear.
I do not like Ae freslighe, Ma’am.
I’d rather eat green eggs and spam.


© copyright 2013,  Marie Elena Good


Humans seem to love attaching human qualities to other animals and inanimate objects. Ships are usually referred to as feminine; and objects such as automobiles, firearms, and sewing machines have been named. Dogs, cats, horses, pigs, and other animals have been said to “know” or “feel,” in ways understood to be human. Write a poem about an object or animal that has been personified in some way.


She’s a Great Grandfather

Perplexed by the words he is choosing –
His mixing of gender’s amusing.
He says, “She’s a beauty,”
While doing the duty
Of winding our clock.  It’s confusing!

© copyright 2013,  Marie Elena Good



She was hurt before she started.
Injured in battle at the Coral Sea,
she had to be patched and jury-rigged
and sent into battle again
toward another objective.
She met her mates upon the sea
at a spot on the open ocean
called, perhaps prayerfully, Point Luck.
There, she awaited the Emperor’s fleet
steaming toward its objective.
She met her enemy and they were hers.
In rapid succession and shot with luck,
she and her mates flung funeral pyres
on three of four Japanese carriers
deflected from their objective,
but the remaining carrier, determined
to fight on for the Son of Heaven;
sent planes aloft to scan the sea.
They found her, and she knew
that she was their objective.
She was injured again. And again:
bombs and torpedoes from planes
and a spread of torpedoes from a submarine
raised fires and spawned explosions;
they had met their objective.
She burned; she listed, she slipped beneath the sea;
with tears accompanying her,
she sought the bottom, to join her victims.
She was gone, leaving her mates
midway to their objective.

© copyright 2013, William Preston



Roses smell sweet, and their beauty
is their sworn duty to nature.
In any nomenclature, their stature blooms
filling every room with their fragrant fare.

Shall I call a woman a rose?
By any other name she would be as sweet
and beautiful, a dutiful inspiration
in any nomenclature. A flower amongst thorns.

Well worn on a well-worn sleeve,
she leaves an impression, that says her heart,
the blush of a rose, has chosen you to be her gardener.
And you are blessed to hold her bloom.

Her perfume, like the rose, flows to your nostrils,
filling you with her heavenly scent,
for she was heaven sent. She was meant to be nurtured
and cared for, and what’s more, to be admired

and loved. Above all else, she will grace your life
brightening your days as long as she stays in view.
Just like roses too, a women is most beautiful.
A woman is a rose. What’s in a name?

© copyright 2013, Walter J Wojtanik


When William suggested a “Heroes Proved” prompt, I knew it would prove highly inspirational.  I anticipated intense, compelling, moving poetry.  You did not disappoint.  Choosing one each to highlight was a huge challenge for William and me.  Thank you (all of you) for bringing your best work to our humble site week after week after week.  You are all just wonderful!


My pick for this week is Fire Tender,  by Damon Dean (SevenAcreSky).

Confession: my natural love is toward very short poems, and this piece spills well over my non-existent “margins.”  But honestly, it ended too soon.  I could have read page upon page of this warm and well-told story.  Damon seems to have an innate ability for penning stories that grab my heart and make me long to hear more.

“The old man,
watching me, waved back,
and with that smoky, gentle voice
he gestured, testified,
“Just keeping this fire warm.”
 “I see,” I said, “yes, you are.”
I really meant,
“You are my hero, sir,
though I don’t even know you.”

The stuff of heroes.  Makes me tear up every time I read it.

In my opinion, listening to Damon recite this piece in his own smoky, gentle, irresistible voice takes it to a whole new level:

FIRE TENDER by Damon Dean (SevenAcreSky)

I heard his gravelly voice across the draw,
the smell of burning wood and coffee
mixed on morning air.
The talk between him and two women
carried over
through bough-filtered sun
between my camp and theirs.
They were on number 31,
with tent, camper, fire.
I was alone in 20,
having built no fire for only one.

Two small children, grands perhaps,
they kept tight eyes on,
the parents I’m sure
having taken time away
on this long weekend
with Veteran’s Day.

