The Questions Themselves

…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms... — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Oulipost #18: Homoconsonantism

For Hinakawea

To tonite:

   an axe,

      a tiara,

         moi (Māui)



an aria,

   a sea.


Word Source

"Attention Extreme Couponers." (advertisement) Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 18 Apr. 2014 B10

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment the mighty Homoconsonantism, in which we select a short phrase or sentence and replace all the vowels with different ones while keeping the consonants in their original order.  I worked with several phrases before settling on this one (“Attention Extreme Couponers”). I initially thought I’d create some kind of response to the couponers, but the letters worked their own magic.  After my first draft, I was staring at the words “ox” and “poi.” I Googled “ox in Hawaiian legends” to see if anything came up (it didn’t…), but a search on “axe and Hawaiian legend” yielded the creation myth involving Māui, which conveniently could replace the word moi in my original version and still fit the constraint. The rest of the words, although unchanged from my first draft, morphed into a beautiful, half-drunk, moonlight-on-the-beach serenade to his wife, Hina. At least that’s how it happened in my mind…

Oulipost #17: Haikuisation

Black Beans


Saturday morning:

a multi-berry brioche,

a cupful of angst.


Word Source

Miller, Amy. “Community matters at the Black Bean Cafe.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 17 Apr. 2014 B10

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to select three sentences from a single article and distill them into a mostly-traditional form haiku in 5-7-5 format.  The first two phrases are verbatim, with one pronoun replacement; the third is a reordering of words from a single sentence. I loved this assignment. I see more haikuisationing in my future.  (That’s totally a verb.)

Oulipost #16: Chimera

Advice From Things: A Bright Way


Dear Stepsons:

If you will be winning over bosses, this co-worker here will prove vibrant treatment to help.

* Do you achieve to cut whatever license that you take, or linked ones?

* If using conventional years, have each dad understand a cinnamon home, that he (or she) needs to be. Dealing them with place, a lemony job or rent for three utilities.

* Keep different mortgage, Cinnamon, because the spiked taxes show lemon girlfriend. Listen: should be all house. At purchase: husband. (If they risk, NOT entering could cost; lemon is decadent.)

* Will feel better…a movie of the car, of tirade, you making so you may be, those tangy and may-be-good. You will turn out them all. You may feel to “curtail” stuff long after the spread police, especially the finished ones!

— Husband


Word Source

All words taken from today’s Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 16 Apr. 2014.

     Baseline Article: “Hints by Heloise.” B6

     Nouns: “Annie’s Mailbox.” B6

     Verbs: “Astro-Graphs” by Bernice Bede Osol. B6

     Adjectives: “Transforming bread dough into lemony sticky buns.” B10

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was Chimera, a mismash of four different articles: base text from one in which all nouns, verbs, and adjectives are replaced by similar words from three different articles (in the order the words were found). The result is a bit of nonsense.  I took liberties with verb tense and subject-verb agreement.  I also added punctuation.  I otherwise kept to the script, making for a strange, bumpy almost-poem.  I had more fun staring at the color-coded system I used to work through the process:


Oulipost #15: Prisoner’s Constraint

summer’s over

see us on our own, some summer
no concerns, no cares
we were six, we were sure

see me even more, some summer since
new concerns, new cares, new name even
we were so sure

see us anew, some summer - NO
no summer since -
a cancer, an ___ever
no more we or us or is or are or i or me


Word Source (primary articles)

Bulfinch, Andrea. “A stable smile.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 15 Apr. 2014: A1.

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was a prisoner’s constraint, in essence, a multiple lipogram.  We could not use any letters that when printed (typeset) would extend above or below the ruled lines on a piece of paper.  I picked a long article from the front page, used a little Excel trickery to isolate my word list, and worked from there to cobble together a depressing little gem.

Oulipost #14: Column Inches

A Flood of Inquiries

Automatic invitation:
76,600 animals,
5 minutes,
all-bedrock garden,
blue peacock,
gray kangaroo,
exhibit groups,
art ceramics.

babies, people,
birds, seabirds,
replica students,
replica teachers:
documentary proof —
     plastic cow,
     plastic man,
     plastic trash —
recyclable art ceramics + 
recyclable video direction =
junk forever.

All young debris:
new soda bottles
and yogurt containers,
coffee cans.

one owner.
Pairs in ark.
Call or email.



Word Source (primary articles)

Classified ad for a 2009 Honda CRV taken from “Classifieds.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 14 Apr. 2014: B10

Replacement nouns taken from Palmer, Morgan. “Junk to Art.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 14 Apr. 2014: A1.

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to take an advertisement or classified ad from the newspaper and replace all the nouns in the ad with nouns sourced from one other article in the same day’s paper.  Ads and clasifieds were slim pickin’s in today’s paper, so I picked longest one and went for it.  It’s tricky to handle “nouns as adjectives” and related compound nouns, but I gave it a go.  A light, silly, done-for-today addition to the Oulipost pile.

Oulipost #13: Epithalamium

Be Ready

Years after Tuesday —

after sisters celebrate
a blessed marriage,

after cliffs graduate
to cities,

after August suggests

after bicycles lead
us back,

after Jesse James survives
             and Israel survives
                     and I survive —

duty dies.


