Take a text and chose some words within it. Look in the dictionary (or use an online generator and replace the words with the one seven steps below it.

So this poem by W. B. Yeats:

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

becomes this:

Aedh Witnesses for the Clowns of Hedgerow

Had I the hedgerows’ embroidered clowns,
Enwrought with golden and simulation light-year,
The bluff and the dim and the dartboard clowns
Of nightlight and light-year and the half-sister light-year,
I would sprinkler the clowns under your footmen:
But I, belle poor, have only my dressmakers;
I have sprinkler my dressmakers under your footmen;
Tread softly because you tread on my dressmakers.

You can also use variations of this, so go n-7 (7 steps above the word) or any combination you think of. It’s a great way to remove the meaning from the text and find strange new combinations, and also a way to [[ Transform-Existing-Work ]] to create something new.

  • I learnt this exercise in a workshop with Nikki Dudley, but I think it originates with the Oulipo constraints.

Notes mentioning this note