I, with my cold-now coffee,
observed across the draw
his stumbling moves, his easing down
into faded folding chairs, his ambling out of the tent,
around, about the campsite,
with caution in his tending of the crackling pit.

Yesterday he’d fallen.
He had stumped a stick of firewood,
or the corner of a cot.
The older ladies
scrambled, helped him up.
“Just my weaker knee,” he’d said.
“I’m not hurt,” he’d said, “Just old.”

In deep warm smoky tones,
he gently kept the grands from going too far,
from throwing their ball into the fire,
from forgetting to put ‘yes sir’ in their replies
to his admonishments.

As they built a late breakfast,
his sisters (as I learned they were)
heard stories about brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts.
I am sure all heard before,
but in remembering and retelling,
he recounted faith, and love, and
a deep endearment to close held histories.

They often camped together, I am sure,
many times, around a fire, on crisp November days.
In all their talk, their reminiscing,
I could sense their hope
was much like mine–
but stronger.
Learn`ed hope,
not thin or new or young,
but hope brewed long
on fires of trial,
simmered on embers of hurt and struggle.

With each sip, I sensed,
they first raised the mug to Someone
camped about they could not see,
but nonetheless there.
Not so much a toast, as a prayer
for a blessing.

Between sips, of course,
silent ‘yes sirs’ in their replies.

I forced myself away
out of earshot of the stories,
needing a moment in the bathhouse.

I cut back thru to number 20,
returning, across the draw between us,
nearer, really, to 31.
I dared a simple wave,
a tentative smile,
a quiet risked “hello.”

The old man,
watching me, waved back,
and with that smoky, gentle voice
he gestured, testified,
“Just keeping this fire warm.”

“I see,” I said, “yes, you are.”
I really meant,
“You are my hero, sir,
though I don’t even know you.”

I wished,
how I wished I did.


A few weeks ago I vowed not to complain about how hard it is to select a bloom, inasmuch as so many good poems are submitted every week, both for the Sunday prompts and the Wednesday forms exercises. Well, I take that back, this week anyway. It was excruciatingly difficult to make a choice this week. Oddly enough, the one I finally selected wasn’t even posted on the Bloomings site but was linked to JACQUELINE CASEY’s own blog. This sonnet about a soldier about to step ashore at Normandy in 1944 has a classic feel in its meter but with some slight variations that suggest, for me anyway, the upsetting that wars have caused forever. Her lines capture what heroism means for people who never wanted to be heroes but just wanted to live, but who did their duty when called upon. The final line alludes to the terrible waste of it all: “hale and hearty such a little while.” All in all, I thought this was a magnificent work.


I see the beauty of his sober eyes.
At Omaha, it is his shining hour.
The camera has caught the scene at sunrise.
He’s standing in the moment of great power.
The ramp now opens; there’s the glint of dawn.
There is no turning back; no time to pause.
His choice is made and like a muscle torn
from out his heart, it is for raging cause.
“Oh, captain! I have done my duty now.
I’ve given you my soul and heart.
I’ve nothing more to offer or endow
as water takes my body, we depart.”
War cannot strip his beauty or heroic smile;
but hale and hearty such a little while.



As usual, it was a tricky matter choosing my Bloom for the Week. So much passion, emotion and beauty was planted right before my eyes (and fingertips).  Although it came down to four poems (you’ll have to guess which ones!), I decided this week to award my pick to Barbara Young for her ‘We Interpret in Accordance with Our Own Experience.”

So true. And as William said, it really was a tour de force. I love the way she used a parable to make her point, and this worked for me on so many levels.

We Interpret in Accordance with Our Own Experience by Barbara Young

In the parable of loaves and fishes
–because of my background–
I imagine Jesus
sharing out the sort of loaves and fish
I’ve always known: bream, goldfish, cat; bushels
of soft bread with big pores. And only the crust is brown
in the parable of loaves and fishes.
Because of my background
the fish is fried and salty and greasy and delicious
in the parable of loaves and fishes
until somebody off the side says I’m suspicious.
That’s my overabundance, and I’m taking it home.
That parable of loaves and fishes:
Need to check its background.


