Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

December 3rd, 2012, 7:39 pm #51


An exercise devised by MARGARET WILKINSON.

The was taken from the Mslexia site.

Investigate the definition of an ode and write an ode to something ostensibly ordinary that you find beautiful – e.g. the ring pull from a beer can, the snap of quality dark chocolate, the sound of silver bangles jangling.

If you've never written a poem, try this exercise. Select a newspaper or magazine feature that includes specialist vocabulary – e.g. an economic report or weather forecast; something about diet and health. Now use that vocabulary, including entire clauses, to create a triolet. A triolet is an eight-line poem, where the first, fourth and seventh lines are the same; and the second line recurs as the eight line. Google 'recurrence poetry' for other ideas.

sounds like fun for Toni! though maybe not enough of a challenge
Last edited by Osel on April 2nd, 2014, 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

December 4th, 2012, 6:18 am #52

Yeah, they both sound like fun. I've only ever written two odes. Well, I suppose I've written more, but only two titled "Ode to..." One was to the first word that came into my head (speed). The second to the first words my eyes fell on when opening a book ("what settles"). Great idea. The triolet idea is good, too. They're an easy fallback for me when I'm really har up for a poem.

(I'll delete this (my reply) later, after you've seen it, to keep the basket free of conversation. But thanks for adding these ideas.)

Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

November 15th, 2013, 9:12 am #53

From Gretasue

This would be fun to do on a writing retreat, but you could do it at home with a little preparation.

Gather a dozen or so paint chips that have the color name, e.g., Velvet Verdegris, printed on the chip. Paints have some very creative names these days. Somehow, obscure the name, using painter's tape or something else that can be removed. Put all the chips in a brown paper bag and blindly select one.

Once you have your chip, use all five senses to describe it -- five or more words each to describe how the color tastes, how it smells, what it sounds like, what it feels like, what it looks like. Once you have your list of twenty five or more "sense" words, peel the tape off to reveal the name of the color. These are the words you will use to make a poem.

Toni says: It would be interesting to make the name of the paint (when it's revealed) the name of the poem!

Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

March 26th, 2014, 12:54 pm #54

This is a copy of a post from Esther in the Shipyards Forum. 
The Oulipo (Ouvrir de Littérature Potentiale or Workshop for Potential Literature) is a group founded in France in 1960.   Part of their aim is to invent various constraints (often but not exclusively  mathematical) for generating literature.  

The only substantive online list of Oulipo constraints I have found is in French:http://oulipo.net/fr/contraintes/  

The best source in English is Oulipo Compendium, edited by Harry Mathews and Alistair Brotchie.  Rev. ed 2005. 

Here are a few that I have tried or might try.  


S+7 (aka N+7):   Take a preexisting poem and, for each noun, substitute the 7th noun following in the dictionary.   (Note: I don't see any reason to stop with nouns.   Also one might decide to use a word that has the same number of syllables and maybe stress pattern as the original.)

Antonymic translation - replace words in a preexisting text with their antonyms, or words suggesting antonmy (e,g, sun/moon).

Homophonic translation- "translate" by sound, not sense (D'Antin's Mots d'heures: Gousses, Rames is classic example).  Can be done English to English as well.

Homosyntactic translation  - substitute other words in corresponding parts of speech (as in Mad Libs.  I learned parts of speech this way when I was 8 - I had measles and my mother tried this on me with nursery rhymes & such.  I still remember "Five brown cows, Five brown cows, Feel how they clown..." )

Translexical translation - keep syntax and structure of source text but subtitute vocabulary from a different field.


Univocal: Poem using only one vowel. 

Lipogram: Poem omitting one common letter.

Heterogram: use only the most common letters of the alphabet - in English contained in the word THRENODIALS    (Ulcerations in French).

Oligogrammatic poem: use common short phrase as first line, for the rest use only letters in that phrase.


Sestina: Oulipians have worked out the mathematics of an generalized form with varying numbers of lines (4 and 7 are problematical but workarounds have been devised)  called the quenina or n-ina.  

-- Pentinahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentina     --

-- Tritina:  http://www.thepoetsgarret.com/2005Challenge/fif.html

Queninisation  - take a given text as a "strophe" and complete it as a sestina or whatever.

Irrational Sonnet  - stanza lineation based on pi :  3 1 4 1 5

rhyme scheme  AAB C BAAB C CDCCD 


Poetic redundancy (Haikuisation):   Reduce a source poem to the line endings.  

End-to-end: Run together beginnings and endings of succesive lines of source. 

Proverbs:   Join rhymed endings to create a "proverb."   

Perverse - Take familiar lines of poetry, split in half, recombine into a new poem.


Sardinosaur:   telescope 2 creatures, e.g.   Gazelephant, okapigeon

Write a poem describing their combined characteristics.

Baobab poem (bas/haut)  - take 2 related one-syllable words and use them as often as possible in poem. 

English example:  http://sporkworld.tumblr.com/post/23618808/baobab-poem

Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

March 26th, 2014, 1:43 pm #55

Two Dozen English-to-English Translation Techniques

by Jen Hofer (in Poets on Teaching)

Hofer says that using such techniques can help you get out of your own usual habits, aesthetic limitations, etc. 

"English-to English translations are texts written in English through or toward other texts written in English, using translation techniques as a compositional method."

She lists 24, but says that there are no doubt others. You could invent your own.

Grammatical: Substitute parts of speech — like Mad Libs — nouns for other nouns, adjectives for other adjectives, etc.

Structural: Reproduce the structure of the lines or sentences exactly — the placement of punctuation, line breaks, etc. — but substitute your own words. (I've done this, e.g., used Mary Ann Samyn's poem "The Good With the Bad" as a model for "Children, Horses" (both below)

Meaningful: Translate the meaning, as you understand it, of each line or sentence (or whatever unit you choose), saying it i a different way. Alternate idea: Find the subtext or hidden meaning you feel a text does not preset clearly and write the uncovered meaning of the text.

Denotative: As you read, ask yourself, "What does this fragment/phrase/line concretely say?" Write a text that says this.

Connotative: Consider the connotation (or harmonics) of each word in a text, or of particular words (all nouns, all verbs, etc.). Write the connotative version of that text.

Fanciful: Use each word or phrase or line as a jumping off point and let yourself jump as far as your imagination can take you.

Processual: Choose a process to enact on the text. For example, translate each line into a single word. Or translate each word into a line. 

Concrete: Use only the lines or words in the original poem to make your translation. You could make a cut-up using lines or phrases cut and pasted from the original, or you could do a complete word jumble and remake a new poem using all the same words.

Homophonic: Take the sound of each word as if you did not know its meaning and create a text that sounds the same. [Toni says: I have heard of doing this with a poem in a language that you don't read/understand.]

Musical: Make a text that "rhymes" with the vowels and consonants of the original. Or take the rhythm and meter of a poem and follow those, using words of your own.

Dialect/Voice: Translate the text into another dialect of English or a radically different voice. 

Spell-Check: Insert a letter into every word so that it's spelled incorrectly. Then take ideas of words to use in your poem from your computer's spellcheck program.

Synonymous: Change each word into a synonym for that word. (You could write an antonymous poe by changing each word into its antonym.)

Responsive: Talk back to the poem, word by word, line by line, or stanza by stanza. [Toni says: I tend to do this a lot, usually line-by-line.]

Imitative Jump: Use an entire line from the poem as the opening or closing (or both) of your poem.

Sideways Glance: Slide each word or line into a word or line that seems similar sonically or denotatively. Define "similar" as closely or distantly as you please.

Etymological: Begin with a text (written by you or written by someone else.). Using an etymological dictionary, expand every significant word (fall  nouns and verbs, for example, or whichever words strike your fancy) to its fullest etymological definition. If desired, edit your text to streamline.

Crossword Puzzle: Think of each line in a poem as the clue to a crossword puzzle. Solve the clues.

