I had an idea, to write some poetry which uses only letters without tails or heads. That means no capitals, no j’s, f’s, t’s or even i’s. And restrictions on punctuation. Any letter that extends below or above the line is disqualified. The constraint is actually quite severe. But then you discover such words as “severe”. Some interesting themes emerge. Here are some of the results.

an uneven moon

<code><code>an uneven moon
oozes over eaves:
a smear.
runs an arc
over sea -
a rare score unseen
save one seer:
me - a mere man.</code></code>

I like this one, which is were I began. The immediate lunar/marine themes emerged straight away. “an uneven moon” captures the thought of a waxing or waning moon, neither full nor new, rising over a house and then reflecting over the open ocean, as seen by a lone observer.

a war

<code><code>a war.
masses run
women scream
oxen roar 
ravens swarm
- o save us - 
a war never ceases.
our reason veers
excuses us so or no
now we swerve
as moon on sea-waves
ever same: wax... wane...</code></code>

Here, the senses of struggle and danger really came together nicely, and then morphed into the double entendre in the second verse – where the words are true both for situations of war and action, as well as for internal tension, referencing Romans 7. I particularly like the imagery of a moon’s reflections on disturbed water, as inconsistent and changeable as a mind in turmoil.


<code><code>morn comes 
runs over 
warm as sun on a cross</code></code>

In all of these poems, it was tempting to include too much – any word that qualified. At first I wanted to have both “cross” and “crux” in this short poem, but with an editing hat on I had to make a choice. “cross” won, as it was more of a natural English choice.


<code><code>across a sea 
an orca swam
as a new moon</code></code>

Again the moon. It works well here, as a powerful simile for the silent movement of an unseen creature of the deep.


<code><code>one name: rose.
a woman ever warm
weaves a vox serene
eases our worn ears
amazes us anew.</code></code>

The constraints of this poetry are extremely interesting to work with. Simple words like “to”, “who”, or “and” are suddenly off-limits, and the subject matter has to conform. The results are either slow-paced or rapid-fire listings of what is happening in the scene, subjects and objects reduced to bare essentials. Without conjunctions or much punctuation, a strange timelessness seems to fill all of these poems.

Of course, beyond these I’ve now got a list of various “flat words”. Perhaps at another time, I’ll write about these cameras, arenas, ozone swarms, and cream cows. Maybe next summer.