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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oulipost #24: Homosyntaxism

That bird sang some melodious songs in the nest.
The nest loathed the corny songs of the bird.
Those songs muted the silly tunes in the nest.

This jar contains many usable pennies in a pinch.
These pennies rusted the old jar with their green.
The pinch desired a mean stinginess from the pennies.

These aliens speak an indecipherable tongue to my ears.
These ears hear a cacophonous bafflegab from the aliens.
This tongue savours the odd words of the aliens.

These frankfurters poisoned my great aunt at the fair.
This aunt is known as a picky eater from way back.
This fair provides numerous options for picky eaters.

This aspic shook the cracked bowl on the table.
This bowl remains the last resort except for aspic.
This table witnesses many aspic incidents every year.

Those pennyloafers were the cat’s meow in my day.
These cats refuse regular attempts at shoe enforcement .
This day prefers the cat’s pajamas at any time.

That parrot imitated the cursing pirates on the ship.
Those pirates hated the cursing parrot on the ship.
That ship spilled cursing pirates and parrots  into the sea.


Robin, Laura. “Found A Kit For Chocolate Connoisseurs.” the Ottawa Citizen. 24 April 2014. D2.


Homosyntaxism is a method of translation that preserves only the syntactic order of the original words. To give a rudimentary example, if N=noun, V=verb and A=adjective, the outline NVA could yield solutions such as “The day turned cold,” “Violets are blue,” “An Oulipian! Be wary!”)

Option 1: Choose a sentence from your newspaper source text and write as many homosyntaxisms as possible based on that same variation.

Option 2: Complete a homosyntaxism of an entire paragraph or article found in your text.


Here is the sentence I chose:

“This kit provides a chocolate-tasting party in a box.”

here is my syntactic breakdown:

Demonstrative adjective/ noun/ verb/ determiner /adjective/ noun/ preposition/ article/ noun.

I chose to interpret determiner as any type of modifier.

This was fun, once I decided to play with the various nouns in each invented sentence, & more challenging than I expected. I broke the rules slightly for the cursing pirates…but that is to be expected…they are pirates after all.

Check out my fellow Ouliposters’ work here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oulipost #23: Inventory

Air Ministers & Players

after council workers appear along with file
out of the account and remove the air day

digital consultant staff leave Duffy
in the case along with the Order Statistics

in the e- mail of a Benjamin Perrin and retain orders in March
in that order: every day saves Harper

e- mail along with the office sends commands
march and your information emails  the file

before the files shown in the back office
files with the file appears only a matter of IT

March 1 and remove emails, Player
the key by email to the deceased leaves advisor

day with account of the latter
Benjamin Perrin orders and retains email

matter of legal player saved as inputs
in middle management with the counselor to send workers

send a ticket to Mike Benjamin Perrin
Minister of workers before 2013 shows

Minister after the 2013 submitted with workers
just before day account and delete files, Air Minister

advisor once they leave by staff in the PCO
this issue with the player with the end of March, in the first

Benjamin Perrin ordered one and retain staff
first day that order saved orders

after the first e- mail , along with the office sending the e- mail latrine
emails and shipping office March Senate

the file that records show
that the case in service

files with the file shown in Stephen player
March 1 and delete emails advisor technology

an office that email goes before the account after two
order along with e- mails orders days


Press, Jordan. “Duffy affair emails apparently deleted.” the Ottawa Citizen. 23 April 2014. A1.


Inventory is a method of analysis and classification that consists of isolating and listing the vocabulary of a pre-existing work according to parts of speech. Choose a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article and “inventory” the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, articles, etc. Bonus points for creative presentation of your final lists.


After dividing the first two paragraphs of the article I used into parts of speech, it seemed to me that the world was my oyster, so I decided to use to organize each section alphabetically. From there I created an  Excel spreadsheet where I plopped each category down in order of prepositions, adjectives, articles, nouns, prepositions, nouns repeated, verb & nouns repeated, sticking in the few adverbs randomly. I wasn’t satisfied with the ensuing poem, so I ran the text thru Google Translate into Spanish & then back into English.



