oulipost 19: aging yuppies

I must say, I am surprisingly proud of myself with this one.

The Oulipost prompt was to make a (holy shit) sestina out of the found text from the paper; I took four articles about marijuana from the Village Voice, which is their feature for the week. Process note: I dropped the entire text into Word, picked out my teleutons (I’m using this instead of “endwords” because I’m feeling pretentious today), and then just wrote the damn thing, checking through the Word document along the way to see if the words I wanted were in there. If they weren’t, I checked for synonyms, or went in a new direction of none could be found, and the whole thing took surprisingly little time (about an hour). (I might have changed a verb tense here or there.) And it makes sense, kind of! And there’s a narrative, kind of!

…sestinas are beastly things, but as far as sestinas go, one could do worse, I guess. One could certainly do better. I’ll take it. ^_^

Aging Yuppies Mellow Out, Learn Russian

We spent the day reading Dostoevsky
in the crystal light of a Brooklyn spring:
all white wax and purple variation.
We bought up our pretension from the state
with old film cases and ready money
from college research. Now we can last years

relaxing on the sofa, foie gras years
topped with wine. The pleasure of Dostoevsky
is: he never gets boring, like blue money
flowing among roses from a wellspring.
We crave the Russian sentence in this state:
long and green and full of variation,

food for the brain. We want variation
because we spent so many empty years
smashed dull by the system. We couldn’t state
what love was, opened up Dostoevsky
and, halfhearted, picked out what would spring
from the page. Caught in the forge of money

were hosts of whispers. Born to covet money,
within the walls of dorm rooms, variation
seemed bizarre as a camera running on springs.
How did we bust out? It took twenty years
of care and– day by day– Dostoevsky,
to get us out of that malignant state.

We walked around the country, state to state,
doing research on how to really live. Money
fell away; we only needed Dostoevsky,
who sustained us with strange variation,
and each other. Literature of yesteryear
led us, at last, to this dopamine spring

where we’re comfortable, full of relief, spring
physical with appetite. Normal states
are for normal people. We say, “This year,
motherfucker, we’re not after money,
church, any of that shit.” Just variation,
something new. (Except Dostoevsky–

he’s staying). The first spring of the first year
of money-freedom, Dostoevsky will be
the symbol; variation, the blissed-out state.

oulipost 18: demon tailors

All right, I don’t know where the hell I went with this one. Somewhere ludicrous. The Oulipost prompt for today was to do a homoconsonantism, where all the vowels in a text are replaced by ones you choose, but the consonants left in the same order. Here’s what I plucked from the Voice for this:

Wherever you go, the food is a smoker’s dream: hand-held corn shells, stuffed to the brim with tasty combinations like roast pork shoulder with spicy mango salsa, grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, and green chimichurri, or grilled white cheese with beans, jalapeño, red peppers, and ripe fried plantains, which add a malty, sweet tinge.

…which describes my favorite Venezuelan place in the city. And I managed to squeeze it and break its feet and cut off bits of it and wrangle it into some kind of bizarre Dantean vision about the River Acheron and demons making, I don’t know, demon clothes in it? Conscripting some random damned soul passing by? Did the best I could, and this was the result.

I fudged the rules a bit too (such as deleting “y” when it was used as a vowel, but keeping it when it was consonant, throwing in a “w” as part of a diphthong, changing a soft “g” to “j” at the end, etc.), but I’m pretty blitzed on this exercise. It’s almost midnight, and I’ll take what I can get.

Demon Tailors Explain Their Internship Program to Poet

Why– a river you Gothified as some kir,
as drama-hue, and held icy runes–
Hell’s staff dye (at the brim) wet hates,
to comb into new silk. Or stop
a rakish lad– “row this piece, manage
loose grey, I’ll do check-in.” A choir zouave–
cad and grinch!– may cheer, roar, growl,
“Lad, what I choose, we, the banes,
jewel up in red.” Pay appears– no drop of
rude polenta, no!– see, who ached,
do melt– sweet to enjoy.

oulipost 17: food cart veterans

Good thing, given my state, that the Oulipost prompt today was a relatively simple one: to haiku-ize three sentences from an article. I plucked a write-up of some of the Easter fare options in NYC, found my sentences, trimmed them to the (ugh) 5-7-5 format what’s standard for such things in English, and ended up with an amusing little pun in the title reflecting the two kinds of fare on offer at this phantom market:

Food Cart Veterans Explore Deconstruction

Vendors at market:
sour cherry, millefeuille with cream;
an alphabet brunch.