Word Source (primary articles)

Bride’s and Groom’s names [Kimberly J. Guay & Frederick R. Tessari IV] taken from “Engagements.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 13 Apr. 2014: B4

Words containing only the letters in those names taken from three listings in the “Obituaries.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 13 Apr. 2014: A3.  The deceased are: James Burchell, Adrien Berthiaume, and Jane Betty Stevens.

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to write an Oulipean epithalamium, or a marriage song, composed exclusively of the letters in the names of the bride and groom. I worked with all vowels except O and 14 consonants. I took all text/words from three Obituaries in the same day’s paper, an intentional play on one type of life beginning (married life) and one type of life ending (mortal existence). Said another way: an Oulipean message from the dead to the living, although the tone and content are of my own construction.

Oulipost #12: Sonnet


Persephanie, a minor girl, locally made:
sweet as grapes grown in upstate New York,
spicy like cinnamon and top-grade molasses,
tart as apples from a Concord orchard.

The hot girl next door you never knew existed,
a painkiller used to treat shame, among other things.
Entering a residence through a window, a spirit,
everyone in the home unaware of what she was doing.

Arrested for prostitution and other related offenses —
multiple counts of felonious sexual assault —
indicted on a charge of dealing in or possessing drugs.
Yet arrest and indictment…these are not indications of guilt.

L’espérance: my hope, my love.
I’m optimistic the tide might be turning.


Word Source (primary articles)

Conley, Casey. “Hometown Hottie indicted on new drug charges.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 12 Apr. 2014: A3

Haas, Kimberley. “Indictment in sex assault of minor girl.”  Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 12 Apr. 2014: A3

Conley, Casey. “Police charge man with dealing heroin.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 12 Apr. 2014: A1

Conley, Casey. “Spirited Future.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 12 Apr. 2014: A1

"Police charge woman with prostitution." Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 12 Apr. 2014: A1

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to write a sonnet, of any form (traditional or creative).  As soon as a saw the headline about the local “Hometown Hottie” who has fallen from grace, I knew I wanted to address my poem to her, whoever she was. Then I read her name: Persephanie Lesperance. That sealed the deal. I researched Greek Mythology of Persephone, a goddess of spring, agriculture, and the underworld as well as the French word, espérance, meaning the expected or hope. The poem fell into place from there and may be my favorite Oulipoem so far.

Oulipost #11: Univocalism

The Essence

He remembers:
her speech,
sheer sleeves,
free feels.
She seemed
19? 22?
Three wet weeks,

She remembers:
He needed her.


Word Source

Bulfinch, Andrea. “Brown announces.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 11 Apr. 2014: A1

Eppich, Connie. “Racers to wear orange honoring two runners who died far too young.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 11 Apr. 2014: A3

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to create a univocalic text using only one vowel. My process was similar to yesterday: isolating unique words and organizing them by letter, eliminating words with more than one vowel and aligning the others into categories. I did this manually in Excel.  The E and O lists proved to be the longest and most interesting, so I mocked up a quick draft for each letter. It’s late, and I prefer my E draft over my O draft…so I’m done for today.

Oulipost #10: Snowball


I, as kid -







Haas, Kimberley. “Childhood sex abuse survivor testifies today.” Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 10 Apr. 2014: A1. 

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to create a snowball poem in which each word is one letter longer than the one preceding it.  I geeked out a little on this one. I copied an article from the online version of my newspaper and used a word frequency cloud to generate a unique list of words from an article. I then pasted that list into a single Excel cell. From there, I used “text to columns” (space delimited) followed by “copy-paste/transpose” to get a vertical list of unique words and applied the LEN() function to count letters. It sounds long, but took less than a minute to do.  

From there, I sorted by length and started scanning words to see what pattern emerged.  The final result is thirteen words of increasing length, with my own punctuation added. I modified two words slightly to fit the pattern: I removed an ‘s’ from ‘relationships’ because I needed a 12-letter word and removed ‘ly’ from ‘inappropriately’ to get to 13 and complete the pattern. For kicks, the title is a 14-letter word also sourced from the article.

Finally, as an aside at the 1/3 mark of the project: After reviewing content to date, either my daily local paper is dark and depressing, or I am, or both. Is it spring yet?!

Oulipost #9: Headlines x2

The Cynic Takes Gas

At-home mothers on the rise (self-cleaning oven has drawbacks);
more officers, quicker response.

US stocks rise (for the first time in four days);
Al Sharpton says report of FBI cooperation not new.

US bacon prices rise (after virus kills baby pigs);
judge retires, is reprimanded for sexist comment.

US interrogation report appalling (the cynic takes gas);
male striper did show at NY nursing home.

Wild ditch B’s in shootout;
fairness demands a hearing.

Community Calendar

Barrington home heavily damaged
in Sunday morning blaze

UNH police prepare for Nelly
concert Saturday

Berwick bridge to close
Monday through Friday

Skating through the decades
on April 12th

Town charter commission
meets tonight

Red moon on the horizon



All words and phrases sourced from headlines in today’s paper, Foster’s Daily Democrat [Dover, NH] 9 Apr. 2014: A1-B8. 

Notes on Project and Process

Today’s #Oulipost assignment was to compose a poem entirely constructed of headlines from today’s paper. Most of the headlines are presented in their original form and full length, although I shortened or otherwise mixed up two or three of them and added punctuation. I wrote the Community Calendar piece first, playing around with the concept of days, but there were several other juicy language nuggets in today’s headline, so I drafted the Cynic poem as a secondary place for some of my favorite phrases.