Benjamin Perrin


Definite Article


Indefinite Article



after council the 2013 along with workers appear file
from departing the account and tickets delete days
from digital the adviser that staff leave files
in Duffy  the affair along with player order order
in e-mail a Benjamin Perrin and orders retain March
in every  days    that order saves after    Harper
e-mail   along with the office sends orders
from his  March and e-mails from information    
the file  that files show  before office in internal
files along with  file appears a just affair in IT      
a March and e-mails delete the player
in key office e-mail leaves adviser after the late order   
along with days’ account from   latter    
the orders and  Benjamin Perrin               retain   e-mails
from      the legal player that affair saves as tickets
in mid    staff along with adviser send workers
in Mike a tickets account send Benjamin Perrin
in Minister the workers that 2013 shows before
file after Minister the 2013 along with workers just before days
from minister's account                and tickets delete files
from one-time adviser  that staff leave from order in PCO         
the affair along with player  in order from March in Prime
a Benjamin Perrin and orders retain staff
in prime a day    that order saved orders
after Prime the e-mail along with the office send the e-mail from the privy         
the e-mails and March send office from Senate
the file  that files show  the affair in service        
the files                along with the file appear player in Stephen
a March and e-mails delete adviser in technology            
an office that e-mail leaves before account after              two       
the order along with days orders e-mails

this challenge didn’t really resonate for me; I’m sure others will have a more creative & interesting take…take a look over at theFound Poetry Review

Ottawater's 10th anniversary issue

This issue is packed full of poets, with 34 contributors, not to mention the artists. Patti Normand's photos of motels & trailers are outstanding. Scott Fairchild's Creepy Go Lucky is delightfully creepy. comes out every January, is curated by rob mclennan & designed by Tanya Sprowl-Martelock. 

I'm not going to write about all the poetry here. go read for yourself. here are a few mentions of poems / poem series that really stood out for me & why.

Sylvia Adams' series "addiction and recovery," appealed to me from the opening lines: if//below, in the valley, is anything new?/if she, how she, why". I like the disorienting beginning, this play with syntax to render the disorientation. there are some playful oxymorons here: "sugar sniping mainly salted me" & "holy mother of brotherly love." invented ideas such as, "travel-caked":  you know what it means, but you've never seen it before. another poem, "additional martyrdom" is an unusual list poem. Adams has an artistic way of looking at things. She blends sound & sight in entertaining ways:

the wild goat frenzy when morning is an illusion
the soft war of bedsheets when you haven’t yet learned to sleep
the night alley legs your stockings escape
the dead dog putrescence you jam your head against

"For those who live in unrequited times" is a series with urgency to it. it starts off with clipped sentences, which get longer as the poem progresses, making it breathless.

I always enjoy the brilliant sound play & lyricism of George Elliott Clarke. In this series, " Witness of Madame Thérèse de Couagne"

But why must he
spelunk her dusty guts,
her predatory trap,
what grips and grinds a white man
down to nil?

the history of Black Canadians of Nova Scotia & New Brunswick are the main sources of inspiration for Clarke's work. I love his word play, the lusciousness of his imagery. it feels like he's given voice to what was once unspeakable, showing us the horror, the outrageousness of the way human beings were treated.

"À Marie-Josèphe Angélique" is a powerful portrait of a rebel.

A livid, smoky biography,
plus the perfume
of a smouldering “Confession”:
All we know.

In "Jean-Jacques Dessalines Vs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau" there are many memorable lines, such as

But their blood is only blood—
yes, but not worth as much as Merlot, Malbec, or Shiraz—
the infinite intoxication of definite reds….

These poems speak of the horror of slavery, written through an unflinching eye.  I wonder sometimes how it is that so many poems about important issues can be so bland. Clarke refutes that idea with his work, both poetically strong & effective. His diction can turn on a dime. I envy his abilities.

I'm a fan of the poetry of local writer, JM Francheteau. I heard him read the poem that is published in this issue, "Hiding Under Kindling" at a Factory Reading Series event.  his style here reminds me of Marcus McCann: strong sounds & diction, starting in the middle of the action, unusual similes,  words like "godblast." love the understated ending here too. some poets have a talent for balancing the drama of the poem & allowing space for quiet. this is what Francheteau does with this poem & with his work in general. we'll be seeing more from this fellow. count on it.

I have  never read any of Richard Froude's work before. That's the beauty of a magazine like Ottawater, it introduces you to poets you haven't heard of before. There's a simplicity to "They Do Not Come Back." It has the rhythm of what? A dirge? A hymn? Something holy. I like the way it moves from ordinary things to the death of someone close to the speaker. Makes me think of Emily Dickinson's poem, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes"  : First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go.

I really enjoyed Karen Massey's 12 Erasure Poems Carved from Email Sent by the Ottawa Public Library. Each small poem is titled & tiny. I love how simple these poems are & yet how astonishing:

Blue Tuesday

Rilke requests,
please visit poet’s market.
Pick up
bold plans,
a broken thing,
roses calmed by sunshine,
book favorites,
randy stories and Bach.
A clam.
Hold art, your angels agaze:
starry, embraced.

