Examining Italian



This poem is written Oulipo-style based on a challenge posted on the ModPo Facebook page by Massimo Soranzio, a fellow Oulipostian. Originally, Massimo shared an essay question from the Italian State Exam, in which students who chose the poetry option were to explain the first line of a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo. Within the comments section, several commenters suggested that the FB group write their own responses to the exam question. Massimo chose to frame his as an Oulipo response, which led me to think that I could write a cento based on selected quotes from Massimo’s original post and the FB comments section. The first line of my poem is alsothe first line of the Quasimodo poem assigned to the students.

Examining Italian

“It may be a true sign of life:”
Conjuring up absurd questions –
Could it be more subjective?
Any answer would require more experience.
We are beginning to get hints of that,
not meant to be provocative, just seeking context,
without knowing anything else.
Petty minds thinking great thoughts.

What is meaningful in our lives?
That’s only question 1; there’s much more.
To face the challenge of this question,
focus on the contrast between doubt…and certainty.
I have craved some silence.
– the first glimmer of an idea –


Polishing Polish


It’s Tuesday, which means another challenge from Margo Roby: “this is a simple prompt: find a poem in a language other than English and translate it into English. [I didn’t say the exercise is simple, just the prompt.]”

After a few fits, starts and blind alleys, I decided to look for the work of a female Polish poet. I am half Polish, but only speak about six words of the language, mostly food-related. I chose the following poem by Mila Kus:


Znuzyly mnie juz rozwazania
nad istota Czasu
nad sensem cierpienia
i nieuchronnoscia przemijania

rumiana stokrotka
na wilgotnej lace
przebija sie do slonca
I pianie koguta
w krystalicznym powietrzu
wznosi sie
obwieszczajac wiosne

uroda natury
argument “za” nie do odparcia

Here is my attempt to translate this poem into English. This was tricky because Kus interposed some English words (lace, argument) as well as some spellings that are not traditionally Polish. I felt the need to add a few words to flesh out my idea of what she may be trying to say. Here goes:


Already so tired of considering
the essence of Time,
the meaning of suffering,
the inevitability of passing on

the blood-red daisy
on damp lace
punctured by sunlight,
And the crow of the rooster
in the crystalline air
rising up to announce
the arrival of spring

nature’s beauty
an argument too compelling

Unfinished Business


Margo Robey’s Tuesday poetry prompt on June 2 was basically to take care of unfinished business, i. e. to find a poem that you might have abandoned or left in need of revision and complete it. Since I have so few poems in reserve, I decided to go back to an Oulipost challenge that I wanted to retry, although I think I may have been crazy to do so, given that it involves 36 lines of poetry and plenty of constraint.

Here is the challenge from April 19: “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.” (To be completely honest, I changed verb tenses on occasion and, once in a while, made plurals of singular nouns and vice versa.)

This poem was completed using words from the following two articles in the 06/03/14 edition of The New York Times: Dana Jennings, “The Forests of the Ocean,” p. D2, and Sindya N. Bhanoo, “When Coral Reefs Thrive, So Does Variety in Fish,” p. D4.

A Secret Garden

She fell in love with the neglected garden,
lavender that beckoned in the rain.
Astonishing events were in store,
unsuspected mermaids in the sand
knowing the surprising secret,
the unsung convergence of delights.

Reminders of the beauty that delights
in feathery greens of the moss garden,
critical, but overlooked, secret
shocking color spawned in pools of rain,
radiant crystals in the sugar sand,
samples that throb with life in store.

Fragmented phenomena that store
pieces of astonishing delights,
images preserved in the brown sand.
Tidal forms create a wave-tossed garden.
Leathery pods preserved in sea and rain,
a past that holds the present’s secret.

It vexes her when others share her secret,
what she created and has held in store
underwater and against the rain –
the seaweed, the yellow fish, the delights.
The love of her beguiling garden,
the current and the surface and the sand.

Like an obsessed beachcomber on the sand,
finding unseen labyrinths in secret
vine-like flora, where the ancient garden
in isolation maintains a jealous store
of diverse and alien delights,
she studies the beach in the heart of the rain.

Colors and shapes preserved in the rain,
a habitat evolving in the sand,
its pinks and reds providing her delights.
To thrive, diversity is the secret.
Past, present, future all in store,
love revealed, whole and new, in the garden.

This was a satisfying exercise. Thanks to Margo for the prompt that encouraged it!

Found Haiku – Hey, when the prompt is “found”…


The Daily News

So, I was moved by the prompt today on the NaHaiWriMo site to try some more found haiku. The prompt was, of course “found.”

So, from today’s New York Times:

smiling through the rest
this prim, prudish part of me
a blade at the heart

(The New York Times Magazine, 06/01/14, pp. 34-39. Jesse Lichtenstein, “The Smutty Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas.”)

Two haiku on marriage:

at difficult times
the life cycle of being
she sings her way through

nothing prepares you
unexpectedly thrilling
(he dreams of leaving)

(The New York Times, 06/01/14, p. ST13. Linda Marx, “After the Guests Have Left.)

a bittersweet mood
at the sudden reunion
the years slipped away

(The New York Times, 06/01/14, p. TR10. Liesl Schillinger, “A Return to Nievre and to Childhood Memories.)

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