Puns? Wordplay? How does one do?

One of the things that I have noticed in a lot of my fellow poet’s writing is that they include puns and wordplay. And I really like this but it has always been a hard thing for me to do. What is it that makes a pun or wordplay great? Well one of the reasons why I like wordplay is that a line, or sentence, can have a double meaning. For example I absolutely loved Chloe’s last two lines in her poem that we revised because I saw it as having a double meaning. And I am wondering how does someone do that? Does it come naturally or do you have to sit and write for hours until you can get a pun or wordplay going?

So, for those who are great at putting in puns or wordplay in their poems can you tell me how is it that you do it? And if there are any poetry puns that you just want to share, I would love to read them!

I found this Buzzfeed list of poetry puns that are pretty punny:


Revision with Sound in Mind

While perusing my poems again and beginning the revision process, I’ve realized that my poetry tends to be less thematic and more of a series of aurally pleasing sounds.  I think that’s why, as a poet, I have a hard time giving up the sequence of words in a line if I really loved writing them.  Therefore, the revision process is hard for me when I want to keep a line simply because it has a great rhythm or sound.  I don’t know if this is helpful, but I’ve compiled the list of questions I ask myself when I’m in the process of revision and I really want to keep a line:

  1. Is the sound this line is achieving already echoed in earlier lines/stanzas?
  2. Is it possible to acquire that sound with another phrase?
  3. Will another phrase convey the same feeling you want to express without a loss of clarity?
  4. Will my poem be successful as a whole if I simply cut this word/line?
  5. Do any other lines in the poem reflect the content of this line, but in a different way?
  6. How often have you used that word in your poetry?
  7. When was the last time you took a look at a thesaurus?  Try that.
  8. Will adding lines around this line/changing up the order of the lines and stanzas allow this line to do the work you want it to do?
  9. Read the poem aloud, does this line make your mouth do the work you want your reader’s mouth to do as it is read?
  10. Have others pointed out the flaws in this line?  Have many people seen the same issue with this line?

Happy revisions!

Revision Process

Hey all. Thanksgiving Break is coming to a close, and it’ll be time to get back to the final grind to end this semester. Our rounds of workshop revisions will also be over, but we all know there’s more to come when we finally sit down to complete that final portfolio. It took me forever just to get through the revision I handed in to class; so, of course, I always get nervous around this time. In fact, I find it much easier to write an entirely new poem than to revise an old one. How does everyone else work through the revision process? Do all of you tend to open a blank page and start anew, or do you just build off of the poem that’s in front of you? Seriously, though, I’d love some advice–perhaps if I utilize the same techniques as all of you, the revision process won’t be something that I’ll always dread. Cheers!

Who Are Your Favorite Poets to listen to?

From the Fishhouse came with a CD and I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. And I really like what some of the poets sound like when they read. Especially Kate Northrop when she reads her poem The Film because I like how sharp her short lines are and how elongated and soft her longer lines are. But I also liked how Patrick Rosal read his poem Uncommon Denominators because it made feel disgusting, it felt like I had someone whispering into my ear aggressively.

I have other poets that I like to listen to that are not from Fishhouse as well. One of them Langston Hughes, I posted about him in Poetry I so I won’t talk about him too much, but I just love the way he reads because it feels like a song to me. He articulates his words and plays with sound like a musician. And his poems always have a mellow tempo to them. I usually start my mornings listening to him read the Weary Blues–it’s so gooooooooooooood.

So here’s my question: are there any poets, whether old or new just as long as it is their voice that you hear, that you like to listen to?

Here’s a few Spotify playlists that I like to listen to:

What Was Your Poem Doing Before You Wrote Your Poem?

Happy Thanksgiving!

So I’ve started to think of my poems as living beings. And I’ve been wondering about what happens to them before they were written on loose leaf. Because of Christy, I’ve noticed that almost all of my poems have characters in them. I believe that characters have lives before and after their story is told, and I think it would be interesting to write about what a character in your poem, or what your poem itself, did before you put pen to paper.

For my poem “Dear Brother” I believe that before the poem was written the sister and brother were watching their mother’s favorite movie. And having their mother’s favorite breakfast before visiting her grave.

Well that’s my example. I haven’t gotten a poem out of it yet, but if you get a poem out of wondering stuff like this then awesome! If you want to share then please do!


