Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dzanc Books Prompt

Take the closest book to you. Open it to page 56 paragraph 1, line 4 and pick three random words. Then open the book to page 107 paragraph 3 line 2 and pick three random words. Now flip to a random page and find some dialogue. Find one word used to convey what a character is saying. It CANNOT be the word “said”. Invert the number of that page (321=123), and find an adjective and a subject. Now go to the last page and pick one word from each paragraph, line 3. One of them must be a verb. Now write something with it. A six word story. A poem. Short story. A novel. You have the option of just using those words or adding others with them. BUT, you must use all of the words you found during this exercise in some capacity. It can be the plural or a different tense of the world, but it must have the original root. Share what you wrote with us on our twitter @dzancbooks

Page 56 of my source text didn’t have 4 lines in its first paragraph, so I used line 4 of the second paragraph. This is the raw poem, no words added. I tried fleshing it out into a longer lyric poem, but I just wrecked it three times in a row, which was my cue to let it be as-is for now.


Another 4 a.m. Email

Back again: you–
which means
answering fellow audiences;
dramatic, like
wanted disdain.


Source:  Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting”





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Before the First Word, the Universe Sang

Motion Poem and a Found Language Poem– the source text was a letter written by John Muir, January 10th, 1873 to J. B. McChesney. Erasure was applied.

Images are all stock-imagery. Music used to arrange the composition is provided by the Sparkol program.


Before the First Word, the Universe Sang


Just the landscape of numberless

boundaries and human-carved rocks—


striking, suggestive as steel-tempered sentences. Absurdities

ready-to-burst, tethered like the stars by Nature’s own chains,


the forge of convention. Transparent and well-nigh invisible,

as if loose over this world and the next, yet enclosed by bellglass.


Its bounds live, move, brandish verbal spears

made of the heaviest, most opaque stuff in the universe—


denser than hammered steel, yet indefinite. What they shall be:

nothing, hope, all possibilities, longing of heaven and eternities.


Weighed, measured, branded and bound by order,

like bricks. Machinery. Books lack faith in the Scriptures of Nature.


The joint work of evil and good must dwell in contact with beauty,

the vulgar heresy, familiarity with contempt. Intervals to be measured


instead of inhaling every moment in order

to act, to say anything with the purest words of deceit.


Reason was born and bred and dwells in the barren rock,

the bleak winds, the solitude of seas—


they have language, but declare nothing.

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May 9, 2014 · 9:36 am

Beneath an Oak, Thirty-five Years Ago

So, I’m trying to write a Mother’s Day poem that recalls a significant shared memory but doesn’t sound like a Hallmark card. This is my initial effort–



Beneath an Oak, Thirty-five Years Ago


One afternoon when I was young,

you took me to a brown patch of dry soil

along our driveway,

along with a handful of plastic animals

and toy cars.                               You gathered twigs,

planted them upright in a circle and said

Let’s play zoo.                              Then you drew roads

                                with your fingers, carefully:

This is where the cars go, to make sure

                               the animals are taken care of.

It blew my mind,

how you made fallen tree parts into props for the imagination.

How you made

                                                            time to play. With me.


You taught me:

Embrace your imagination. Never forget

                             where you come from.                 I remember relish trays

filled with olives and cheese and sweet baby carrots

          before Saturday Morning Cartoons, and

who was there with me

as we escaped a burning home

together.                                                           I remember

who has been there,                                        always.


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Carpet Circles and Winter Mornings


Carpet Circles and Winter Mornings

after Kelly Moffett


What to replace the emptiness. You


Another collected blame like gazing crystals.


Your morning shower came before “good morning,” before

“Want coffee?” and before I ever did.


I loved the prismatic bursts before my eyes,

your silhouette through the curtain

leaning forward to shave, head bowed. Prayer

fogged upon the mirror.


Then the usual hurried talk:

“Coffee’s ready” and “Where are my keys?”


I found an affinity for candlemaking. For you–

auto mechanics, smudging.


And I preferred darker places,

Rooms and hallways shrinking.


You would have liked this waterfall.


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May 4, 2014 · 2:03 am

Sonja Says

Sonja Says


You need an ability to call things by their real names:

discipline, destroying professors, ninety glossy ibises,

a barred owl (saw one in the graveyard, running at dusk).


Masking graver questions, blazing distress from younger years,

I don’t have a present to offer in return. Distance seemed smaller,

time still an issue; thought is found filling–


seriously, not so still.                          I tried

to photograph trees as if they were people,


without animus. Thoughtfully, deliberately, you

continued straight down the road.

I’m right here, right now.

It’s been too long already,


working at habit.

Who’s with me? Hot bath.