One of the most fun times I’ve had out here as a host was daily watching the polls as votes were being cast in our 2013 National Poetry Day contest – our very first contest ever!

With 54 of 117 votes, the clear winner is  I Had an Inkling Lurking There, by Hannah Gosselin!  Congratulations, Hannah!  You will soon receive an autographed copy of Robert Lee Brewer’s Solving the World’s Problems, a Press 53 publication.

Many thanks to all who participated – whether submitting, reading, or voting.  We just might have to do this again sometime. 😀

Though the voting is now closed, you may view poll results by clicking “view results” at the bottom of this poll :


Because so many of you are Sonneteers AND so many of you are fans of the Triolet, here’s a hybrid kind of poem for this week’s challenge. Oh yes! See, you all know how certain words can be portmanteau? (Gosh, I love that word!)
Well, that noun/adjective was tailor-made made for this particular form.
Yikes, you say. But fear not, because I know you are up to the task – and besides, it’s fun!

So, here goes: According to Terry Clitheroe’s The Poets Garret ,
Whilst looking at the structure of the Triolet it was realized that if two stanzas were added together with the two refrain lines being the link there would be an octave and a sestet: a natural Sonnet.

The rhyme pattern becomes: A. B. a. A. a. b. A. B. a. A. a. b. A. B.

It would work with the A & B lines being completely repeated or just a phrase or just the rhyme word repeated. The a and b are of course just standard rhyme. There is no set syllable count, although eight syllables is common with most of the French forms.

Got that?


Here are a couple of examples by yours truly…

Forget I Mentioned the Spork

Twirling pasta with just a fork?
It neglects the job of the spoon.
You might consider an odd spork,
but it’s shy of being a fork
or spoon. Besides, it lacks the torque
you get with each. A spork’s immune
to twirling well, unlike the fork
which, when based (and twirled) on a spoon,
in concert works. Don’t be a dork:
Twirl your pasta with spoon AND fork
(and forget I mentioned the spork.)
If pasta’s messy, please festoon
your place setting (beneath your fork)
with napkins, along with your spoon.



Inside my daughter’s blue knapsack
there’s more beside her books. There’s stuff
like make-up, and yesterday’s snack…
…but wait! There’s more in her knapsack.
A strange note from some boy named Jack,
a broken bracelet (called a cuff),
some crumpled papers and a sack
of old gym clothes. But there’s more stuff.
A letter home from Missus Mack
awaits retrieval from ‘Knapsack
of Doom.’ How does she stay on track?
I tell her, “This is quite enough.”
She laughs and dumps out her knapsack
and shrugs. “My brother’s got MORE stuff.”


Obviously, I’ve taken a light tone (as is generally my way) but despite the rhyme, you can use this form to express a wide array of events, emotions and stories. So, I’m gonna stuff all my ‘stuff’ into my portmanteau (or knapsack) and wait to see what you do with this form.

Ready…Set…Start poeming!


Pipe Down. I’m Trying to be Thoughtful.

Hush now. Hush … I’m trying to write,
Which takes a lot of thought, you know.
I’ve got to keep my goal in sight.
Hush now. Hush … I’m trying to write.
I’m trying hard to be polite,
But need to focus brain cells, so
Hush now. Hush … I’m trying to write.
This takes a lot of thought, you know.
Don’t want a brawl; don’t want to fight.
I’m NOT annoyed. I’m NOT uptight.
My stack is NOT about to blow!
But you MUST HUSH … I’m trying to write,
And that takes THOUGHT, I’ll have you know!

© copyright 2013, Marie Elena Good


In The Night

In the night, she calls my name
to warm and comfort her, in the night.
It feels so right as our hearts inflame
in the night. She calls out my name
and I know things will never be the same,
no beacon will ever burn so bright,
in the night, she calls out my name
to warm and comfort her. In the night,
distance comes between us and it’s a shame.
In the night, she calls my name
and yet I will be close by; a player in true love’s game
lifting our hearts to the highest heights.
In the night, she calls my name
to warm and comfort her, in the night.

© copyright 2013, Walter J Wojtanik