But then, because I never miss the opportunity to flex my Japanese a bit, I bastardized it into this, where some of the words have changed and some of the compounds (especially the last) would probably raise an eyebrow for the native speakers. But I think “ume” can be a seasonal word (though not sure which one: summer?), the images are pretty stand-alone, and I like the contrast between the second and third lines. So I’d consider it at least an honest attempt, and I believe I conserved the syllable structure in Japanese. Anyway, here you go:


ichi-dai ni
ume to dorayaki

(at the fair-tables
sour plums and custard pastries
an alphabet meal)

oulipost 16: expat artiste

Once again, illness has walloped me pretty hard; definitely have to drop by the doctor’s tomorrow to get things checked out. (My rule is, if I have insurance, and things aren’t improving after three days, it’s time for the physician.) But before I hit the sack and try to rest up a little bit more, here’s the Oulipost bit for the day: the challenge being, to take an article (I used a character sketch of a weed delivery guy), replace all the nouns with the nouns from a second article (a write-up of a photography exhibit), all the verbs with the verbs from a third (a review of a Korean restaurant), and all the adjectives with those from a fourth (an interview with a rising indie pop star). The result is this chimera which is beautifully surreal and… kind of works?

I don’t have the energy to decide. Please do it for me while I pass out.

Expat Artiste Interweaves Style, Space-Time

Prince has assembled a fashion culture
on and off for almost four winters. He’s in his
leopard print now, but he was still in
Cambodia when he entered the future
through a camera. He appears three times
a minute, and cuts up, on average,
15 photographs an evening. If he cuts up
more than 20, he orders an early martini.
Usually he’ll appreciate it or offer it —
he used to be a fast-talking sexpot,
but he doesn’t taste much any more;
near-constant desire holds him closer.
The characters help him ferment
his drag dreams and overflow his heartwarming
drama (he’s in two miniseries and does
underwear on his minutes off). When he runs,
he confounds any one of the universal
daylight consumers who plunge around Serbia,
drenched in ego, well-constructed on
a sensual hardtop, with a curtain
and a golden Renaissance medley grounded
over one shoulder. And like
any dynamic presence, he can appear
at your bungalow in 20 fantasies or less.

oulipost 15: lesbian porn actresses

Halfway through NaPoWriMo, and I am starting to lose my steam a little bit; hoping I can chalk this up to just sickness. I really haven’t been having enough time for the Oulipost prompts, and feeling really shitty about the quality of work that’s coming out of them… frankly, between having a full-time job, workshops, and a social life, writing three poems a day is just untenable, and I don’t know how anyone has the time to do even one when it requires scouring the newspaper. (I guess I do kind of fill my plate a little bit too much, but still.)

Anyway, at least it’s been getting a little better, and I’ve been finding more or less coherent narratives for a few of the prompts. Today’s was a “prisoner’s constraint“, not using any letters with ascenders or descenders. It seems as though “i” was originally permitted, then forbidden, but you know what, I used it. If I were a prisoner, I’d just write the damn thing without the tittle up top. Unless I were in a Turkish prison, where the dotted vs. dotless i actually makes a significant difference.

The words are all taken from words in poems from the NaPoWriMo edition of the Village Voice this week.

Lesbian Porn Actresses Arrested for Indecency in K___

Men see us come on-screen,
same sun coronas over same moon
as we ensnare sex.
Men crave us, see us come;
we are women. We care more.
Over an enormous sea,
men erase our own women, in one
version mice, in one souvenirs.
Men conserve us in wire.
We rear across the murmur-vines.
Our movie arcs over sea ice,
arrives in men’s rooms.
We never even see our movie;
seems we win, as we survive.

oulipost 14: four out of five doctors

Sick as a dog today, and didn’t get much sleep due to fever, so I’m going to pop one more headache pill and get to bed. Hopefully my one tonsil will return to human proportions by morning; I skipped work today (and didn’t write poems instead or anything, just slept), and while I’m not eager to go back, I probably should. Therefore, I’ll needs be in adequate shape…

This one is for Oulipost: the prompt was to replace all the nouns in a classified ad with all the nouns in an article from the paper. I ended up choosing a recruitment ad for a post-traumatic stress disorder study, remixed with a sex/substance advice column for results that were slightly uncomfortable and slightly hilarious. (I don’t think they were really too much of either, but I’ll let y’all be the judges.)

I did very little alteration aside from that. I figure it speaks for itself.

Four out of Five Doctors Want You Naked and Aroused

Have you ever experienced a traumatic
or mind-threatening orgasm? Since the experience,
have you: had cakes or beer?
tried to avoid thinking or talking about it?
felt jumpy or anxious? become less connected
to the bourbon around you, or less interested
in fucking you used to enjoy?

If so, you may be suffering from post-traumatic
sex doubt or PTSD. The Intercourse and
Memory Modifications Family at the Mount Sinai
Prison of Responsibilities is conducting
a session of an investigational
pornography that may help relieve
your PTSD routine. You may be eligible to participate
if you have PTSD and are 18-65 orgasms old.

