The Commuter Challenge

1 December 2011

The December 2011 Challenge

by CC @ 00:02

Write a Random Rubaiyat. Go to the Wikipedia website. On the left is a navigation box. Near the bottom of this box is a link titled “Random article”. Click on that link and write a rubaiyat on the subject of the article that comes up. No, you may not click on the link a second time if you don’t like the one that comes up. Seriously. If you happen to get a Disambiguation Page, then you should use the first link as your subject. But otherwise, you must accept what first comes up.

What is a rubaiyat, you ask? The rubaiyat form was popularized by Edward FitzGerald’s well-known English translation of “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”. It consists of any number of four-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of AABA. For the “interlocking rubaiyat”, which is what we’re doing this month, the third line provides the rhyme for the next stanza, thus AABA BBCB CCDC. For the final stanza, possible forms include XXYX, XXAX, and XXXX. Probably the most famous example of the interlocking rubaiyat is Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”.

The Results

Brian Raiter

on the subject of Cecil Pemberton

Cecil Pemberton, reserve centre forward for Burnley FC, 1930-31

In a crowded side-line clearance,
Cecil shows his perserverance —
Cheers when Reading takes a fall,
Boos the shouts of interference.
Running laps around the wall,
Passing back and forth the ball,
He trains to play a first-team game,
But Al has yet to make that call.
A reserve-side match of no acclaim:
Passing with a careful aim,
He dreams of his first-team appearance,
And waits for Al to do the same.
Ryan Finholm

on the subject of Nikola Jovanović

My country had a different name back then;
I was a Yugoslavian and when
I played for Belgrade, every game I shone,
And I was in my element again.
I was so talented and so well known
That I was the first non-Brit ever owned
By Manchester United, and immersed
In English League football — a milestone.
Then at Old Trafford my career was cursed;
Among the fifty players judged the worst
In forty years of football (per the Times)
I’m pissed to note I’m listed twenty-first.
When I was at what should have been my prime
A bad back wrecked what I once found sublime:
To kick a plastic ball around a field
With teammates Steve Coppell and Ashley Grimes.
Retired at thirty-one, my ego healed,
Back home in Montenegro I revealed
My passion for fine dining. Now I run
A restaurant serving fresh carp and eel.


  1. There are almost 4 million articles in Wikipedia, so it’s an extremely odd coincidence that both Brian and I got former footballers (i.e. association football, or soccer to us). But we hit that ‘Random Article’ button in each others’ presence, so it’s legit. Also, if we were going to cheat, I imagine we’d pick something different, maybe a topic either of us would feel more passionate about (at least that’s what I’d do).

    I was luckier than Brian; there was actually some information available on Wikipedia for Nikola Jovanovic, and there was even a little more available elsewhere on the web. My only problem is that there is also a male model with the same name, and who has a much larger internet presence than my former football player, so I had to wade through dozens and dozens of search results for the wrong Nikola Jovanovic before I could find anything at all.

    I do feel a little uncomfortable about having written this poem from his point of view, though, considering my subject is still alive and could potentially find/read this poem. To Mr. Jovanovic: If you’ve found this poem, I mean no offense. You were obviously a great football player throughout your career, and I have seen nothing but excellent reviews of your restaurant – many refer to Stari Most as the best restaurant in Montenegro.

    by RyanF — 31 December 2011 @ 14:10

  2. I had absolutely no information about my randomly selected footballer, beyond the Wikipedia page. After poking around for a while, I did find some newsreel footage of British players from that time period, mostly of people practicing passes and headers. I also learned that teams were actually composed of dozens of players, and that it was hardly unusual for someone to have zero “first-team appearances” for an entire season. Every year he was with a different team, and it wasn’t until his fourth and final team that he actually got off the reserve-team circuit. (I also learned from an older book that most players of that time period made very little money, which is perhaps why he stopped playing after that point.)

    With so little to go on, I chose to write about his mid-career point, stuck in a holding pattern, waiting at the mercy of the team captain to take the next step.

    by Brian — 5 January 2012 @ 09:38