Monday, June 9, 2014

From Oulipost 2014: Shaken, not Speared

Today's post is from the penultimate day of Oulipost 2014, which found us downing some CANADA DRY:
The name of this procedure is taken from the soft drink marketed as “the champagne of ginger ales.” The drink may have bubbles, but it isn’t champagne. In the words of Paul Fournel, who coined the term, a Canada Dry text “has the taste and color of a restriction but does not follow a restriction.” (A musical example is Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes” - Be creative, and write a poem sourced from your newspaper that sounds like it’s been Oulipo-ed, but hasn’t.

This can be a fun technique, if you allow yourself to pretend there are rules and constraints when there aren't, if that makes any sense. For inspiration and to experience some all-around creative genius-ness, be sure to check out the other Canada Dry poems at Found Poetry Review!


Shaken, not Speared

To be or not.
To bethat is the question

rough and weathered: Do the daring 
and windy buds of May shake, my darling?

O Woe, all the world is a stage, so what is a name?
A thing that is verboten in the state of Denmark, methinks,

where the Mister’s dove does coo too much! Wailful, my mistress sighs
and nothing like the sun shall compare love's light wings to a summer day. Nay.

A chance to sleep or maybe even dream. Perchance it is an ay here, yay there, nay
everywhere. Everywhere a nay, nay. And where is the rub, Friends? Roaming

the countryside, where men lend us their ears? But now it is the winter.
And of our discontent is this above all: to thine ownself be few 

and far between. For Hope is a thing with horse feathers. 
A horse! Alas, my kingdom is hoarse. O Knight,

good night, parting is such sweet sorrow, 
you may think. I love you. Not.

Poem sources
Indy Star 29 Apr 2014.  [Indianapolis, Indiana]. Print. 
various articles; opinion and advice columns; letters to editor, email, and social media responses; advertising; obituaries; classifieds; weather; legal notices; TV listings and highlights

Process notes

Oh, I got up very early this morning for this technique. I've been concerned about it all month. I couldn't find any further explanation of it other than the instructions above, and I couldn't find any examples. So, I approached it differently than with the previous Oulipost poems: I started out with something already in mind, which is: I wanted it to be an Canada-Dry abomination of famous Shakespeare lines. 

I began this morning by going through the paper searching for words that I could arrange into one of Shakespeare's lines, but it wasn't working. I felt frantic and overwhelmed. So many words, yet I couldn't find my way to a Shakespeare line. 

So I went in reverse and wrote the poem first, using words that would likely be found in the paper, assuming I used a technique called remix, explained below. I then went through the newspaper looking for the words of the poem. If, within the remix constraints I'd given myself, I couldn't find a particular word in the source text, I replaced it with a new word and then tried to find that new word, until I could source all words that were in the poem but one, which is there on purpose.

The Canada-Dry elements (i.e., the techniques or rules being suggested that are not really there), which I hope come across are:
  • [cento] I'm hoping that, overall, the poem seems to be cento of some of Shakespeare's more famous lines, which of course it isn't. (There is a suggestion of a line from a nursery rhyme, a Dickinson poem, and an idiom.)
  • [keeping the lines, but changing syntax] and that, at first, the poem seems to be Shakespeare's original lines subject to the rule of changing the original syntax
  • [homonyms] and that later in the poem, it appears the poem is using homonyms in some consistently patterned way 
  • [some sort of snowball/melting snowball] and that it appears the poem is a snowball of sorts, in which lines increase / decrease in some consistent way, such as adding / subtracting two words per line. 
I also Canada-Dried the rule to use what I could find (or remix in this case) in the day's newspaper by including the word verboten, which cannot be found in the source text using the remix rules I established for the poem.

Remix: The process I used for the poem and its title is remix, in which I mixed and rearranged phrases and individual words chosen out of the text, as well as new words that were not in the text, but that were discovered by applying erasure to a word or phrase. The modifications to the source text could include one or more of the following: 
  • change in verb tense, e.g. compared --> compare
  • concatenation of whole words to form one new word. e.g., country + side --> countryside
  • erasure within a word to create a new word, e.g. through --> rough
  • erasure within a phrase to form a new word, e.g. the board’s decision  --> hoarse


  1. Wonderful, and wonderfully outside the box, Nancy!

  2. I adore the entire post, Okay, the poem. I wish I were still teaching so I could share it with my classes. Fabulous and endlessly entertaining. The process notes helped me tremendously and were great fun, besides.

  3. I wish that more people shared their process as you did here, Nancy. I so enjoyed reading this and admire the time and energy that you put into this poem!

  4. Great poem! It's funny that you used "Shaken, not Speared" as your title and without knowing you did that I had titled mine "Shaken, then Stirred: A Jarred Version." I've enjoyed seeing how many Ouliposters used a lot of the same words on the same days during this project...and I haven't even read every poem, I'm sure there's more coincidences!


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