P&W Prompt: Poetic Constraints

I’m always grateful when Poets & Writers throws a fun little exercise into their writers’ resources section, The Time Is Now.  The prompt for January 24 is this little gem:

Starting a new year often means an attempt at challenging resolutions or constraints, but in poetry, constraint can seem natural and even fun. For example, in Oulipo, formulas and frameworks (some more complicated than others) are applied to the lines and words of a poem. Try this exercise in constraint: Write a poem in which all of the words contain a vowel of your choice. For inspiration, read “Ballad in A” by Cathy Park Hong.

As a poet, let me tell ya, I love constraints.  Even when I’m writing outside of a particular form, I very often will impose seemingly arbitrary constraints on the poem I’m writing (prose poems, in particular, are fabulous for this).  Typically, I lean in the direction of rhythm when making up rules – paying particular attention to line length, pacing, meter, breath stations.  I don’t think I’ve ever played around with using the same letter throughout, so this was fun 🙂   If you know anything about me, it should come as no surprise that I used this exercise as an excuse to write a football poem.  Here’s the first and last draft, enjoy!



Coach Ogeron opens football season workouts

on Monday mornings: October, November,

playoffs coming soon, no doubt!  No,

you should doubt.  Look:  Spurlock throws,

broken hook, down goes Coach O,

on sod, on soil, on hallowed ground,

our score drops, our jocks stop short (not

short stop: football, yo!), our score,

bonfire sore, Coach O: stop, drop,



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