Wednesday, November 30, 2016


This doesn't really count as an outside challenge, but I have been going through my old, discarded writings lately, and I found an idea I had for product placement in works of literature. I also had (perhaps separately) the idea for "antivertisements" - poems discouraging people from buying products. I put the ideas together and tried executing two of these -- one for Axe in the style of Sylvia Plath, and one for Taco Bell in the style of Jane Austen.

To be fair, though, even the most disgusting description of a Taco Bell taco makes me hungry.

And now, for your post-Thanksgiving pleasure:

Taco Bell
by Jane Austen

A Scene from Chapter 1:

"Love does more to stir a young girl's heart than money. An old girl, now...that's a different matter entirely," Mr. Dimpsey noted as he poured several packets of Fire Sauce into his first beef taco of the evening.  No one could accuse Mr. Dimpsey of being overly delicate in either his eating habits or his addresses to Mrs. Dimpsey.  Mrs, Dimpsey, in spite of years of close observation of Mr. Dimpsey's manners, was always amazed both by his sharp remarks and by the distressing amount of tacos he could consume in any meal.
"Mr. Dimpsey, please!  I am an old girl to you, I suppose, but I haven't a heart for myself anymore.  My only heart is for my daughter, who does not seem to have been favored with this indispensable organ of her own."
"Mother, if you'll pardon me, I must protest.  My heart is quite real, though it is light and airy as a cinnamon twist."

"Yes, my daughter, as light and airy, and with the same consistency - that of a butterfly wing," said Mrs. Dimpsey.
Mr. Dimpsey finished his first taco in two bites and was already in the midst of his second as he chided Diana, his only daughter. 

"I dare say, Diana, your heart could break as quickly as a crunchy taco shell at the first bite of a solid man with any appetite about him.  You won't stand a chance unless you toughen up, like a crunchy taco that has been at rest under a heating lamp for several days, in a delicious lukewarm pallor that ferments and enhances the flavor of the beef mixture inside." 
"Well anyway, father, I haven't the slightest notion of entertaining any gentlemen this summer.  Although if I did, I dare say we would occasionally exchange these dull plain tacos for a cheesy steaktang and applesauce burrito, which you know to be a favorite of mine."
Mr. Dimpsey chuckled as he swallowed his fifth taco.  "This is quite so, Diana.  And I tell you, we shall have such burritos in a fortnight when the young Mr. Whicklesby, our new neighbor, joins us for a late night snack, as I have thusly and this very afternoon invited him to do!"

An Ad for Axe Deodorant by Sylvia Plath

To my partner
In death and other devilry--
You know too well the old

Miasma theory of disease and how
Your mist of hawk blood
Infected me.
Make a model of me.
You have a multitude of muses
Just as there are many scents of Axe,

from Dank Leopard, to Farting Melon,
to Packed Sand Hard Enough for Camels
to Traverse Into The Center

Of My Heart Which Is Sick
With Your Scent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Graders and Fractions

My most recent poem challenge comes from my friend Kathleen, a fabulous first grade teacher who loves her students and spends ample time and money on her class prep.  Her challenge to me was:

"Fractions!  Must include 1/4, 1/2, 1/3, and 1 whole and be appropriate for 1st graders!" 

I was excited by the idea of fractions. My first thought was to go abstract and write stuff like "the sky is 1/2 of your soul, which is one whole biscuit," or something of the sort of nonsense I enjoy, but I remembered the spirit of the challenge -- to educate the youth about fractions. Not to confuse them. Interestingly, this was difficult to do without resorting to a narrative about how Adam's friend wants to share an apple with him, so he has to divide it into two, then three, then four slices.

Actually, that would have been an interesting Biblical allusion. But again, my goal was to educate...about fractions...not confuse the kids theologically. 

So here is what I came up with:


Look outside -
do you see the ants
walking in the scoop of ice cream
you dropped on the sidewalk?

Guess how many ants are there,
stomping around in chocolate chips.

Let's say there are 100 ants.
Do you think they might like an apple?
If you put an apple slice
beside the scoop of ice cream
and half the ants move
to the crisp fruit,
how many ants would move?
Yes. 50.
1/2 of 100 is 50.

What if you knew ants
like to swim in soda,
and you poured a soda river
in a crack in the sidewalk
beside the ice cream and the apple?
What if you also knew some ants
like chicken nuggets,
and you put one
(with ketchup)
on the ground beside the ice cream,
the apple, the soda river?

Then the hundred ants might have a meeting,
and the queen might say,
"We need to divide and eat!
1/4 of us will eat fruit,
1/4 of us will eat ice cream,
1/4 of us will eat soda,
1/4 of us will eat the nugget!"

Then how many ants would go hiking
on the solid apple?
How many ants would ski
in the ice cream?
How many ants would dive
into the soda river?
How many ants would go climbing
the chicken nugget?

You're right - the answer to all is 25.
1/4 of 100 is 25.
But what if you took back
the nugget, and forced the ants to live
with just three snacks?
How many ants would live on each
if the ants divided evenly?
33 and 1/3 ants would live in apple.
33 and 1/3 ants would live in soda.
33 and 1/3 ants would live in ice cream.
1/3 of 100 is 33 and 1/3.

And you are one whole kid,
and you can eat more
than a hundred hungry ants.
Kathleen's characteristically encouraging review:
"Your poem is amazing! I love it! Such a clear visual!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Offending Adam and The Cresset

I have been meaning to say that I have recently (well, since my last remote update) had poems published in--

The Offending Adam, an amazing online journal, where Ryan Winet wrote a really beautiful intro to my poems:

The Cresset, an amazing Lutheran print journal:

I'm also open for challenges again!  You can't wait until you're on entirely stable ground to write poems, right?