Category Archives: Oulipost

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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April 30, 2014

The Prompt: Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.


Harvesting the Seconds, Pen On Page


We’re trying to find touchpoints by day,

to be reminded of how beautiful—

the rustic setting, old Kentucky home.


We want to show that we are a strong community.

Time will tell, my tribe. It’s upon us.


Who am I? A person or thing

equal or similar to another,

one able to cope with another

before returning to a nearby aphrodisiac.

We descend like locusts

on our elbows, on the other:

empty, then refilled.


Complex conditions, an ugliness/fury. Nonsense.

Poems lie. The chicanery, bogus scheme. Never

let them get in the way. We cling

to superstitions. We do it all. Small, then—

You, us, I. We’re common.

We’re more. Play my part?


Many can, as flinders in a burn, an abattoir,

slowly undone. Ale got onto the altar,

familiar with the Maker’s Mark. Still,

we harvest one second after another—


–as life goes on, the biggest issue? Time.

This is not rocket science.

That definitely holds true.


Sources: My previous 29 Ouliposts! This National Poetry Month was an absolute blast. Thanks to the wonderful folks at The National Poetry review, the Evansville Courier & Press, and my fellow Ouliposters for providing laughter, inspiration, encouragement and camaraderie throughout the month. Until next year!


Read how other Ouliposters tackled this prompt here.

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Oulipost #29: CANADA DRY


 April 29, 2014

The Prompt: The name of this procedure is taken from the soft drink marketed as “the champagne of ginger ales.” The drink may have bubbles, but it isn’t champagne. In the words of Paul Fournel, who coined the term, a Canada Dry text “has the taste and color of a restriction but does not follow a restriction.” (A musical example is Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes” –

Be creative, and write a poem sourced from your newspaper that sounds like it’s been Oulipo-ed, but hasn’t.



Firefighters are Still at the Scene


The War hopscotched south,

as might a storm. Swallowed people up,

people whole, people

by the millions. It really did, if you want to know

the truth. Hollowed out communities. Enough.


The goal: stay alive until there’s no one left.

Who is appropriate?

Do we even have to ask?

Black. Brown. Poor people of whatever hue.

The Man said facts are an inconvenience.

Never let them get in the way.


He never did.



Butler, Hunter. “STUDENT VOICES: Scenes from your favorite book.”

Morris, Rick. “COMMUNITY COMMENT: Letter-writer blindly follows liberal agenda.”

Pitts, Jr., Leonard. “PITTS: One nation with liberty and justice for some.”

Sainz, Adrian. “UPDATE: Tornadoes tear through South, killing 11.”


Notes: This prompt was somewhat confusing; still, confusion is as good a place to begin as any, especially on a morning when the coffee has yet to kick in and I’m facing four hours on the interstate to and from Louisville to hunt down a book which Amazon seems to have mistakenly shipped to an alternate dimension instead of Evansville (which, admittedly, can feel like some bizarro-version of reality at times…). I went with a faux-quote cento vibe, rearranging portions of quotes phrases and applying erasure.

I considered trying a bit of antonymy, especially with some choice phrases from a letter which asserted “the left are vile and insidious people with radical agendas and damned be anyone who opposes them,” but I figure the author’s words and overall tone are clear–they are what they are. My “radical agenda” today is to create poetry. If this individual considers that “vile and insidious,” so be it. I won’t be losing any sleep, but I am under absolutely no obligation to be silent for his convenience. The open road awaits.


Read how other Ouliposters tackled this prompt here.



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April 28, 2014

The Prompt: A text in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter. From your newspaper, select a starting word, and then continue adding words of decreasing length from the same source article or passage.



Just One More Brick in the Wall
















Source: Stone, Victor. “LETTER: Former police officer’s stance on guns surprising.” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 28 April 2014.


With Interest















Source: Ramsey, Dave. “Dave says: Retirement funding comes before kids’ college.” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 28 April 2014.


Read how other Ouliposters tackled this prompt here.



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April 27, 2014

The Prompt: Create a 14-line sonnet sourced from lines from your newspaper that is divided according to the first five digits of the irrational number pi – that is, into stanzas of 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines. As with the preceding sonnet assignment (see April 14) you may interpret “sonnet” as formally or as loosely as you wish.



Remembering Her in Springtime


Remember when–? I know the story well.

We built our house in 1985.

I don’t remember what I wore, she’d say–


the blossoms, flowers, greenery of spring?


Those pointed buds, fresh faces to the sun,

and every year, they never let me down.

As life goes on, the biggest issue? Time.

While few would disagree with this ideal,


enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.


Our city has a history of gems—

the carousel located by the zoo,

the violets picked from family’s yard,

the yard a pool of purple every year,

our riverboat. The one that got away.



Barnett, C. Dwight. “HOME FIX: Modern homes require GFCI protection at the electric panel or at individual outlets.” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 27 April 2014.

Roth, Sally. “Violets for Remembrance.” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 27 April 2014.

Sprepski, Ellen. “LETTER: Don’t let Peoria steal our ship!” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 27 April 2014.

Staff. “COMMUNITY COMMENT: Founders set up nation to not have true democratic elections.” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 27 April 2014.

Zwahlen, Darlene. “LETTER: Ungetheim would be breath of fresh air.” Evansville Courier & Press. Web. 27 April 2014.

Notes: I like sticking close to iambic pentameter in sonnets, but rhyme? Not so much. Some erasure was applied to sentences to pare them down towards iambic pentameter.

Read how other Ouliposters tackled this prompt here.


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