16 April 13

Justin Million often takes me by surprise with his poems. There's something understated, even banal about the subjects of the poems & yet he manages to astonish with beauty or insight or a small phrase that is exactly right.

Colin Morton has one small, minimal poem "Ceremony." it packs a powerful punch. He manages to combine some strong sound work with unusual lines & syntax play.

Roland Prevost offers two serial poems, both very minimal. I've always been impressed with how Roland creates striking images in such little space. The first poem in Time's Gag draws a connection between the dissolution of salt & mortality. Roland uses unusual language in his poetry, often combining scientific terms with zany colloquialisms.

I've been fascinated by Armand Garnet Ruffo's poems about Norval Morrisseau and his paintings since he first published one with Bywords in August, 2012, followed by a reading at the A B Series last year. & I've been fascinated by Morrisseau himself since I first saw a retrospective on his work at the National Gallery of Canada in 2006. Ruffo is writing a book of poetry on Morrisseau and also a biography. The poems & associated notes in Ottawater are from these manuscripts. These poems are mesmerizing, powerful & full of the tension of the artist's life & work.

Back in August, 2012 I was introduced to the poetry of Matthew Walsh through Bywords. After that he had a chapbook, Cloud People, published with Toronto's Odourless Press, in 2013. I am a fan of Matthew's poetry. This series, A Joni Mitchell in Pieces, is unusual, thoughtful & poignant.

These are just brief glimpses into some of the poetry that I enjoyed in's 10th issue. Happy ten years, Ottawater. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oulipost #22: Antonymy

The Last Clerk’s Cupboard regurgitated 4.1 cents in hires and connection debt under the last minus seven microseconds of Justin Trudeau’s release for 691 arriving LCC employers, not according to anarchistic oral reports.

The low apple crumble constant in the LCC outside 6002 and 3102 ignored smoothly outside two-third and four fifth of vagrants who arrive sporadic days, never without either hires or careless connection debt.

Exactly 57 cents in debt was owed outside 6002 and 3102 to vagrants in the Last Clerk’s Cupboard. The Cupboard did not range in volume from 28 to 501 employers not during that non period. The 4.1 cent tax collectors legged for entering LCC vagrants was not part of a singular fraction of 13 cents in hire and connection debt that rocked in to vagrants in all servants’ cupboards not since the Liberal anarchists lost impotence in 6002.

The collection from apolitical vagrants outside of the LCC and servants’ cupboards went as the Liberal government whispered of the extravagance to loosen poor private unbounded territory losses.


Fekete, Jason. “PMO paid $4.1M in seven years to departing employees.” the Ottawa Citizen. 22 April 2014. A1.


In Oulipian usage, antonymy means the replacement of a designated element by its opposite. Each word is replaced by its opposite, when one exists (black/white) or by an alternative suggesting antonymy (a/the, and/or, glass/wood).

Original: To be or not to be, that is the question.
Antonymy: To not be and to be: this was an answer.

Select a passage from your newspaper source text to complete this exercise.


I chose the first four paragraphs of the source article. I could have kept going for the whole article, but I have to have some discipline, I suppose. This was great fun. How could I resist choosing a political & economic article. Those things cry out for a Monty Pythonesque treatment. The Last Clerk’s Cupboard could easily by the sight of many absurd bureaucratic mishaps & shenanigans, much like the Ministry of Silly Walks

From a linguistic point of view, the exercise made me consider the meaning of the words to figure out their opposite. I admit to using various antonym finders in some cases & also to being uber playful. I mean…is apple crumble really the opposite of a turnover? I do posit that Justin Trudeau is the exact opposite of Stephen Harper though...

Read my talented fellow Ouliposters works here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Oulipost # 21: Confabulation

MARTHA:            “No normal human being can read your handwriting. It’s as if you took a lot of very good       food and some dog excrement and blended it all up. There’s nothing else like it.”

PETER:                  “That’s a load of crap. That’s just the way it is. I don’t think there’s any need for that.”

MARTHA:            “Unless you get into this digital age and start typing things, you’ll be a complete failure.”

PETER                    I didn’t know what to do. That’s simple fact? When it’s not going perfect, you grind           the best you can. “At the end of a pencil,” ... “remains the possibility of man’s genius."

MARTHA:            It doesn’t have to be scary and dysphoric. The works are suffused with pessimism and           faith, violence and calm, mortality and transcendence, fear and joy.

PETER:                  Martha, love, we’re not getting wiser and kinder here.