Life involves a thorough psychiatric
and medical party. You will be compensated
for your self-pleasure.

oulipost 13: glitterati couple

Don’t have much time for patter, but this is for Oulipost, and it’s a faux-epithalamion (since it’s not very wedding-y). There are no wedding banns in the Village Voice, so I had to make do with “Tom Hiddleston” and “Tilda Swinton” as the happy couple I’m writing for, in their guise as vampire artistes in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, which there has been many an article about. All the words in the poem are, as per Oulipost, made up of letters in their names, though I suspect that as soon as I rush off from here, I’ll realize I messed up…

Glitterati Couple Given Mission to Corrupt

Who does the hedonist hold
when Midtown is too mild, not to mention
stewed with those millions who twist
one’s demimonde into some mildewed wish?
Immodest models and solemn hitmen
seldom see the wild twins who hide in sin,
whose stoned melodies tell the down-low
month to month. The hedonists
dismiss the witnesses. Those millions
lost the mindset, stole it, demolished it,
then died homeless in the melted snow. Now
who will twine the emotions: letdown with
wisdom, misdeeds with solemnities?
These two: we silent ones hellish in method,
enlisted to smile into the windows,
disown the whitened world, steel it
to wine, semen, mollies, moonshine, lone idiots
who wished to see the end.

oulipost 12: local street artist

I did not really capture the essence of today’s Oulipost challenge, I think. The challenge was to do a sonnet using found lines in the paper, and when it comes to challenges like that, I get pretty purist. So while this has fourteen lines and what I consider a turn, more-or-less iambic with more-or-less pentameter, and some lucky rhymes… it doesn’t have a rhyme scheme, it’s not really a problem/resolution poem, and I really fudged some prosody.

But I kind of like how it turned out, nevertheless. Which is good, because I have no more steam in me tonight.

Local Street Artist Muses on Life Goals

A broken down, half-deserted city:
this visual flair for the dramatic is best.
Suggest that we move from house to house,
in every corner. (Not to mention our
home, it seems, is where the heart is this week.)
Redeem us, save us: we don’t really crave
“what would it be like to be evil?”
We always wanted to grow and do new things–
and almost all explode with color.
What we want is a new lease on life:
a muddled bowl of sweet crab, hazelnuts,
a convoluted friendship with John and his wife,
and Denzel Washington, who throws
himself into the role with reckless grace.

poem-a-thon 12: hope is a solid block of wax

Gads, I have to leave comments on people’s blogs for the Big Poetry Giveaway, don’t I? I’m coming guys, I promise! And to those who have left their names on the drawing for mine: your names will be in the hat. (Seriously, I’m kicking around the idea of actually pulling names from a fedora.)

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to do a “replacement” exercise, taking found text, and replacing all instances of a common concrete noun with an abstract noun. Taking inspiration from the example post, I too went to Wikipedia, and surfed a couple articles on candles, which I replaced with hope. In the spirit of Wikipedia, I edited some of them, slightly, back and forth, several times, before the final draft. And it turned out unexpectedly cheeky and funny in places, if a little stilted in its voice.

But it definitely is not within my theme that I’m trying to do for this set of poems, resonating with the Poem-a-Thon theme. Must orbit back!

Hope is a Solid Block of Wax

For most of recorded history, hope was
tallow and beeswax.

The earliest known hope originated in China;
hope did not appear in Europe or the Middle East
until sometime after. From this point, hope
became more of a decorative item.
In the developed world today, hope is used
mainly for its aesthetic value.

Various devices have been invented to
hold hope, from simple tabletop hope holders,
to elaborate chandeliers. In this case,
hope that is slightly too wide will not fit in
the holder, and hope that is slightly too narrow
will wobble.

Hope is used as a symbol
of the light of reason or rationality.
Hope followers are often deliberately heavy
or ‘weighted’, to ensure they move down.
Hope followers are often found
in churches.

Hope works by capillary action.
Hope and hope accessories pose a risk
to property and people.

For hope to burn, a heat source (commonly
a naked flame) is used. Hope burns completely
in four hours. The stumps from burned hope
can be saved and melted down
to make new hope.

oulipost 11: agnostic philanthropist

Today’s Oulipost prompt was to do a univocalism poem, meaning only one vowel throughout. I could just recycle the one to only use words without the vowels in your newspaper title, since that was how it ended up, but since that one made hardly any sense, I picked a different vowel to stick with, the astonishing O. And I actually did comb through the paper this time to get all the words I needed, with a fair bit of fudging (changing verb tenses, turning -ed to ‘d, à la poetry, etc.) There were a few words I feel like would’ve been really good in this one (“monk”, “sorrow”, “rococo”), but alas, twas not to be.

Some kids are having a party across the way and they’re laughing like hyenas. Time for me to go ablute myself and get out into the city for the night so I don’t have to listen to this nonsense.

Agnostic Philanthropist Calls for Responsible Teachings

God looks hollow now, too,
knows only old gowns, rows of books,
rooms to hold torn-off months.
Crowds follow no slow-cook’d cross
nor gold’s smooth glow. Nobody
frowns. So who to confront?
Who shows blood to God’s scorch-brown world?
Two tools now: mob honor follows
long roots. Nobody plots for God’s
flood of color. Go off, doctor good words–
or good works?– to host shocks of long-lost
glory who shoot from
tomorrow, stop short, roll down, drop.