Variant short-line: Favorite Words

A couple of months ago, when a friend told me that “I had his word” that he would meet me for coffee, I asked him what his word was. We jokingly exchanged favorite words, and promised not to use them until we met up with one another. Here are a collection of favorite words from different people I have interacted with recently. The list will continue to grow as I talk with more people.



Haiku: Quotation

I laughed my ass off
Fuck! Stop throwing food around.
I can’t handle it
– Emmett Wynn

American thing:
Eating goldfish everyday.
Hesketh says “Hello”.
– Christina Hesketh

“I am not alone.
I am not alone at all.”
He nods, not speaking.
– Andrew Bortvin

“Shut up, gypsy queen!”
I am talking to you now.
He has lovely eyes.
– Raghav Joshi

“A friend is staying,
and he will sleep on the couch.
Is that fine with you?”
– Saanya Ojha

“What are you doing
this summer?” she asks of me
over facebook chat.
– Jordan Baker

“Let’s do dinner soon,”
I ask my older brother.
He does not respond.
– Kristen Kelly

“Pasta fiesta!”
Martin declares. “This is great!
Chop chop chop chop chop.”
– Martin Falk

“Does anyone want
something to drink?” He comes back
with sparkling cider.
– Yingan Xu

Here are a couple of haiku that I have written from things that friends have said over the past few days. It was interesting to be analyzing the things that my friends were saying for the number of syllables their sentences had, rather than actively participating in conversation and contributing meaningfully. I think that in its own way, this practice is antithetical to the process of haiku, which are to me meditative and introspective. By repurposing this form to write something very surface level, I appropriate the meanings conveyed through traditional form to lend a tone of seriousness to otherwise unremarkable conversation.

Micro-poetics: short form poetry

This week’s assignments were using short poems – one consisting of one word lines, one of two word lines, and one of three-word lines. I’ve written these poems over the course of the week, and the context for each is presented after the poem. I do not believe that it is necessary to know the context in which it has been created.

In using experimental writing and experimental forms, I find that my own writing tend s to err on the side of the abstract. As I continue to increase the word limit in each line, I found that I was becoming closer to conveying literal meaning with each poem. This exercise helped me to recognize the value and impact of individual words on increasing (or decreasing) clarity.

film: a sound study


A friend has been preparing for a paper he is writing for his critical writing course here at Penn. His paper focuses on the role of sound and soundtrack in setting tones in film. We were working in an office space on our separate homework assignments, and he would occasionally read aloud from the source text. Several of the film scholars that were being mentioned were French, and he asked for my help in pronouncing their names. After a while, he began to only say single words at a time, which continued to reference what he had said earlier. I copied down some of the things that he said here.

micro-fiction: class critique

Wistful writing,
not beautiful,
genuine responses.
Similar vignettes.
Forgetting place:
easy endings
redundant tone
being precious
doesn’t help.

I am currently taking an advanced fiction writing class outside of my experimental writing course. In that class, we have to submit four different pieces of fiction throughout the semester to be considered for class critique. This week, I chose to experiment with a micro-fiction, and submitted a collection of ten 200 word stories. I got a lot of valuable responses from those critiques, from both my professor and classmates, and I’m looking forward to further editing the stories based on the responses I got. I summarized some of those critiques into the two word lines read above.

a season for shamrock shakes

parking garage roof
we look down
split shamrock shake
it was revolting
but I laughed.
conspicuous consumption? yes.
I don’t mind.
Relax a little –
You need rest.

Last spring, with the release of the Shamrock Shake at McDonalds, I hung out with one of my friends on the roof of the grocery store parking garage. I never want to eat another Shamrock Shake, although I wish I could spend more time with the friend.

Pop Quiz – Art Lecture, 101.

The following poem is written in the form of a quiz or examination. The poem seeks to deconstruct the construction of definitions of art. In defining art to be one thing or another, we frequently neglect different areas of art and artistic experiences. As I question my predispositions towards art more and more, I realize that my original assessments of what art can/should be, and the purposes that art fills, were deeply limited.

Art Lecture, 101.
• Short answer: what is art?
• True or false, everything is art.
• True or false, nothing is art.
• Multiple choice: the following influences the interpretation of art – an audience of scholars/professionals, the original artist’s intent, the historical and social context in which the art was created, the reception by the audience, the context in which art is displayed, all of the above, none of the above.
• True or false, plagiarism is an art form.
• True or false, plagiarism is an art form.
• Short answer: is art moral?
• Hypothetical: A performance artist makes a painting in a cave, and destroys it. No audience ever sees the painting. Is the painting art?
• Hypothetical: imagine that I am an artist.

Travel Guides

I wrote this poem thinking about both the process of traveling and the experience of reading and writing. I really enjoy traveling, and I think that experiencing new and different cultures is an integral component to understanding the world around us. When I travel, I enjoy being well informed about the areas that I am going to, and try to gather as much information about areas as I can. Although this provides me with the opportunity to learn a great deal about these areas, I often wonder if I privilege the information in these travel guides more than I ought to. Rather than going out and trying to experience something for myself, I rely on the information that is given to me about what are good places to see, good places to eat, etc. In many ways, I think this process becomes analogous to reading. While I genuinely enjoy reading and writing, I can find that analysis sometimes constricts the enjoyment of a piece of art. Finding a balance between personal interpretation and intellectually accepted analysis is interesting to me, although the process can be exhausting at times. The reference to dirigibles and submersibles relates to an interest that I had in science fiction and fantasy writing (especially of the steampunk persuasion) when I was younger. It is an area within writing/subculture that I no longer actively engage with, and I wonder sometimes about when I stopped enjoying it as much as I once did.