Alliteration and Alliteration (Prompt)

While looking for the definition of alliteration on google I discovered that it is defined as, “the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.” I feel sad that in the definition of alliteration there isn’t much alliteration, but we must move on because that isn’t what this post is about.

Last semester I was inspired to write a poem that had words that only started with the letter A by the first line of Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know much about it, but once I read the first line I knew that I had to write a poem like the first line of the book.

So the prompt is to write a poem that has words that only start with the letter you choose. It can be A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, but each word must start with the same letter. And if you know another language try alliterating in that language–that would be cool to read! And if this is too difficult then maybe each stanza of your poem can have it’s own letter. First stanza could be A words, the second could be B words, etc. It doesn’t have to go in alphabetical order.

Here’s the first line of Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa:

“Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.”

Here are more first lines to inspire you to write any kind of poetry:


Can I Pull Off a William Carlos Williams Impression?

I sometimes am bored. Like I am now, sitting alone in my suite’s lounge, in my underwear waiting to go home in the morning. Roseanne Barn (Barr?) just asked James Corden to help her roll up her spanks.

Anyway, while looking up interviews of poets on Youtube, I came across this lovely interview. It is William Carlos Williams being interviewed on the Mary McBride Show in 1950. The first impression of William Carlos Williams was that that was not the voice that I thought he had. With a name like William Carlos Williams how could I not have expected a man with a deep voice who chews on his cheek as he speaks? I kind of like the way he talks–it feels like Mr. Rogers to me.

In the interview he says that he was born a poet and a critic. I believe that I am the same because whenever I write a line, as soon as I do, I have to fix it. I am always criticizing myself when I write. So my question is were you guys born a poet and a critic like William Carlos Williams? Or were you just born a poet? or a critic? or neither?


Here’s the video if you guys want to check it out. It’s great to listen to when you’re by yourself in a dark room.

Fan Fiction Poetry?

I am in love with the show Twin Peaks. Like really in love with it. Ask any of my friends, I dare you, and they’ll tell you that it’s all I talk about. Last semester I wrote a poem that used characters from Twin Peaks.

I wonder if any of you have done the same for your favorite TV show, movie, or book. Have you? Tell me and if you want you can post it here too!


OK, background to my poem. Special Agent Dale Cooper is usually calm and collected in the show, so I wondered what he would be like if wasn’t so calm and collected. Diane is an “off show” character that he sends recordings of what he learns of Twin peaks to.


Here’s my poem:

The Desperate Recordings of Agent Dale Cooper

When are you going
to visit me? “It is
happening again,” he
told me—

How’s the family doing?

Do you know others? Is
that why you won’t visit?

“There’s a man…
in a smiling bag,” he
told me—

There are bags under my
eyes. How long
has it been?

tired of it.

Please, Diane, Diane—
Why won’t you visit me?

A Scientific Writing Prompt

Hi all!

So some people have posted a lot of prompts for writing, and I thought I’d try to add my feelings on inspiration to the mix. Obviously, you’re about to get some ecology. I’m so sorry. I’m going to intersperse some photos, because I’m also enamored with the beauty of bees, and hope the photos might inspire you even if the material doesn’t. I am just clearly really into the idea of using poetry to overcome the typical ‘textbook’ barrier people have with science, and would love to engage others in that process of ‘recreating’ science.

The following are some Apis – honeybees on some backlit honeycomb. Fun fact: almost every bee you’ve ever met is a female. This has to do with the unique reproductive strategy of eusocial/colony bees (which I will get into later in the post). But yeah. The colonies are basically biological sororities.


I love bees – I think I love them like Arianna loves hermit crabs. So I’d like to tell you some stuff about them, and then see if any of you can/are interested in turning some of the science into lines of poems. I would love it if everyone wrote a line or two, and we made a collaborative poem, because that would be SO eusocial of us (basically, so like the colony system that my favorite bees use) but I’ll settle for just making the post and seeing if anyone bites. Here is a Bombus – bumblebee. Just as an adorable fact (these guys are probs my favorite), that little black spot between the wings will go bald during most bumblebees’ lifespans; the little hairs get worn away over time as the bumblebee brushes against things. Most of the bees I’m working with in my research have serious baldspots.

So most bees engage in a principle known as eusociality. 

