Poetry Challenge #54-Alphabet Jam

Sometimes—often—the most interesting things begin with “I Can’t…” That’s exactly what I said when author/teacher/mentor/friend Tim Wynne Jones shared this prompt at a VCFA session a few years back. But, once I committed to giving it a try, it turned out I Could! And best, had fun! And the results were interesting. With hopes you’ll find it the same, here goes:

Poetry Challenge #54

Alphabet Jam


Plant a subject you’d like to explore in your mind. It can be as broad as “Sports” or “Weather;” it can be specific as “My tenth birthday” or “Daisy,” your choice.

Now, beginning with the letter A, work your way through the alphabet assigning one word to each letter in order: A-B-C-D…end with Z. (X is wild, or if you can use a word that begins with the “ex” sound.)

There are 2 rules:

  1. While the sequence you create might be outlandish, it must make sense—i.e. work as a sentence or series of sentences.

  2. You can not insert or delete letters.

Consider the 26 word sequence you created: Did you stick with your initial subject? Did you veer off in a different direction? Did you surprise yourself? 

Now for the magic! Keeping the words in alphabetical order, use line breaks and punctuation to shape your Alphabet Jam into a 26 word poem.

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

Tim’s newest book…a must read!

Tim’s newest book…a must read!

*Cindy Faughnan and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge almost 900 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you.

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Poetry Challenge #25-Double Dog Dare You Not To . . .E!

How Dare You Dare Me . . .

How Dare You Dare Me . . .

When it comes to “don’t dos” I’m like a bull in a ring and that’s the red flag. It’s almost impossible for me to resist doing what I’m told not to do.


And yes, that does make me a lousy at word games like Password and Taboo.  

As hard as it is for me (and maybe you) to resist using a word or phrase on purpose, it’s fun to try. As having fun with words is the purpose of these 7-Minute Challenges, for this prompt I double dog dare you to put on your logologist’s hat and write a lipogram.* Say what?

Poetry Challenge #25

Double Dog Dare You to Delete the E

A lipogram consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is avoided. In its easiest form, a writer avoids using uncommon letters like X, J, Q, or Z. Or avoids words with “ing” or “ed” endings. More difficult lipograms avoid common letters like A, T or E—E being the most common letter in the English language.

If you think avoiding using E is tough, consider this: Ernest Vincent Wright wrote an entire 50,000 word novel, GADSBY, without using the letter E.


Well, dang. If Wright could write a whole novel without "E", surely you and I can write a poem without "E", can’t wii?

Begin with a poem you’ve already written. Revise it by deleting every “E” word and replacing it with another word, if necessary.

Or, if you’d rather, revise the poem using only “E” words.

Or, try writing an entirely new poem without the letter “E”.

(And no fair intentionally mis-spelling words to avoid using “E”, that’s cheating.)


For Inspiration:

American logologist A Ross Eckler Jr. recreated Mary Had a Little Lamb six times, excluding different letters each time. To see the results of his efforts, click over to Wikipedia.

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Select a poem to revise.

Start deleting "E" . . . I dare you!

*We have award-winning author/VCFA faculty advisor Tim Wynne Jones to thank (or curse) for this prompt. He shared his passion for logology during a VCFA lecture last summer.

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