Oulipost #13: EPITHALAMIUM


April 13, 2014

The Prompt: An Oulipian epithalamium, or marriage song, is one composed exclusively with the letters of the names of bride and groom (bride and bride, groom and groom, etc). Visit the engagement or wedding announcements section of your newspaper and select a couple. Write a poem using only words that can be made with the letters in their name. You may choose to use first names only if you prefer anonymity or full names if you’re desperate for more letters.

So I wrote this Iambic Pentameter Anaphora poem using a couple of names from my paper’s most recent Marriage License Announcements

The bride: Kylie Rena Sandefur

The groom: Brandon Ryan Lewis-Brown



Reflections of a Melancholy Crone


Life before now–sour,

sullen, alone. Yes.



Old boyfriends fade away like sun-dried weeds,

as slowly as a walk around a lake,

as surely as an owl will field a kill,


as suddenly and brief as swallows blink,

as wolfsbane flowers down beside a lane,

as the wilderness, sonorous, abides


as boldly as a deer rubs fur on oak,

as fine as snowflakes fallen before Yule.

As furies, wild and sly, we knew no fear


as fiends awry, so wonderful and free

as faeries borne arisen on a wind

as swirls of seeds will billow off—one day


as sunflowers in boundaries of soil.

As dawnfire kindles sky red, we are soon

as flinders in a burn, slowly undone.


As eons weaken us, alas, we learn:

as blissful as our early life would seem,

as elders, so is wisdom. Blessed be.


Source: Names listed above. Names were taken from the most recent Marriage License announcements of courierpress.com. Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 13 April 2014.


Notes: As with the Beautiful In-law, http://www.scrabblefinder.com/ is a great tool for making this sort of poem easier. The names I chose gave me the following letters with which to play: a b d e f i k l n o r s u w y. I added a constraint by flipping through The Making of a Poem and other craft books to select a form, preferably one I haven’t used often (if ever), and settled for Anaphora.

From poets.org:  The term “anaphora” comes from the Greek for “a carrying up or back,” and refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany. The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long as an entire phrase. As one of the world’s oldest poetic techniques, anaphora is used in much of the world’s religious and devotional poetry, including numerous Biblical Psalms. Elizabethan and Romantic poets were masters of anaphora, as evident in the writings of William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, and Edmund Spenser.

I really liked this exercise. Having 15 out of 26 letters proved just enough of a limiting factor to create a pause in the process (no, can’t use “the” without a T…can’t have any gerunds without a G…), but not enough that it felt like a chore. I didn’t originally set out towards Iambic Pentameter, but it sort of veered in that direction as it went; likewise, I’m not sure why it took on such a pagan tone, but one of my mentors has favorably likened poetry to spellcasting and I absolutely believe words have power, so I’ll happily embrace my inner woo-woo if it gets words onto the page! When I saw the poem going in that direction, I gave myself an additional mandate–since the number 3 is mystically significant to many traditions, I knew I wanted to include at least three plants and three animals.


Read how other Ouliposters tackled this prompt here.


Filed under Oulipost, Poetry

4 responses to “Oulipost #13: EPITHALAMIUM

  1. Richard Thompson

    Gosh, this is really good. The constraint seems to have really brought out something great in terms of the flow and the narrative. the restrictions are there, but just under the surface.

  2. I have to say, love that you went in a completely different direction with your content!

  3. I’m reading this again, and you just killed it. Love this piece.

  4. Pingback: Oulipost Exit Interview | Jody Rich ~ poetry fueled by cold coffee

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