Interrogative: Think of each fragment or phrase or line as the answer to a question. Write a text that asks the questions. Write your answers to those questions.

Audio Filter: Create a sonic space that relates to the text you are translating (that space might entail putting on a particular piece of music, going to a particular place, riding public transit, etc.). Begin your process with a headphone in one ear playing an audio version of the text you're translating and with the other ear open to the sonic space you've chosen to occupy. Allow fragments of what you hear in both ears to filter in and become part of your translation.

Concentric: Think of each fragment or phrase or line in a poem as the innermost point of a series of concentric circles. Write the surrounding circles that radiate out from that point. Or, conversely, think of each as the outermost ring, and work inward to the center point. [Toni says: This sounds hard, but who knows what you'd come up with.]

Snowball: For each phrase or line of the text you are translating, add a word or two that illuminates or explicates the text further. As you continue translating, add more and more words until your illumination or explication snowballs vastly beyond the original text.

Congruent Correlative: Consider how the text you are translating functions in relation to normative language use. Make a list of tools, techniques, or impulses that make it possible for the text to function in this way. Employ these tools, techniques, or impulses in your translation to create a text that functions congruently. [Toni says: What does that mean?]

Translation and Retranslation: Ask a friend to translate our poem into another language, then retranslate the text back into English without consulting the original English.

Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

April 6th, 2014, 12:16 am #56

Esther linked to this site in her April 6 posting: interesting!

UUT Poetry re "Gap poetry"


Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

March 23rd, 2015, 2:51 pm #57

A Recipe for Salad

To make this condiment your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give;
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half suspected, animate the whole;
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault
To add a double quantity of salt;
Four times the spoon with oil from Lucca crown,
And twice with vinegar, procured from town;
And lastly, o’er the flavored compound toss
A magic soupçon of anchovy sauce.
O green and glorious! O herbaceous treat!’
'T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he ’d turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad-bowl;
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
“Fate cannot harm me,—I have dined to-day.”

By Sydney Smith (1771–1845)

Aspic of the Moon: Three Quarter
take a full moon, a thick
disk of light, suspend
it quivering in fog
so the whole jellied night is silver
inside and out

so we wait whispering
in our lawnchairs
the evening congealing
around us in our plastic baskets
under the catawba tree
a slow thing 

until it is served up
mainly the moon, trembling
on midnight’s cold plate
somebody’s already taken
a forkful

By Brenda Butka
From Alimentum, Recipe Poems. 

Many more recipe poems here:http://www.alimentumjournal.com/two-poe ... RAGvpPF8Zc

A Recipe for Whisky

Wring the Scottish rain clouds dry;
Take sleet, the driving snow, the hail;
Winter twilight; the summer's sun slowed down
to pearl-sheen dusk on hillsides, city-roofs,
on lochs at midnight.
And, most of all, take the years that have already run
to dust, the dust we spill behind us…

All this, distill. And cask. And wait.
The senselessness of human things resolves
to who we are – our present fate.
Let's taste, let's savour and enjoy.
Let's share once more.
Another glass for absent friends. Pour
until the bottle's done.

Here's life! Here's courage to go on!

Ron Butlin
from Without a Backward Glance: New and Selected Poems (Manchester: Barzan, 2005)

A Recipe for Sea Water

Over a bed of sand
To 105 parts (cold) of H2O
Add 10 parts (dry) of NaCl
And 1 part each of KCl
And MgC12. With a trace
Of other halides stir and place
In a lunar centrifuge. Shake well.

The mixture you now have is brine
Subject to algination, brackish
And will not keep —

And now the secret ingredient— 
Essential to convey to the taste
A concentrated solar solution
And make it, in the lash’s fringe
Double diffractive, and to raise
Glistening to an art —

Proceed as follows:
Add, in unlimited quantities, the Past.

By John Watson. From Law and Impulse: Maths and Chemistry Poems (2010). By permission of The Poets Union and John Watson

Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich

A hippo sandwich is easy to make.

