The Commuter Challenge

2 November 2009

The November 2009 Challenge

by CC @ 14:15

Write a set of three double dactyls. (Consult Wikipedia for a concise explanation of the constraints of the double dactyl.) You can pick anyone and anything for your subjects. However, what you do not get to choose are the single-word lines. Instead, you must use the words in this list:

  • Organizational
  • Sentimentality
  • Unsatisfactory

Use each one only once per poem.

The Results

Brian Raiter


Higgeldy Piggeldy,
Ludwig van Beethoven —
What, in this age, has your
Music become?
Or just a whole lot of
Da da da dum?


Fiddle-dee Diddle-dee,
Old Jean Sibelius —
Vexed by his task to all
Finland inspire —
Fearful that they would be
Hid his unfinished works
In a small fire.


Hickory Dickory,
Boulez the serialist
Wished for his works to have
Some brand new shape.
Patterns extended to
Make music sound like a
Bunch of red tape.
Ryan Finholm
Ry mo ta, Die mo ta
National Novel Month
Kept me from making some
Dactyls this time.
Brought on this rhyme.


  1. For the record: Ryan’s single submission was submitted late, and I’m 99% sure that it was composed entirely in the first few hours of the month of December. I included it here mainly because it was the first ever Commuter Challenge entry submitted to me via text message.

    by CC — 2 December 2009 @ 02:01

  2. In November I began reading The Rest is Noise, a history of 20th century music that’s been sitting on my must-read list for months. So creating double-dactyls about composers seemed a natural. I was therefore rather frustrated at being unable to find any double-dactylic names. I finally had to go back to previous centuries to get Beethoven.

    You’d think Sibelius could have had the courtesy to give himself some kind of middle initial when he Gallicized his given name, but nooo. Despite this, I knew I wanted to include him after reading about his 1945 auto-da-fe.

    I’m not as happy with my third entry. The word “organizational” just begged to be used in a swipe at total serialism, and so I obliged. But it’s such an easy target. Also, I think that in general the twelve-tone composers get a lot more flak than they deserve. I also felt a little bad about singling out Pierre Boulez. Really, almost all of the hardcore total serialists mellowed out later in life and began to incorporate varying degrees of tonality in their music. But Boulez was more of a hardass about it in his youth than almost anyone else, so I gave him the honor.

    by Brian — 2 December 2009 @ 02:16

  3. I believe that the decision to do double dactyls this month was in part (maybe a large part) influenced by the fact that I was going to try to complete a 50K-word National Novel Writing Month novel (see nanowrimo dot org for more info) in November, and thus wouldn’t have much time for anything creative that wasn’t novel-related. It made sense to try double dactyls again because I thought that they were fun and easy the last time around, and figured that I could just pop a few out while working on the novel. I don’t know why, but I was totally blocked this time around, and since the double dactyls were a comparatively low priority to the novel, I didn’t have time to just force something out. After the pressure of the novel was over, I saw Brian’s submissions posted above and started kicking myself. I texted my one double dactyl (which does not meet the submission requirements) to Brian for fun, not really expecting him to post the rhyme. If the single-word lines had been anything other than an adjective/adjective/noun combination, I doubt that such a trick would have worked at all.

    Brian’s Beethoven poem is really great. All of them are, really, but the humor in the Beethoven submission is the best, really clever.

    by RyanF — 4 January 2010 @ 22:32