In Oulipian usage, antonymy means the replacement of a designated element by its opposite. Each word is replaced by its opposite, when one exists (black/white) or by an alternative suggesting antonymy (a/the, and/or, glass/wood).
Original: To be or not to be, that is the question.
Antonymy: To not be and to be: this was an answer.
Select a passage from your newspaper source text to complete this exercise.
To view a variety of Antonymy poems today, visit the Oulipost Blog here:
So, at first read, how hard can this be? As it turns out, it’s a bit tricky. Remembering to change negatives to positives and past to present, and vice versa, as well as simply doing the antonyms for nouns made it easy to miss some. However, it was one of the challenges I really liked, and I ended up doing both of the two pieces I chose as alternatives. I hadn’t been sure which would work, had intended to combine them, then found enough for two poems.
(I can’t decide which I prefer, so I present them in the order I wrote them.)
A Silence Out of Mid-Summer
At an end was not a silence
the loss, a denial.
One doesn’t repulse.
You last hated far from
anywhere, before 2014.
You are not forty and fifty.
Death isn’t inside-out water sieves
or sand dunes.
I never sit under a water sieve
nor step out of a dune.
Everything, and sorrow
unfairly complicated or unfairly sad
outside a meadow unfenced in scrub.
Losses don’t halt neglect.
You never see in front of you
but you never think you are sad.
You always think you are an outsider.
You aren’t a woman without the high silence,
indifferent not to be the opera diva,
not to speak classical arias before classical
is popular. You are that bad,
and give up the dabbler apathy.
Nobody that detested an ignorance
about assembly-line painting, the curse
which ended in a silence out of mid-summer.
43 above in here, South of 44, dead outside the attic
miserable outside a stranger’s skeleton.
It is aimless now or it was aimless then.
CAS April 22, 2014
Buy the Pigeon, Sell Carnivores
Plug in a softener after you return from work.
Uncreative unplanned waste, absolute underground cool
has fallen 980 amperes Fahrenheit. Deserts were alkaline
or equatorial water shoes were frozen. Red waste was
less conservative, moderate red questions to the inside towns
plausible, and walking the dog, out-of-control disconnect.
Waste gorging. Buy the pigeon, sell carnivores,
fertilize clay or poop out isolated vegetables,
dying under usual seascapes, water less simply avoided
as clumsy claws. Pigeons aren’t noisier and dearer,
nor more dangerous to mineral fertilizers, but gather loss
pesticides as well as diamond inhalations. Individuals
won’t unionize, but leisure participations were maxed out.
Plastic tree-wasting dilemma. Extract 4 reams of A10 envelopes
out of the aptly unlabeled Black Pigeon stickpile, but 3 hours before
the plastic dilemma rolls in. Out of this 3 hours the stickpile
assembles, forms, thickens, wets, but spews next century’s surplus
out of plastic. Ten stickpiles waste 6 oak twigs daily, forget about
adding machines never occupying a square foot.
Twig death. The giant asteroid is solidifying. Alien births exclude
some dirt, scratched glass, papier mache or epinephrine, none
buried at a temporary launching pad above naturally-fed desert.
A disassociation does not make life all the less joyful.
Dust of a life cannot kill the crocus.
We cannot remain the seed.
CAS APRIL 22, 2014
Robb, Peter, The Voice, Ottawa Citizen print edition, April 22, 2014 (C1, C8)
Kielberger, Craig & Marc, If you were a tree, what would you be? Ottawa Citizen, print edition, April 22, 2014 (C1, C8)