Ouliposter-Badge-Plum-300x300For today, we have OULIPOST #3 Definitional Lit:

Select a single sentence from a newspaper article. Replace each meaningful word in the text [verb, noun, adjective, adverb] by its dictionary definition. Repeat this treatment on the resulting sentence, and so on, until you’ve had enough! Note that after only two such treatments with a relatively compact dictionary, even a two-word sentence can produce an accumulation of 57 words.

I chose what I thought was a short enough selection:  Moose pose a hazard on the highways.   (7 words.) 

If I’d stopped after the first run through the dictionary, I would have this:

First replacement:

English: Moose, Superior National Forest, Minn...

English: Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ruminant mammals (Alces alces) with humped shoulders, long legs, and broadly palmated antlers that are the largest existing members of the deer family and inhabit forested areas of Canada, the northern United States, Europe, and Asia come to attention as a source of danger on the main roads that connect cities.   (51 words.)

That was almost workable, but it suggests at least two dictionary passes, so I went at it again, reaching a whopping 238 words and obfuscation at the same time. Total. I couldn’t even figure out how to punctuate it!

Second replacement:

English: This is a female moose browsing and t...

English: This is a female moose browsing and taking roadsalt from the mud off the shoulder of highway 60 in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. She is still losing her winter coat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Cud-chewing warm-blooded higher vertebrates that nourish their young with milk secreted by mammary glands, and have the skin usually more or less covered with hair; with fleshy, protruberant regions of the body that correspond to shoulders but are less projecting; limbs supporting the body and for walking that extend for a considerable distance, and pairs of deciduous solid bony processes that arise from the frontal bone on the head, of ample extent from side to side which resemble a hand with the fingers spread; that exceed in size most similar living slender-legged ruminant mammals that inhabit dense growth of trees and underbrush covering large tracts of the country N North America including Newfoundland & Arctic islands N of mainland, an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations; and to the south, the country of North America bordering on Atlantic, Pacific, & Arctic oceans; the continent of the eastern hemisphere between Asia & the Atlantic; and the continent of the eastern hemisphere N of equator forming a single landmass with Europe (the conventional dividing line between Asia & Europe being the Ural Mountains & main range of the Caucasus Mountains) approach the notice, interest, or awareness as a generative force of exposure or liability to injury, pain, harm, or loss on the most important hard flat surfaces for vehicles, people, and animals to travel on that join inhabited places of greater size, population, or importance than towns or villages. (238 words.)

Yeah. Like that.  It was what it called for but not what I wanted as my end piece. So I decided on a third step with a reverse process. It had complicated, now I’d simplify. Here is my final poem.



Tall chaw-down mothers

suckle young mammalian style

rich mahogany coat but

ugly suckers, lumpy shoulders,

long skinny pick-legs,

large flat plates rising –

royal skull coronets,

broad as hands.


They lurk about forests of North Earth

looking dumb and slow.

Unsuspected speed makes

sudden apparitions on highways

taking out drivers

texting, bluetoothing,

fiddling with music.


 You see their emblems

on insurance companies

not a coincidence?


Carol A. Stephen

April 3, 2014



The Canadian Press, Loose moose prompt lawsuit, Ottawa Citizen print edition, Apr. 3, 2014





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