Each of Trish Hopkinson’s newest poems grew out of a daily prompt — such as write a sestina or an irrational sonnet — with content from a story or three from The Salt Lake Tribune.
After work Wednesday, the Provo writer will pen her 30th poem for the month, this one a compilation of her favorite lines from all 29 previous poems.
A Poet Searches for ‘Sex’ in the Salt Lake Tribune
My sense is this panel is slightly more
politically conservative —
inappropriate for me to import my personal views,
concisely, precisely, and meticulously.
Very clearly, the distinction
between the role of a writer,
erodes respect for the
You don’t want us distracted from the merits by missing verbs, misspelled names, incorrect citations, improper grammar or sentences that run for pages.
Pet peeves should play
no role in deciding.
All I want to do is touch you,
at all costs.
The prompt » When composing a cento, poets take lines from existing poems (traditionally without any alterations) and patch them together to form a new poem. Today, create a cento using only quotes referenced in newspaper articles. … While you can’t change anything within the quotes themselves, you may choose to break a longer quote in half or use just part of a quote as needed.
My restrictions » I searched the online edition of The Salt Lake Tribune for articles including the word “sex.” From those articles I gathered quotes and took the first word into the quote to the point where I wanted to stop. For example, from the quote “My sense is this panel is slightly more politically conservative than an average 10th Circuit panel … ,” I only used up through the word “conservative.” I then reordered the lines and added some punctuation, case changes and line breaks to finish the poem. The title is original text with a nod to my process.
Adams, Brooke. “Marriage: Conservative bent seen on appeal panel.” The Salt Lake Tribune 1 April 2014: e-edition.
Alberty, Erin. “Man charged with sex assault of BYU student.” The Salt Lake Tribune 1 April 2014: e-edition.
The found-poetry project is part of an international celebration of April’s National Poetry month — although it might sound like a self-reverential initiative for daily newspapers seeking readers in the midst of a digital revolution. Or as Jesse Parent, a Utah slam poet and Hopkinson’s friend, says: "News will never be dead if we can make a game out it."
Hopkinson, 42, is one of 78 poets from seven countries, and the only Utahn, participating in the Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost initiative. Oulipost (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle — or "workshop of potential literature") was a 1960s-era group of French writers and mathematicians who experimented with writing constraints to create new forms.
Each of the Oulipost 2014 poets received all 30 daily prompts in advance. The prompts all dictated form, not content, like the irrational sonnet assignment on April 27 that specified 14 lines "divided according to the first five digits of the irrational number pi – that is, into stanzas of 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines."
Poets were required to post poems by midnight on their personal websites, then the poems were added as links on the Found Poetry Review website and sent out through social media.
For Hopkinson, the hardest poem was April 19’s sestina, "Room for Summer." The form dictates six stanzas of six lines each. Here’s the rest of the prompt: "The end-words of the lines of each stanza repeat those of the first, but in a differing order that in each successive stanza follows the permutation: 615243. The entire sequence of end words is thus: 123456; 615243; 364125; 532614; 451362; 246531. All words and phrases must be sourced from your newspaper text."
This is Hopkinson’s second effort completing a daily writing challenge in April; last year, she won second place and publication in Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center’s 30 Poems in 30 Days contest.
"I call my husband a Poetry Month widow," says the poet, a mother of two, who works a day job as a project manager for Lehi’s Xactware software company. "He gets no attention in April."
Hopkinson says she posted most of her daily poems by 10 p.m., before the midnight deadline. She usually started writing by looking for lines or words from the online edition of the paper. Also, because she wanted to be efficient, she didn’t usually look at the prompt until she sat down to write, in the evenings on weekdays and midday on the weekends.
Hopkinson, who says she’s been writing poetry since she was 5 or 6, graduated in December from Utah Valley University with an English major, with an emphasis in creative writing.
Watching Hopkinson attack her monthly writing challenge was intriguing, says Parent, especially in how she explained the process behind each poem, or the inspiration she found in arts stories, obituaries and want ads. "It must be what a mosaic worker must look at when they see a bunch of cracked glass everywhere," he says. "We see a mess, but she can sort through the chaos and say: ‘Hey, look. This is what I discovered.’ She’s the 3-D glasses that we’re all looking through to get scared to see the monster coming at us. She’s a red-and-blue filter."
It’s not just about being a mother,
not just about wiping runny noses and making peanut butter sandwiches,
or longing for a play date that doesn’t include sippy cups or diapers,
not just the muted perspective of motherhood that’s warm and fuzzy.
It doesn’t happen overnight or by accident.
It’s a long, and sometimes painful, journey
as a contemporary homesteader,
wrestling with sexism and naiveté,
while carefully observing the rhythms.
It’s the need to be able to step back,
take the long view, go deep—
put it into a larger, more meaningful perspective,
be fearless in confronting the powerful, and
give voice to those who have none.
The prompt » Create a 14-line sonnet sourced from lines from your newspaper that is divided according to the first five digits of the irrational number pi – that is, into stanzas of 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines. As with the preceding sonnet assignment (see April 14) you may interpret “sonnet” as formally or as loosely as you wish.
My restrictions » I found lines from a few articles and created a list of those lines and then pieced them together to create the poem. I opted not to use a rhyme scheme for this already nonconventional sonnet.
Weist, Ellen Fagg. “From here to maternity.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 April 2014: e-edition.
Daniel, Douglass K. “New John Wayne biography hits target dead center.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 April 2014: e-edition.
“Utah Lit selection for May: ‘Seven Summers’ by Julia Corbett.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 April 2014: e-edition.
Orme, Terry. “Why The Tribune matters: We start the conversation.” The Salt Lake Tribune. 27 April 2014: e-edition.
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