The Commuter Challenge

1 February 2016

The February 2016 Challenge

by CC @ 17:11

Write a sonnet describing some news event that takes place during the month of February. If nothing noteworthy happens this month that speaks to your muse, then pick an otherwise forgettable and unimportant event and immortalize that instead.

Although you may choose any of the standard subtypes of the sonnet form for your poetry, you are encouraged to give serious consideration to the Pushkin sonnet.

The Results

Brian Raiter


A black hole to another beckoned;
Convolving to the nth degree,
They leak with every tenth of second
A solar mass of energy,
Irradiating local space-time,
And from the maelstrom of that place climb
Enormous gravitational waves —
For that is how space-time behaves.
A billion light-years’ perserverence,
Those waves will nudge a plain machine
Of mirrors and a laser beam,
And shift its lines of interference,
Observable to human eyes —
Who will, and claim a Nobel Prize.

Carrier Signal

We change, and change as well, our telephones.
It isn’t like the old Beijing-town ways.
The hand-cranks, operators, dial tones —
Then party lines, and then a ringdown phase —
Became a single network, planet-sized,
And cell phone towers are the thing, now’days.
A multitude of tools have been devised:
A phone comes with an undersecretary.
Our means, our ways, our world, our selves revised —
Affected by the wonder-tech we carry.
Too much transformed to usefully compare to
The past, the future comes a speck unwary.
That shift will tell us more than we might care to
Know about ourselves and what we’re heir to.
Melanie Noel
Blank in the blue throat of air
it was always there, the telling shift,
midnight worn behind its feral
forms.  Double cave and cleft:
Onyx at the mirror of onyx, not
skipped but skipping the dry water
of space.  There the crest, blue
shift    new speech, marooned
to its marooning.  Inspiral phase,
phase of merger and ringdown
phase, gravitational wave aground
in sealight, the warp’s pulse against
the quay.  Echo in ear and mirror,
of orbital decay, nearer here.
Ryan Finholm
When I turned on the news this morning
(on February twenty-nine)
I heard a newscaster informing,
with correspondent on the line
direct from Moscow, news of mayhem
and shocks, no respite to allay them:
The nanny of a two-year-old
set fire to the girl’s household
then went on to behead the daughter.
As if that wasn’t too perverse,
she stuffed the head into her purse
to show off to the cops who caught her.
I guess that’s one of many ways
to quit your childcare job these days.

1 comment

  1. When early in the month, LIGO announced that they would finally hold a press conference, I knew right away that this was going to be the subject for my sonnet. Rumors had leaked out that they had finally measured gravitational waves months earlier, and everyone was just waiting for them to finish double-checking their work and make the call. The official announcement took place on February 11th, and the next day I wrote the first draft of my sonnet. At odd moments over the next several days I fiddled with the wording (and some of the phrasing) until I ran out of ideas for improvement.

    My second entry was driven by two separate motivations. Firstly, I wanted to write another “terza rima sonnet” (what Ryan has occasionally dubbed a “breadbox sonnet”), since at this point Ryan has written quite a bit more of them of them than I have. Secondly, Melanie wanted to add an extra constraint to our entries of having a shared line. We selected the one about the ringdown phase (partly for being nicely iambic), but since I had already finished a sonnet, I felt compelled to pick a different subject matter. So I looked to see what else “ringdown” could refer to, and discovered that it was a type of telephone signalling, and this brought to my mind the news of Apple facing off with the FBI over privacy concerns. The resulting sonnet has a couple of lines which don’t really make much sense, and are driven entirely by the need to get a rhyme in at the necessary point. But that difficulty is part of what I enjoy about this sonnet form.

    And speaking of which, I love Melanie’s entry. It’s very different from the sort of thing that Ryan and I usually write for the Commuter Challenge, and lends some much-needed class to this place.

    by Brian — 2 March 2016 @ 02:54