Eusociality – the highest form of organization of animal sociality defined by three major characteristics:
– reproductive divisions of labor (there is a sterile/non-reproductive caste and a reproductive caste)
– overlapping generations of adults
– cooperative brood care

Ants, bees, termites, naked mole rats, S. regalis (a parasitic shrimp), aphids and thrips are all eusocial – most of the eusocial organisms are found to be insects. Eusociality results in behavior like this:

Fire Ant Raft

Look at the adorable pollen dusted bee below. Also a Bombus. Awwww.

So according to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, each individual acts to increase it’s own fitness – meaning each individual acts to survive and reproduce and pass on its own genes. So how does this highly developed eusocial form develop with sterile workers? After all, there is no fitness to being sterile so it seems like all evolutionary change would resist this model of social structure.
The prevailing theory is that of Kin Selection – selection that favors traits that benefit one’s relatives at the cost of one’s own fitness. This has to do with the concept of direct fitness (i.e. your offspring) vs. indirect fitness (your family members’ offspring that carry some, but a lower percentage, of your genes). These two forms of fitness together make up your inclusive fitness. Kin selection scientists argue that Darwin’s Theory means that each individual will act to increase their own inclusive fitness, not just their direct fitness. This helps to explain altruism in humans too.

(Another adorable honeybee – fluffy like a puppy!)

Hamilton’s Rule was hypothesized to add some mathematical support to the idea of kin selection.

rb >c      where r = relatedness of actor to recipient of action (i.e. your child has 50% of your genes, so .5 in that case)
b = benefit to recipient
c = cost to actor

And this rule really does form the basis of our understanding of eusocial insects because ‘r’ is special for eusocial. This is because most (not all but MOST) eusocial insect societies are haplodiploid.

Haplodiploidy is the concept that males of the society are haploid (contain half a genome, i.e. one of each chromosome) and females are diploid (contain a full genome/two of each chromosome, like humans). What does this mean?

(Leafcutter bee above; they make circles in leaves – we have a ton in Geneseo.)
Imagine you have a Queen (who is diploid) with two genes – AaBb – and a male (who is haploid) like this – AB. When mating, the male passes on 100% of his genes – AB – to all of his offspring, because he only has one copy. So every diploid daughter is going to have an ‘AB’ in her genome. Now the Queen does that whole meiosis deal, so her genes recombine. Let’s say they’re having two baby bees so we’ll randomly assort for the mama bee to pass on: Ab and AB (other possibilities would be: aB and ab).

One of the baby bees is going to turn out: AB + Ab = AABb. The other baby bee is going to turn out: AB + AB = AABB. See how the sisters are 75% identical – differing only at the second ‘B’?

(Above: Sweat Bee – we have those around here, too)
The father being haploid instead of diploid means there’s no chance for his genes to be passed on non-identically; therefore all sister bees are 75% related (50% from dad, and 25% from mom).

This is huge – breakthrough – because it means that sisters in eusocial insect colonies are more related to one another than to their own mother. This is why (according to Hamilton’s rule) sterility existed – because it is more beneficial for the sisters to help the Queen reproduce and make more sisters that are 75% identical to them in genome than it is for them to reproduce themselves (and be only 50% related to their offspring).

Seriously, you can’t make this shit up. Science is so swag.

The kleptoparasitic cuckoo bee

Last fun fact – the pollen collecting parts of a bee are known as a ‘scopa’; coming from the Latin, for broom.


An Expansion

This is kind of an expansion of the last post I published on the site.


How do we build them in a poem? There are a lot of ways in fiction that we build characters, be it through dialogue, actions, thoughts, and interactions with others in the story. I’ve noticed that in a lot of my poems, my speakers and subjects have one goal in mind and if they deviate from this whatsoever, the point of the poem will be lost.

How do we create rounded characters in a poem that stretches across only a few lines?

Do we need to build characters from the ground up? In fiction, we focused on a lot of different aspects, usually compiling them into a character bio and working off that. Starting with the basics, we have name, age, gender, and general appearance. But then we expand. What’s their favourite food and why? Who was their first kiss and did it mean anything to them? What are their goals, aspirations? How are they going to get there?

For those of you that have built characters in your poems from the ground up, how did it work out for you? Do you find it easier to create single-minded characters for the sake of the poem? How often do you find yourself using the same person in more than one of your poems?