All you do is simply take

One slice of bread,

One slice of cake,

Some mayonnaise

One onion ring,

One hippopotamus

One piece of string,
A dash of pepper —
That ought to do it.

And now comes the problem…
Biting into it!

By Shel Silverstein

Fascist Cooking (A Recipe for Violence)
Sharpen your blade. Adjust the gas.
Break a dozen eggs and beat them to a yellow pulp.
Gut the fish. Chop those kidneys — really fine.
Shred the cheese, slice the beans.
Scald the milk and whip the cream — nice and thick.
Peel the potatoes, boil and mash. Crush the garlic.
Grind the pepper. Squeeze that lemon dry.
The oven is now bloody hot and you’re sizzling.
Enjoy as you destroy. Out of the frying pan
something delicious
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.
Bon appetit!

By Richard TippingFrom the book, Nearer by Far

Recipe for Writing a New York School Poem

'This exercise was devised by Tom Donovan and posted at Jacket2.org. You might want to read a few poems by NY School poets first (e.g., Bernadette Meyer, James Schuyler, Charles Bernstein, Robert Creeley, Frank O'Hara, Ron Padgett, Eileen Myles).

In the exercise, you are encouraged to use as many of the following “ingredients” as possible.

1.    at least one addressee (to which you may or may not wish to dedicate your poem)
2.    use of specific place names and dates (time, day, month, year). . . . . . .--especially the names of places in and around New York City
3.    prolific use of proper names
4.    at least one reminiscence, aside, digression, or anecdote
5.    one or more quotations, especially from things people have said
. . . . . . .in conversation or through the media
6.    a moment where you call into question at least one thing you have said
. . . . . . .or proposed throughout your poem so far
7.    something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you
8.    pop cultural references
9.    consumer goods/services
10.    mention of natural phenomena (in which natural phenomena do not appear ‘natural’)
11.    slang/colloquialism/vernacular/the word "fuck"
12.    at least one celebrity
13.    at least one question directed at the addressee/imagined reader
14.    reference to sex or use of sexual innuendo
15.    the words “life” and “death”
16.    at least one exclamation/declaration of love
17.    references to fine art, theater, music, or film
18.    mention of genitals and body parts
19.    food items
20.    drug references (legal or illegal)
21.    gossip
22.    mention of sleep or dreaming
23.    use of ironic overtones

Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

November 18th, 2015, 11:13 am #58

Here's a list of all the "days" of the year. eg. "talk like a pirate day"


and then there are weeks - i was delighted to learn I was born in Be Nice To Nettles Week, having come to believe that nettles are the new flax. And years. . . Who knew 2015 is Soils Year? the focus on caring for, rebuilding the earth's soils.

Joined: January 7th, 2009, 12:25 pm

October 30th, 2017, 10:17 pm #59


It is 31st October and I am awaiting your 'Themes' for November 2017.


Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

November 12th, 2017, 9:58 pm #60

toniclark wrote: Alison suggests that it's "all the better if these come to you from something you really care about that's too big to tackle, where the title
encapsulates a whole lot of research saved, or pictures, etc. It's like an embedded hypnotic suggestion that YOU control. Sometimes it's a lot of fun,
and a nice break to go hunting for titles. By the way, I'm not wedded to the sense that a title should 'explain' or put a coat on a poem. I think
it's often far better if the title speaks of one state, location or 'history' that the poem then 'moves past'. . . .

Even better may be if the titles are the kind you use for your dreams: if you are in the habit of noting your dreams and titling them, not so much
"grandma's house" as "a swaddled bundle of green onions" , or "let blue show you more blue", they have a way of unfolding
their secret stashes, and getting down to the bones more easily, and these can drift up and find resonance in some refreshing new manner, linking to the outer
world, to current events or natural history ... "
wow. this sounds convoluted, even for me!! 
let me see what i can do to clarify, and hone in one what i mean. i think a picture might be worth a thousand words, and that's why a huge space is left. 🎁