MARTHA, staring impatiently at PETER:

You meet people every day who are never able to function.

PETER:                  So, what does this mean?

MARTHA:            There is nothing practical left to do. We are utterly alone and vulnerable in a bleak world.

PETER:                  I’m still confident I can fill all the tasks given to me, at least that’s what they’re telling me.

MARTHA:            We need to start thinking about what we’re going to use it for. We need to be intentional      about where we’re going.

PETER:                  We are on the cusp of the further perfection of evil.


Sibley, Robert. “Trapped beaver tale has a happy ending.” the Ottawa Citizen. 21 April 2014. A1.

POSTMEDIA NEWS. “Getting ready for The Singularity.” Ibid. A5.

Desaulniers, Darren. “Carleton Place crowned.” Ibid. C3.

Cohen, J. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “Seabrook’s suspension a major blow to Blackhawks.” Ibid. C3.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “Blue Jays unable to complete sweep.” Ibid. C3.

Simpson, Peter. BIG BEAT. “A gift to last.” Ibid. D1

Spears. Tom. “‘Seismic platelets’: How a phoney paper got accepted by scientific journals.” Ibid. A1


Craft a conversation poem using “he said/she said” quotes that you find in newspaper articles.


How could I resist not turning this into the dialogue from a play? Not a poem this time. Peter is an aging professor, Martha, his young wife. She is getting tired of his old-fashioned ways, but is perfectly fine with his money. She is a bleak and sour woman who wants to drag her husband down with her. At the end of the scene, the we Peter is referring to could easily be him & his wife. 

I can’t help but think of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee. Their bickering sessions were scary. Here the handwriting is the initial source of conflict between the couple, but in reality, there is much more to it. I admit that I added a few things, such as internal monologue in italics & slightly altered the quotations to fit with the dialogue. This was the most fun I’ve had so far. I could continue to do this for ages, but I’ll stop now.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oulipost #20: Lescurean Permutations

Three Ottawa machines
are using X-ray imaging ghosts
to create a new image
of haunting artistic lines
showing you the equipment
in your favourite technician.


Armstrong, Dennis. “Getting Inside Art.” the Ottawa Sun. 20 April 2014. 2.


Select a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article as your source text. Switch the first noun with the second noun, the third noun with the fourth noun, and so on until you’ve reached the end of your text.


There were various types of permutations available other than plain. I tried them all & chose the Roussellian Permutation because it yielded the most interesting to me. If I was to fiddle around with this to make it an interesting poem, I’d probably use a combination of permutations. I think this would be much more interesting using a poem as source text, but it does show some interesting possibilities to riff off bizarre imagery.


Three Ottawa 1 technicians are using X-ray imaging 2 equipment to create a new 3 line of haunting artistic 4 images showing you the 5 ghost in your favourite 6 machine.

1.       technicians
2.       equipment
3.     line
4.    images
5     ghost
6.     machine

PLAIN (the 1st noun changes place with the second, the third with the 4th, etc.)

Three Ottawa _3___ are using X-ray imaging ____4__ to create a new 1____ of haunting artistic __2__
showing you the ___6_ in your favourite __5__.

ALTERNATE: (the 1st noun changes place with the 3rd, the 2nd with the 4th, etc)

Three Ottawa ___3________ are using X-ray imaging ____4_____ to create a new _1______ of haunting artistic ___2____ showing you the ___6___ in your favourite _5_________.

BRACKETED (the 1st noun changes place with the 4th, the 2nd with the 3rd, etc)

Three Ottawa ______4_____ are using X-ray imaging ___3______ to create a new ____2___ of haunting artistic _____6__ showing you the ___5___ in your favourite ___1_______.

ROUSSELIAN (named after the sentence structure of Raymond Roussel’s Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique: the 1st noun changes place with the last, the second with the next to last, etc.)

Three Ottawa __6__ are using X-ray imaging -__5___ to create a new __4_ of haunting artistic ___3_ showing you the _2___ in your favourite 1_____.



Three Ottawa equipment are using X-ray imaging technicians to create a new image of haunting artistic lines showing you the machine in your favourite ghost.


Three Ottawa lines are using X-ray imaging images to create a new technician of haunting artistic equipment showing you the machine in your favourite ghost.


Three Ottawa images are using X-ray imaging lines to create a new image of haunting artistic machines showing you the ghost in your favourite technician.


Three Ottawa machines are using X-ray imaging ghosts to create a new image of haunting artistic lines showing you the equipment in your favourite technician.


Now you have met
your favourite ghost,
are you haunted
by the machine
of artistry
in the equipment?

