The Commuter Challenge

4 January 2012

The January 2012 Challenge

by CC @ 21:12

Compose a poem of any length and format using only found phrases/text – street signs, courtroom transcripts, spam email – anything at all is fair game except for other poems or lyrics. You may add, change, or disregard punctuation if you like. Free-form, free-verse poetry is perfectly acceptable. You must also provide your sources (a list is fine, or a set of links, or photos, or whatever is applicable). See some information and examples at

The Results

Ryan Finholm

God is Dead (a triptych)

My body is beautiful.
My arm is long.
My armpit is sweet.
My elbow is strong.
My toothbrush is lost.
The cup is unwashed.
All drinking glasses are new.
Our plate are old.
The water is not cold.
We need coffee.
Chocolate destroy our tooth.
When you go to bed are you
I don’t know how to pray.
I mean ten minutes before you
sleep are you praying?
I don’t believe in God.
I don’t have God.
Why should I pray?
Man who does not believe in
God is dead.
You better think twice.

Source: Practical Conversations English – Cebuano For All Occasions by Ben E. Garcia, Our Press, Inc., Cebu City, Copyright 1987 by Ben E. Garcia, pages 5, 39 and 42. Each verse is excerpted exactly as written on the left (English) side of the page.

Fire and Ice

Fire, pyra, burning.
Burning is preparation.
Anything: death, distress,
or ardor of continuity,
firen with pottery,
illuminate or etc.
And to flame a –
To come between,
catch, begin in,
become great to ardor.
Fire the achievements.
Begin by ice,
IE the frozen:
frozen or juice.
Diamond scalping.
Management, icing to icing,
defensive break to informal readiness.
Victory situation.

Source: Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th edition, editors Michael Agnes and David Guralnik, copyright 2001 IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., pages 532 and 706. The text of the poem is the first word of each line of the definition entries for the words fire and ice in order from top to bottom.

Brian Raiter

Networking Event

Locale of St. Catherine’s Monastery, said to be the world’s oldest
working monastery
Underworld leader
“The Simpsons” character with platform shoes
“Star Trek II” villain
“Barbarella” extras, for short
Skater Yamaguchi
George nicknamed Mr. Basketball
Appear on the scene
Opening word?
“How ya doin’, bro?”
Meal with wine
Quick drink
“What chutzpah!”
Playful response to a good insult
“Tsk! Tsk!”
You might rub a knife across it
Like some fortresses
It might be batted at a knockout
Carnal craving
Go up
Graceful horse
Hold fast
Sugary quaffs
One-point score, of a sort
Didn’t wait until Christmas, say
Like some T-shirt designs
It was dropped at Woodstock
European freshwater fish
Swivel on an axis

Source: clues from The New York Times Sunday Crossword, January 29, 2012:


  1. I was surprised by how difficult this challenge was. I had a lot of ideas that I thought would bear fruit, but most of my approaches didn’t work. For example, I spent a lot of time poring over an exhaustive grammar FAQ list I’d found on the internet: I thought I’d compile a poem from various example sentences they used, or take some of the odd phrasings created by the inclusion of words as objects out of context for effect. But none of that came to anything.

    I looked everywhere for truly unintentional rhymes, but only had luck with the English-Cebuano phrasebook. FYI I added nothing at all to those phrasebook excerpts, and I added nothing except punctuation to the Fire and Ice found poem – it is essentially a list of random words created by the initial word in each line (not each sentence, but each physical line) of the very long dictionary definitions. I was tempted to put a [sic] after “firen” (part of the etymology section at the start of the verb form definitions for fire in that dictionary entry), but figured it would detract.

    I like Brian’s crossword poem, and now I’ll never look at another crossword without seeking couplets or complementary neighboring phrases in the clue lists.

    by RyanF — 1 February 2012 @ 11:48

  2. This was one of those months where I got the idea for it right away, namely of using the clues from a single crossword puzzle. I knew that the results were likely to be only marginally coherent, so I waited to see if I might stumble across any better ideas. Come the last Sunday of the month, though, this was still my favorite idea, so I bought a NY Times.

    There are a couple of bizarre nonsequiturs (or so they might seem …), but overall it just manages to tell a story.

    I really tried to do a better job of assembling the scanned version, but those tiny slips of newsprint paper were impossible to keep aligned while being taped down.

    by Brian — 3 February 2012 @ 08:19