He is very gentle –


A journeyman flower – since no one

senses us, no one

saves us, no one

even cares. We can own

a raw universe. I have great strength;

I can come


to help you in your rain, in the bitter

soil, sharing heat. We can go looking

for answers in the blaze,


thinking which fist kills (blood splash)

our fascination with the unknown embraces.


Create more

joie de vivre. Still,


we live in a culture of madness—

the continuum of experience

in which events pass from the future, to the present,


to the past:

a quick fix,

a hard fraud.


It’s been like an endless winter,

and it’s raining.



Source: The Oulipost poems of Sonja, as sourced from  For the most part, I sourced phrases in reverse order from her latest to her earliest, but I don’t think it’s 100% true to that order because I was looking at Sonja’s poems 2-3 at a time, and if this month’s lessons taught us anything, it’s that constraints are meant to be bent. All of Sonja’s poems from the month of Ouliposting are represented, usually as a phrase and not just a single word. She made it easy to patchwork her work, because her voice is strong and consistent, even when constrained/guided by found poetry prompts.


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Margo Said

Margo Said


Crow woman,

don’t try to cool the fires,

but you stood your ground,

impossible to resist. Ascend

wisdom before risks.


A girl hangs ghost-like from a washing line—

snip, remove, arrange

anarchists need not be irresolute:

People like stories but they don’t like words.


Gather the actor of your artist,

lost, terrified, and besieged by the wild forest,

before it’s too late. Wear your heart on your sleeve,

sometimes, in the mornings.


As for tricks,

I loved you                                                      once.

A duration remaining night–          roots cut loose,

Night brings his lips                                       inside–

He ignores his thin chances –


I can’t.


Sometimes the best wean                    to bring harrow to a skein                                             is to be assertive.

Unleash the power of the female brain,

considerable in extent and intensity,

the sleeping creator,

mercurial moments.


But jump:

all we can do is try to trace out patterns

and the potential for meaning.


Source: The Oulipost poems of Margo Roby during 2014’s Oulipost event. All of them.


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Oulipost Exit Interview

Oulipost Exit Interview: Oulipost Ends Where the Work Begins


Question 1:

What happened during Oulipost that you didn’t expect? What are the best (or worst) moments for you?


Before we began, I thought I was entirely burned-out on sonnets, and dreaded the couple of prompts which involved iambic pentameter–the sonnet and the blank verse. As it turned out, they were among my favorites, and with a little bit of erasure it really wasn’t difficult locating some interesting iambic pentameter lines in my newspaper articles. So that was unexpected. Best moments? There were plenty. I’d say connecting with fellow Ouliposters, the sense of community which quickly developed, was the best thing by far.


Question 3:

What does your street look like?


Right now, the street itself is pretty wet from recent rainstorms. I live on a generally quiet street in a subdivision…our house is probably the one in need of the most attention, but it’s getting a long-overdue paint job when I go off to my next grad school residency. Otherwise, it’s a fairly typical Indiana suburb, with trees and…oh, wait. “Show, don’t tell” works here:


The gazebo is where I do most of my writing when the weather permits, though…some guys have mancaves. I get inspired more by the sight of birds and squirrels, the smells of flowers and barbecue, and the wind moving through the trees.


Question 4:

Who is your spirit Oulipostian?


Starting out, I said Nancy, and I still cherish her brilliance and mastery of both the art and the craft of poetry, but I’m going to expand it to every single person who participated in this month’s event. When we were gearing up to begin, I said I looked forward to seeing all the different ways people would creatively interpret the prompts. I expected people to have very different voices and techniques, but my mind was absolutely blown by just how creative and inspiring these poets were over the course of the month.


Question 5:

What are the top three poems you wrote during this project?


1. “A Mage’s Game” (Beau Present)
2. “Reflections of a Melancholy Crone” (Epithalamium)
3. “Remembering Her in Springtime” (Irrational Sonnet)


Question 2:

What questions do you have for your teaspoons? What questions do your teaspoons have for you?


My teaspoons assume that I love them dearly, since they get carried up from the kitchen, used, and then are kept close at hand in a slowly-growing collection on my computer desk until my other half pokes his head in to say “I’m doing dishes and noticed that we have exactly three spoons downstairs. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” The only real question I have for my teaspoons is “How so zen?”


Question 6:

What will you do next?


I have about three weeks before my next residency begins, and aside from reading and commenting on my workshop group’s poems (which, as an aside, I am thrilled to be in a group with some of my favorite fellow students–I know every single person, and adore their work, so I’m genuinely looking forward to them ripping my poems apart like a pack of sadistic ferrets the relaxed discussion we’ll be having!) , I have no writing-related plans. I’d love to say I’ll be going through my bucket list of poetry books & chapbooks, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be marathon-watching shows on Netflix, playing video games, and playing around with candle making projects instead. 🙂


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