The Commuter Challenge

1 June 2011

The June 2011 Challenge

by CC @ 01:08

Write a villanelle describing your least favorite food and why you are right to loathe it. Bonus points will be awarded for excoriating the tastes of those who enjoy it. Alternately, make the subject your most favorite food and why anyone of sound mind should love it (in which case bonus points for trashing those who don’t).

For reference, here is the Wikipedia entry for villanelles.

The Results

Brian Raiter
To taste your tuna casserole
Is not enough. It will not do.
I would as soon lick clean the bowl.
Though many dishes I extol,
I would all other fare eschew
To taste your tuna casserole.
I feel no urge for self-control.
Why should I faintly sip the dew?
I would as soon lick clean the bowl.
The days without you take their toll.
My tongue knows it is overdue
To taste your tuna casserole.
Your parting snub consumes my soul.
I ration out your last ragout.
I would as soon lick clean the bowl.
With acrid heart and paper roll,
I flush the relic left of you.
To taste your tuna casserole …
I would as soon lick clean the bowl.
Ryan Finholm
I simply cannot digest one ounce of Fox:
too gamy, too ugly, pedestrian too.
Fox lovers must live in an idiot box.
It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and it walks
the fine line ‘tween tasteless and toxic, it’s true,
I simply cannot digest one ounce of Fox.
The gun-toting, ‘right-to-life’ game hunter stalks
some pestilent beast for his ignorance stew;
Fox lovers must live in an idiot box.
It’s hick food, for Hatfields, McCoys and Murdochs,
that rational folks should avoid and eschew.
I simply cannot digest one ounce of Fox.
The Fox is the trickster, the liar; it mocks
the genuine values our forefathers knew.
Fox lovers must live in an idiot box.
Instead, why not bagels with cream cheese and lox,
or is that a bit too Semitic for you?
I simply cannot digest one ounce of Fox:
Fox lovers must live in an idiot box.


  1. Brian’s love/hate relationship with tuna casserole (and with the other subject of the poem) is awesome, and the toilet humor is so artfully phrased that I missed it on the first reading. After catching it, though, it makes me wonder if the tuna casserole itself is a lewd metaphor or allusion. I take comfort in the thought that I’m most likely overanalyzing it.

    Mine was started semi-last-minute, and when I finally sat down to work it out, I was surprised at how challenging it could be. Villanelles only have two different rhyme sounds, with seven different words of one and six of the other spread across 19 lines. Although I realize that the hated (or loved) food did not have to be one of the rhyming words, it seemed most natural to have one of the repeated lines end with the food in question, which would mean that I would have to find five or six rhymes for okra, eggplant, or oysters. I was not up to that, so instead I used the “Red Skates” entry from the band 15-16 Puzzle as inspiration for a villanelle diatribe.

    While reading the poem to myself (in my head), the meter sounded fine – a waltzy ‘de DA de de DA de de DA DA DA dum’. But every time I go back to it, I can’t seem to get the beats very easily, and now I think it has an awkward rhythm. If I’d taken more time, I probably would have re-worked it into iambic pentameter. I also realize that the repeated lines are not worked into the poem very well (certainly not as well as in Brian’s). But it is what it is.

    by RyanF — 1 July 2011 @ 16:09

  2. This challenge turned out rather better than I expected it to. As is typical for me these days, I spent most of the month with no good ideas for an approach, until about a week before the deadline. Atypically, however, the idea I finally had worked quite smoothly, and I got all the stanzas written that day, leaving me three days to make minor improvements — a process which I’m told is known as “doing a second draft”. It was very refreshing; I’ll have to explore the concept again sometime.

    It sometimes feels like my challenges are always extremely serious, so this month I made an effort to break out of that pattern and try to be funny for a change. For a poem with so much repetition, that all but demanded that the final couple twist the original meaning of the repeated lines. That in turn required the poem to change its viewpoint over a relatively short space. Those requirements gave me enough direction to sketch the overall shape. Then it was just a matter of looking at what else rhymed with “casserole” and “you”.

    And, of course, references to pooping are always guaranteed to get a laugh, right?

    You may choose to disbelieve me, but I swear that I didn’t plan the cunnilingual imagery. I stumbled into it entirely by accident. (Though I knew I had to keep it once I realized it was there.)

    I don’t really know why I initially picked tuna casserole to be the food in question. I guess it seemed like one of those dishes that everyone makes a little bit differently, so it makes a good stand-in for the person who made it. As for myself, I don’t like tuna at all, and I loathe all casseroles, so tuna casserole in particular is simply off the table, so to speak.

    I feel a little bad about deviating so much from the challenge description. That’s the second time in three months for me. Last time I at least had the excuse of forgetfulness. This time I knew full well that I was stretching the limits, but I just couldn’t help myself.

    by Brian — 1 July 2011 @ 22:17