Travel Guides

Pick your trip based on the cheapest airfare. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it just matters that you’re going somewhere. Exploration is exciting. There is something to be said for trying new things. Buy your ticket, and plan your itinerary and course of action. There are a hundred ways to approach it.

Buy your tickets in shopping malls, in the bodega while getting a pack of cigarettes, in the used bookstores that smell like vanilla and dust. You are England. You are Romania. You are India. You are, you are, you are. Your travel guide charts the way around your body – know it intimately, and understand the sighs of pleasure and defeat. Your preferences for prose or poetry matter: do not discredit them. But do not discount the value of novelty in novels, newness in news. You are not tethered, but teething. Beginning to taste and tell when something is or isn’t working.

On certain days, there will be no airfare. There will be no exploring and no wondering and no wandering and no wanting or waiting. You will not have arrived, because there is no arriving. Your submersible has not reached the right depths, your dirigible not the right heights.

You will not travel today.

Excuses, Excuses

If one has ever been acquainted with the time crunch before an essay is due, I imagine one or all of these are familiar excuses. This exercise was to write a poem entirely out of excuses. Although I try to be on top of my writing in general, the relative ease with which this poem came to me makes me wonder if I am not more of a slacker than I think.

Excuse Me

Of course I did it – it’s sitting on my printer right now. I emailed it to you the other day, are you sure that you didn’t get it? I might have copied down your email address wrong, so let me double check that. I started it last week, and I don’t think that this reflects the work that I put into it. But I care a lot about this course, I am just not sure that I can manage this right now. I really admire your work, I was just so busy I couldn’t read it on time. There were a few other things I was doing, but I will put this at the top of my to-do list. I don’t mean that I prioritize other stuff above this one thing though, it’s sort of a complicated process to explain. But anyway, if you want to talk about it later on we can do that. Let me know if you have any follow up questions, I am happy to explain it all.

Table of Contents – Progress in Work

This poem is written in the form of a table of contents. I am very interested in this exercise, and would like to try it several more times. This short poem reflects a few of the things that I am thinking of and feeling at the moment. Over the past couple of days, I have spent a fair amount of time with friends that are in a club with me. One of the people I spent the most time with is my future housemate for next year. I am very excited to be living together, and I have really enjoyed becoming closer friends with one another over the past year.
In this table of contents poem, I reflect some of my personal uncertainty about the future. WIP, Work in Progress, is a bit of a funny way of phrasing things. I feel that we are never done working, so the progression or vocalization of that progression is humorous to me. I chose to have ten chapters, because of the evenness that multiples of ten give to me.

Progress in Work

Table of Contents:
Chapter One: Because when she set out to do something, she did it with great effort.
Chapter Two: However, there are times when her plans may go awry.
Chapter Three: She was glad to have a friend at a time like this.
Chapter Four: When they got hungry, they set of in search for food together.
Chapter Five: WIP
Chapter Six: WIP
Chapter Seven: WIP
Chapter Eight: WIP
Chapter Nine: WIP
Chapter Ten: WIP

Diachronicity – The moment between the one and the next

In this poem, all events were meant to occur in different places and at different times. I chose to present this in paragraph form, rather than a line by line, because I felt that it agglomerated these sentences into a cohesive stream of consciousness approach. While each remains temporally distinct, the continuation and flow of one line to the next related the way in which I thought of these vastly different moments. Although each memory is unique, they connect to one another in vastly different ways such that they triggered the others.

The moment between the one and the next

The door was locked and we sat in the hallway. Except for the last enclosure, he had seen everything in the zoo. I didn’t remember what my order number was, and tentatively approached the counter. A butterfly landed on his t-shirt, and I took a picture for him. When it came to my brother’s turn, he didn’t say anything. He held onto me, dancing slowly to Stairway to Heaven, closing out the night of a summer camp dance. I wanted nothing more than to do nothing. When I thought of him, sitting on a park bench, I felt contented. But when he took the drill and couldn’t find the bits, he cursed under his breath. The turkey fell out of the oven. It was Easter, but we weren’t the type for celebration. The skin on my fingers hadn’t finished healing, and the cuts were red and tender.


The following poem uses alliteration in each line. Unlike some of my other poems, I created this piece in a very straightforward linear method. I began with the first line (choosing the letter A as it is the first in the alphabet) and moved through the poem. I determined the first word of the corresponding lines based on the sound of the previous line.

Allusions allusive allowing alight
Determined destruction deriving device
Let’s lie lovely languid loquacious low-rate
Oration orthogonal oath oil or oats
Horizons hearsay hone home
Brutalist benign beveled believe
Architecture artifice, art, art, art.

Alphabet Poem

This poem, twenty six words and twenty six lines, uses one word for each letter of the alphabet. I came up with these words by typing in several letters semi-indiscriminately following the first. In most cases, I actively attempted to add in vowels to these letter mixtures. From these letters, I chose from spell checking options to decide which word to use. The first (“Original”) has these lines in alphabetical order, while the second (“Derivative”) scrambles these lines. Because I wanted the second to reflect as little personal interpretation as possible, I opted to use a line randomizing engine found here. I made some aesthetic changes, removing the numbered points at each line, but otherwise made no changes.