Check out the poems of fellow Ouliposters here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Oulipost #19: Sestina

"Are you lez, are you lez," they interrupted
a slow song began cooing from the mirror
helped navigate the maze
of secrets unearthed
he was fed up with being misunderstood
called sissy, tomboy and freak

he always felt out of place, a freak
he learned he was gender confused, interrupted
he never felt right as a girl, misunderstood
was angry, dropping f-bombs in the mirror
his long-held secret had been unearthed
he felt he had no choice but to submit himself to the maze

there was a clash between who he is and the maze
no one likes being labelled a freak
a reality for several years has now been unearthed
his body is no longer interrupted
no longer hunched over, avoiding eye contact in the mirror
it was total confusion and it was misunderstood

the teen in the middle of it was misunderstood
biology and hormones are inconsistent with the maze
of advice to young people like him, who are stared at in the mirror
they don't control your life, don't listen to the  freak
ideals of someone who calls you "it"; you are in the wrong body, interrupted
be strong, hold on, you're going to be unearthed

the anxiety's been  unearthed
he's more visible now than he was when misunderstood
he offers advice to other young people, who are interrupted
who don't control the maze
pushing children into assigned gender roles is a freak
of scattered ideals across the carpet, in the  mirror

a sign of progress in the mirror
what happened ten years ago has been unearthed
he explained what pronoun he now uses, is not a freak
he seems relaxed and happier, not  misunderstood
he smiles more, out of the maze
he carries himself differently, is not interrupted

you're your own person, even when misunderstood
if someone doesn't support you, get out of the maze
you don't have to listen to them, let their words be interrupted


Pearson, Matthew. “Boy Interrupted.” the Ottawa Citizen. 19 April 2014. A1.

This will be one of your most challenging Oulipost prompts! A sestina is a poetic form of six six-line stanzas. The end-words of the lines of each stanza repeat those of the first, but in a differing order that in each successive stanza follows the permutation: 615243. The entire sequence of end words is thus: 123456; 615243; 364125; 532614; 451362; 246531. All words and phrases must be sourced from your newspaper text.


I was so glad to see this article about Mikey Williams in today’s paper. This is an issue very close to my heart, the insistent enforcement of gender roles. My heart goes out to Mikey & children like him. I want him to know that there are people in this world who care. I hope that I haven’t in any way misrepresented his story. I tried to tread very carefully.

From a technical standpoint I am always fascinated by the way this form can cause writers to examine the meaning of words very closely, the way a word in a different context can have a completely different meaning. The words here which most intrigued me were “interrupted” & “maze.” I am also using enjambment here. Otherwise I would be lost. I hope that the poem is effective. I enjoyed the experience.

If like me, you look forward to reading what the other Oulipost magicians conjure for this challenging exercise today, I encourage you to visit the Found Poetry Review& take a read…Thanks once more to the angel software guru & poet, Doug Luman, who created a sestina spreadsheet for this challenge. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Oulipost #18: Homoconstantism

SENTENCE CHOSEN: "Lady Dufferin also opened the Ottawa grounds for children’s theatre, lavish social banquets and outdoor skating rinks, a tradition held this past winter as well."

POST VOWEL REMOVAL: L dy D ff r n  ls   p n d th   tt w  gr  nds f r ch ldr n’s th  tr , l v sh s c  l b nq  ts  nd   td  r sk t ng r nks,   tr d t  n h ld th s p st w nt r  s w ll.

I led you, duffer.
No lisp nod?
The tat wag rounds for chi leader.
Nose? Tah.
Tore love, Soho. See?
Call ban: quiet sin dot.
Die, Rose Kiting .
Re: suck ton gore neck, sit red ten.
Hold this pasta wanter as awe? I loll.


Sylvester, Meggie. “Rated GG: Rideau Hall to host Canadian movie nights.” the Ottawa Citizen. 18 April 2014. A1.

Choose a sentence or short passage from your newspaper to complete a homoconsonantism. In this form, the sequence of consonants in a source text is kept, while all its vowels are replaced. For example:
ORIGINAL: To be or not to be: that is the question.
CONSONANTS ONLY: T b r n t t b t t s t h q s t n
FINAL PRODUCT: As burnt tibia: it heats the aqueous tone.


I occasionally translated one vowel as two as long as i didn't add an additional sound or syllable.I did not keep consonant streams together. I found the latter challenging. I'd like to do a more sound based version of this exercise & focus less on the physical alphabet...

Thanks once again to Doug Luman &  his fabulous tools….

Visit the Found Poetry Review for more Homonconstantism hijinx.