Friday, August 27, 2010

Poetry Friday - The Joy of the Puzzle

This week, I asked my students at Vermont College of Fine Arts to come up with a poem based on these rules: The poem must have two separate voices. One voice will use only keys typed naturally by the left hand. The second voice will use only keys typed naturally by the right hand. Numbers and symbols may be used, too, as can capitals, as long as you stick to the left hand/right hand division for these, too.

I wrote one of these poems once, and I still take it out and tinker with it. It's rough, but here it is as an example.

Conversation for Two Hands

We were grass
We were trees
We were a sea

I’ll moon him & milk him.
I’ll pun. Noun up on him.
I’ll nil him.

We awed fast
we were fated

Jump on him.
John him, junk him.
I’ll null him, unlimn him.
Look, I’m Hun.

Safe safer
sad sadder, I’ll join him.
Pull him in. Uphill him
& hum him. Look, I’m kin.

We were targets
We created a war
we traded faces

If you come up with one, I'd love to see it in the Comments field (my comments require moderation, so your comment will have to be approved before it shows up. That's not going to be based on my aesthetic reaction to the poems! Just a precaution against crazies that sometimes post craziness....) These don't have to make total sense (as mine does not) - they just have to tease and intrigue. Think of it as Word Sudoku. Only there's no right answer. Just the joy of the puzzle.

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Kate over at The Book Aunt. Head over there to see what other people have posted.


  1. Oh, Julie! I type without thinking about my hands, so, before I can even attempt a poem like that, I'll have to start looking at the keyboard, and then, I know, I'll completely freeze and forget how to type! How do you come up with these puzzles? --Diane

  2. Diane, I think my only goal with puzzles like this is to come up with something that restricts my logical brain, and to surprise myself with what drifts to the surface under those conditions. I admit to just playing - the process doesn't honestly produce a poem, but it's exercise, it initiates a few moments of de-ossification, and it's fun. And it's amazing to see what people come up with!

  3. Julie - that's amazing and very interesting - the words that can be produced using one side of the keyboard vs the other. I thought the "voices" were very different. I loved it.

  4. Hoo-boy--I thought I was challenging myself to write poems using only the most common words in English, but this....i-yi.

    Will put it on my list of things to try!

  5. Extra ease
    Extra eats
    Few frets
    Few fears
    We are tear~free

    HO, HI, HI HI HI HO.

    Be free!
    Fear war!


    Swear ~ be war~free!


    Ag! Few see!


    we were
    we are beat
    we die

    HO, HI, HI HI HI HO.

  6. Julie,
    Great fun.
    Elayne, who took your challenge and wrote one of these, is my daughter btw. The book you suggested I read, the one by Fry, disappeared in her room and she is enjoying it. I need to kidnap my book back.

  7. Oh, my gosh, Sarah! Your daughter? Well, please tell her "Well done!" from me....

  8. Hi Julie,

    I'm just now entering the world of blogs. I can't wait to explore all your previous posts.

    Thank you for doing this.

    George Shannon

  9. Elayne, I loves your use of the tilde sign ~ instead of a dash. Very clever.

  10. Hi Julie, I saw this last week and finally had a bit of time to play! Love puzzles like these. Fun to hear whose voices begin to emerge!

    My Yoko Ono plum,
    No lyin', I'm no phony punk.


    I'm hunky,
    join my kin.


    My pom-pom pin-up,
    O, jump in.


    You + I = Joy.


  11. Martha, you've discovered a whole new side to this - the one-handed slogan - I can see some of these on bumper stickers ("Tweets are weeds!") My favorite, of course, is that beauty near the end: You + I = Joy (though the pom-pom pin-up is a close runner-up....)

    George, Uma - Hi, friends! Nice to see you here.

  12. Ha! From some anti-social media group:

    Tweets are weeds!
    Texts are taxes!

    (This is like keyboard Boggle. Could play all day, though have to work! I'M IN INK)