The Commuter Challenge

2 April 2011

The April 2011 Challenge

by CC @ 20:50

This month we’re doing slant rhyme movie poems. The poem itself can be as long or as short as you like, but it must contain more slant rhymes than regular rhymes, and you should strive to use slant rhymes exclusively. Extra credit for using one or more unforgivably egregious slant rhymes, like rhyming lion with motion, or rough with bough. As an added constraint, the poem should reference a movie (any movie). Whether the poem is entirely about a movie or merely contains a fleeting reference to a movie is up to your discretion.

The Results

Ryan Finholm
O why do they show awful movies on planes,
Rom-coms, kids’ movies and such?
Where I have to watch them again and again,
O why do they show them – just to be mean?
Better films easily could replace them;
Instead, they just show dreadful mush.
O why do you show all those movies so lame?
Rom-coms and kids’ movies suck.
Why do you watch all the films you don’t like,
When you could just read a book?
You put on the headphones and turn out the light,
Then tune in to something you’re sure to deride.
Are you just searching for reasons to gripe?
Whining for attention, you schmuck?
O why do you watch all those films for chrissake,
And then spout your gobbledygook?
Brian Raiter
In time before time had beginning or end,
The world was as changeless and firm as its spin,
And nothing disturbed any women or men.
But one day a man came awake from a dream,
And found himself restless and trembling within,
And couldn’t stop thinking of what he had seen.
So finally, he dropped to his knees and he prayed.
At once there arose an irregular breeze,
And down came an angel in radiant blaze.
“Now how could a dream,” the angel declaimed,
“A fanciful image, take hold of your ken?
Do tell.” So the man did his best to explain:
“Such wonderful things I saw in my dream!
Great towers, and spires, and smooth-polished plains,
and speeding contraptions, and flying machines.
These things, with all of their rumbles and clangs,
Were driven, and owned, and designed, and machined,
and fashioned, and thought up, by human beings.
These people were gods! But never has come
A time with such folk. No, no one has seen
Such people at all … except in my dream.”
“No, never such people,” the angel agreed.
“But I know how the humans could reach this one day.
They can, and they will, when the time is set free.
I offer to help make your dream come to pass.”
This thought was enough to catch the man’s breath.
With eyes open wide, he pronounced the word, “Yes.”
“Then so from this day, let the humans ascend.
Here, look,” the angel commanded the man,
Who watched as the angel held open his hand.
Therein danced a light, like a thing made of air.
“What’s this?” the man asked, as its dance grew more wild,
And heard, as it grew to engulf him: “‘Tis fire.”
When nothing but ashes lay where he had been,
The angel sent outward his fiery flame,
Scorching the earth and its people at whim.
Till finally the gods heard the terrible screams,
And cast forth the angel, who fell to the sun,
To burn there himself till the end of time comes—
The angel named Lucifer Prometheus,
The angel who brought to humanity death,
And loss, and forgetting, and thereby progress.


  1. Early in the month I was thinking about origin myths, for some random reason, when it occurred to me that the story of an in-between creature (i.e. above mortals but below gods) assist humans by gifting them with knowledge and/or power against the gods’ wishes (and then suffers eternal torture) had two very different expressions in Lucifer and Prometheus. So I set out to try to write a third version that stood halfway between them.

    I think I blew the challenge, though, because I didn’t really reference a movie. At some point that constraint slipped my mind, and subsequently got lost in the writing process. I didn’t notice until after the deadline when I posted it. If pressed I suppose I could make some handwaving association between movies and dreams but the truth is I screwed up.

    by Brian — 1 May 2011 @ 02:49

  2. Oh, and I really really like Ryan’s submission. I know it’s not intended to be taken too seriously, but man it hits just the right note. And it’s very easy for me to imagine Ryan actually having this conversation with himself (internally). I laughed aloud.

    by Brian — 1 May 2011 @ 02:52

  3. My poems are failed triolets that were inspired by Frances Cornford’s “To a Fat Lady Seen from a Train” and/or Chesterton’s response poem. Since the first, fourth and seventh lines are supposed to be identical, as are the second and final lines, I thought that the reference to the triolet form would be particularly inappropriate for a slant rhyme challenge – not only are the lines not identical, but they don’t even rhyme properly (as required by the challenge). The verses were written during one of my many airplane trips that month. I don’t remember which movie was playing, but I’m sure you would have felt the same.

    One thing that I really wanted to do (and which I believe that Brian also did better than I) was to have an evolving slant, which was facilitated by the use of three or more slant-rhyming lines; “plane” and “again” are typical slant rhymes when you use that affected ‘uh-gayne’ pronunciation of ‘again’, but then you follow it by slant-rhyming “again” with “them”, which requires you to switch back to the ‘uh-gehn’ pronunciation of ‘again’, thus creating a slant-rhyme paradox. Of course that sort of got lost in my poem when I added those sloppy “mean” and “lame” slant rhymes.

    I believe that I came up with the concept for this Commuter Challenge, but I didn’t really like doing this one. As much as I love the poetry of Emily Dickinson (the almighty eternal queen of slant rhymes), and although some of my admiration for her is due to the shameless nerve of some of her slant rhymes, I generally believe that slant rhymes are sloppy and lazy. And they sound wrong. I know that the slant rhyme gimmick was the whole idea of the challenge, but for me there was something inherently unsatisfying about writing that awkward jumble of failed rhymes, even as a literary exercise, or even as a joke.

    Having said that, Brian’s entry is epic and incredibly impressive. I could never have done anything like that. It looks much more difficult that if he were to have made it a rhyming poem. And I dismiss his concern about not sticking to the constraint – let’s just tie it to ‘Clash of the Titans’ or ‘Quest for Fire’ and say he slant-complied with the constraint.

    by RyanF — 2 May 2011 @ 10:43

  4. I don’t myself feel that slant rhymes are sloppy and lazy, any more than I feel that “Paradise Lost” is lazy for not rhyming at all. I’d prefer to say that using slant rhymes is like performing without a net. (As in acrobatics, that is; not as in tennis.) The absence of perfect rhymes means that the work depends all the more on the meter and other poetical aspects. I tried to be rigid about meter in my poem for that reason, to the point of taking grammatical liberties in a couple of places. That’s also one reason why I chose to use triplets, to reinforce the sense of rhyme in the face of imperfect rhyming. (Although there are a couple of stanzas where the middle lines doesn’t rhyme at all. That’s due to me running out of time. I literally worked up to the last minute.)

    Ryan’s choice of using triolets was inspired for that reason. Triolets leans so heavily on repetition, I almost wouldn’t have noticed the slant rhymes if I hadn’t been expecting them.

    by Brian — 2 May 2011 @ 15:50

  5. Oh, and PS: I totally approve of the term “slant-complied”.

    by Brian — 2 May 2011 @ 17:38