Category Archives: Constraints

Hanukah Hay(na)ku

The Hay(na)ku form is a six-word tercet, with one word in the first line, and two words in the second line. Syllables are irrelevant. Multiple Hay(na)ku can be chained together.

I thought it would be appropriate to write some holiday-related Hay(na)ku.

Hanukah Hay(na)ku

flicker; families
sing Maoz Tzur.

With applesauce
or sour cream?

religious freedom:
Twirling toy tops.

gelt given
for dreidel playing
Tzedakah when
the spinning stops.

Rejection – Revision – Resubmission

The short story I mentioned back in May, which I submitted to The First Line, was rejected by them.

This might actually be a blessing. Several members of my critique group suggested back in May a few changes that the first line restricted considerably. So upon receiving the rejection, I took to revision. The biggest change was from third person to first, which facilitated a few other changes.

I hope to bring the revised version to the group meeting tonight, and then figure out where to submit it to next.


I am a big proponent of writing to ‘constraints.’ I believe the constraint helps to jumpstart the creative juices. However, one must be able to leave the original constraint behind when appropriate.

The Mess

Poemblaze challenged me to compose a poem using three particular words.  Can you guess which ones?

The Mess

The baby’s diaper
attained the shape
of an igloo.

The exasperated mother
the mess, aiming at
the Westboro Baptists
on the front lawn.

Calmly, she applied
to the baby’s bottom.

Poets of the World Unite – We have nothing to lose but constraints!

Poets of the World Unite
We have nothing to lose but constraints!

May First, Two Thousand Eleven
On the one hundred twenty fifth
Haymarket anniversary
I strike for poems five lines in length;
No more than eight syllables each.

Haymarket Affair – May 1-4, 1886

Note: The 1886 strike was for a five day, forty hour work week. From which I obtained the idea for the poem.


ReadWritePoem’s February challenge is to write some centos

Basically, a Cento is a poem made up of lines from other poems.

I think I shall attempt their 5-day challenge. Though the cento is not new to me.

I wrote the following back in 2007 based on John Berryman’s Dream Songs.
You have to realize that in England, “Harry” is a very common nickname for “Henry.” (e.g. Prince Harry is really Prince Henry.)
So even though I believe JK Rowling never states it in the books, I assume that’s Harry Potter’s real name.
Or at least I assumed it for the purpose of this poem.

Henry Potter – Age 50 – Reflects.
by John Newmark

1. No Christmas jaunts for fractured cats;
2. Henry is tired of the winter.
3. Alone. They all abandoned Henry —wonder!

4. Old, yellow, and in a gown
5. Henry sats in de bar & was odd,
6. lighting the past of Henry, of his glorious
7. white rear bare in the air.

8. Something bizarre about Henry.
9. Henry was not a coward. Much.
10. So may be Henry was a human being.

11. One day the whole affair will fall apart;
12. Peace to his ashes then.

1. John Berryman, Dream Song 65, l.13
2. Dream Song 77, line 8
3. Dream Song 52, l.7
4. Dream Song 5, l.1
5. Dream Song 74, l. 7
6. Dream Song 25, l.2
7. Dream Song 93, l.16
8. Dream Song 78, l.5
9 Dream Song 13, l.3
10. Dream Song 13, l.7
11. Dream Song 134, l.8
12. Dream Song 134, l.14

gypsy nymphs lynch’d my cyst yn pygmy rhythm

Back in May of 2001 there was a small disturbance in New York when Madame Tusseaud’s decided to add a wax statue of Arafat to their museum collection. The poets of were given a challenge to write a univocalic poem. I had never heard of univocalic poetry before then. My life was changed. However, I reached an impasse, as my brain had severe cramps coming up with words using only one vowel. Here’s the poem I wrote:


Arafat Bad.
Wax Bad.
Bad Bad Bad!

Ban Wax Arafats!
Ban All Arabs!
Ban Ban Ban!

Considering my mental difficulties, I was quite pleased with the result. Naturally, I hoped all readers would understand I was attempting to capture the mentality of those who were protesting. The simple words helped to emphasize this commentary, which pleased me to no end. My poetic deficiencies looked intentional.

I’ve recently discovered a word-puzzle website where you can search for a list of words meeting specific constraints. Using this I have created univocalic word lists for a,e,i,o,u and y. Unsurprsingly, e is the longest list with almost 3500 words. Y is the shortest list with only 101. Writing anything that is understandable with the y-list is extremely difficult.

You try:

by byrl byrls bys cry crypt crypts cyst cysts dry dryly drys fly flyby flybys flysch fry ghyll ghylls glycyl glycyls glyph glyphs gym gyms gyp gyps gypsy hymn hymns hyp hyps lymph lymphs lynch lynx my myrrh myrrhs myth myths mythy nymph nymphs ply pry psych psychs pygmy pyx rhythm rhythms rynd rynds scry shy shyly sky sly slyly spry spryly spy sty stymy sylph sylphs sylphy syn sync synch synchs syncs synth synths syph syphs syzygy thy thymy try tryst trysts typp typps typy why whys wry wryly wych wyn wynd wynds wynn wynns wyns xylyl xylyls xyst xysts

Yeah. I know April is over, but I still have poetry on my mind.

I lied…

I decided to post a couple more poems before the month closes.

I’ve been sorting through my electronic files of poems and discovered some I’d forgotten.
These are written by me. Both are constrained poems. The first one is a haiku. The second is a Jenny.

Dinner Conversation

Said the cannibal
to his friend: this pirate’s chest
is filled with treasure.

Categorizing the Dead

Zombies are the least functional;
Vampires more functional;
Corpses the most functional –

Fertilizer for vegetation.

Stop calling me! (Another Jenny)

Here’s my most recent Jenny. Too timely to try and get published anywhere local, and too local to get published anywhere else. (I did try one place.)

A Talent for Negativity

Another attack ad appears
in my phone messages
daily as the election
nears. Talent must fear

accuracy on Claire’s victory.

Snowball Effect

I posted the below in a discussion group on LibraryThing, but I thought some here might be interested:
(sort of)
new topic
to discuss.
do you enjoy
does word play
give headaches?
Are you confused?

This is a snowball.
A poetic form which
was created by those
who group themselves
with the name of Oulipo.
Every line contains one
additional letter. U like?

More forms for you to enjoy

Note: I’ve realized I misremembered the constraint, and created a new form, albeit one based on Oulipo. In a traditional snowball, each word has an additional letter.  This would tend to limit the length.  My variation above could go on forever.