If You Give A Cuttlefish A Blue Book…

… ze’s gonna want to fill it up.

So while giving an exam the other day, I found an empty Blue Book in the classroom, left behind by a previous class. There I was, trapped for 80+ minutes in a room, with a whole 16 pages of wide-ruled notebook paper. And a dozen extra number 2 pencils.

It was too much to resist. I plan on filling the entire thing, then dropping it surreptitiously on the floor of the English Department. So far, it only has 2 verses:

I found an empty Blue Book
And I knew just what to do:
I asked it if it wanted
To explain why it was blue

“The emptiness inside me”
Said the book, “is hard to take.”
But it didn’t want a sandwich
And it didn’t want some cake

It didn’t want a candy bar
It wanted words, instead–
It said that ink tastes salty,
So I’m filling it with lead.


In English Departments
You’ll rarely find times
When the stuff they call poetry

Cos rhyme with your meter’s
A thing of the past
(Even meter is vanishing

Lacking form; lacking structure
We call it “Free Verse”
(It makes amateur poetry

It’s not worth a penny
I think you’ll agree–
Maybe that’s why they’re calling it


  1. Robert Seidel says

    Bad prose, broken at random,
    Is bad prose, and not a poem.

    – Wiglaf Droste (translated from German)

  2. brucegee1962 says

    The thing is, the people who unshackled verse from meter in the first place — folks like T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, e.e.cummings — were perfectly capable of writing metrical & rhymed poetry if they felt like it. They just didn’t feel like it. But that had the appreciation for the sound of words that writing metered poetry gives you, and you can hear it in their lines.

    Whereas most of the “poets” nowadays couldn’t find a rhyme if their lines depended on it. And that’s why, if you asked a hundred college-educated people today to name a living poet, most of them wouldn’t be able to get past Alice Walker. Or else they’d fall back on songwriters, which makes sense — that’s where today’s poets go, I think.

  3. trucreep says

    You’re really, really talented with this poetry stuff! :P I like the idea of you leaving it laying around, adds mystery to the verse, although do you think you’ll be recognized?

  4. previously-chrisj says


    Or, as one of my favourite songwriters put it, “there’s an important difference between deliberately perverting language to achieve a particular effect in the mind of the listener and simply not knowing what the fuck you’re doing”.

  5. Pliny the in Between says

    I love blue books. They are a perfect size, with all those blank pages. My favorite kind of test always involved them. There is something hopeful about them, isn’t there? Unrealized potential.

  6. says

    The second one reminds me of a verse from Tom Lehrer’s “Folk Song Army

    The tune don’t have to be clever
    And it don’t matter if you put a coupla extra syllables into a line.
    It sounds more ethnic if ain’t good English
    And it don’t even gotta rhyme.

  7. CatMat says


    Kari Peitsamo / Kauppaopiston naiset (in Finnish):

    Ostin sulle jättiläisnallekarhun,
    sain palkaksi ikuisen ystävyyden
    menimme katsomaan Tuulen viemää
    rivit tuli täyteen mutta riimit ei

    ad hoc translation:

    I bought you a giant teddy bear,
    was rewarded with an eternal friendship
    we went to see “Gone with the Wind”
    the lines are all here but the rhymes are not

  8. Robert B. says

    e.e.cummings totally did meter. He did it like a jazz musician does rhythm – that is, so he could mess with it. Read “anyone lived in a pretty-how town”. Every line scans, though (as Eustace said to Prince Caspian) they all have one weird foot. It’s just that every line scans to a different meter than the one before it. He comes back to the same few meters, with slight variations, in irregular patterns – iamb/amphibrach/iamb/iamb gets played with a lot, for example. It makes the different rhythms sound like themes (in the musical sense) to be explored throughout the piece. He was not so much “free from meter” as free with meter – he used more meters more often than any other poet I know.

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