oPen 11 [or Slice -n- Dice]

J0178748 A friend of mine told me a story once about how poet Bill Knott teaches revision.  She said that he would take the page (your poem), fold it vertically, and tear it down the center of the page. Next he would give back one of the halves and throw the other in the trash can.  Then you were expected to try writing the poem again.  Whether or not this is accurate, I’m not sure, but here’s a little exercise inspired by that story.

Take this half-poem by Ralph Angel and fill in the blanks.  Have fun. Let us see what you get.

Today, my
leaves are
just as ped
and our li
are the li
getting thi
or mouth,
each dis
is clear,
from he
Let your
space cro
that we
This mo
I swear
isn’t go


  1. This Day
    Today, my wife
    leaves are wedded
    just as ped is child
    forbidding that I return
    and our lids
    are the limbs
    getting thinner
    Impossible cheek
    or mouth, holler
    each dismissal, afternoon
    is clear, it won’t go further
    from he who then said
    Let your basement
    space croupier rent us out
    that we may remit his back pay
    This moment
    I swear
    isn’t go anywhere

  2. I used this in poetry class today. I am attaching my version, followed by those of several of my poetry students. (I gave them a list of vocabulary words, which is why you’ll hear some overlap).
    This Fall
    Today, my mouth tastes the same spring your
    leaves are dying under, and your hollow apples.
    Just as pediatricians grope the glands,
    forbidding, for the sex that lurks there
    and our livid promise, so these scalded birches
    are the lingering smells we peel away
    getting thick mulch in our fingernails.
    Impossible wilderness
    or mouth, impossible tremor where
    each disparate wind blooms. It
    is clear finally, like the valley seems
    from here.
    Let your winter bode mine. Let the dark winds of
    space croon like a January
    that we learn over and over. We are
    This moment
    I swear
    isn’t going to end.
    This time, Jill and Vicky have to sew their own costumes. Down with the Theatre department!
    Today, my needle broke mid-stitch. The apricot
    leaves are half-formed and jagged.
    Just as pedestrians scurry from lane to lane
    forbidding normal traffic flow
    and our lines grow longer, so
    are the lines of thread that dangle from the tapestry
    getting things caught, snagging fingernails.
    Impossible blisters form from tip to knuckle bone. Better
    there than eye or mouth.
    Each distinctive leaf is hollow. A speck
    is clearer in its being. Cheeks grow flushed
    from heat brought by exertion.
    Let your rib break with the effort of creation.
    Space crowds the boarders of the fabric so
    that we are overwhelmed with nothingness. The
    debris is clippings and discarded cloth.
    This monument to restless sewing makes me mad,
    I swear, wishing my scissors were scythes. I realize the material
    isn’t gone, however far it moves and never is complete.
    This moment too shall pass (or else I will eat chocolate)
    Today, my fingernail cracked from the strain. Dying
    leaves are twisting across the crabgrass
    just as, peddling swiftly, the bicyclist pushes them away
    forbidding beauty in pursuit of cardiovascular fitness
    and our little blisters scream politely. Transfats
    are the line we cannot cross.
    Getting thinner is the rigid focus of your thoughts.
    Impossible that a pebble should get in the way. Foot
    or mouth, which is easier to do without?
    Each dissolving ounce a victory! The end
    is clears: calcium builds strong bones,
    from healing wounds rebound.
    Let your bleeding grease the wheels, empty
    space croaked a sympathetic chord
    that we stored away among the debris.
    This moment too shall pass.
    I swear to peel away the pounds: one bloody crash
    isn’t going to stop me.
    This Chore
    Today, my golden piles of unraked
    leaves are blanketing my yard
    just as podiatrists blanket feet with cream.
    Forbidding barnacles of cracked, flaking fragments
    and our little rake prepare to make their culver.
    Are the lives buried here more significant than the crabgrass?
    It’s getting thinner and thinner in the formaldehyde darkness.
    Impossible dreams pick through the massive crumbling hills.
    Mouths open wide and black as piccolos blow taps into the gutter.
    Each disheartened swipe brings forth aching shoulders, throbbing necks.
    Clear droplets of dew hang on delicate blades and drip
    from heavy wings of the fluttering starlings.
    Let your jagged teeth comb over the masses of
    space. Crouch and leap into the velvety whispers of dusty dampness
    that we always seem to put off as mere
    This moment, this chore,
    I swear it now,
    isn’t going in vain.
    This Mourning
    Today, my purple petals and
    leaves are in tremors
    just as pediatricians make children shake, always
    forbidding them to cry. Our tongues
    and our lips
    are the lines
    getting thicker and more rigid.
    Impossible to distinguish edge
    or mouth, but yet
    each disapproval
    is clear, jagged grease dropped
    from helicopters of our discontentment.
    Let your sweating mind consume the
    space crops outside your window
    that we built with bricks and iron, restless
    debris. Scream.
    This mourning,
    I swear,
    isn’t going to let the flowers bloom.
    This Chance
    Today, my world is changing.
    Leaves are falling
    just as petals move,
    forbidding crabgrass from invading them
    and our little badger has found that his companions
    are the life of the party,
    getting things out of the trash,
    impossible discoveries of grease
    or mouthwash,
    each distinguished by its odor. It
    is clear that mica is
    from her lawn.
    Let your pebbles stay in your
    space. I feel
    that we need to stop spreading our
    debris and clean up after ourselves.
    This moment is a chance to scold.
    I swear this speck
    isn’t going anywhere.
    This heart
    Today, my heart
    leaves are jagged. They are
    just as pedantic as a piccolo
    forbidding lust.
    And out little hands
    are the light of 1,000 opals
    getting thinner with age.
    Impossible, the grease from your ears
    or mouth makes
    each distance bleed until meaning
    is clear.
    From here
    Let your boxed
    space crowed the empty room
    that we fill with
    This moment is empty.
    I swear on the crabgrass beneath your feet. This
    isn’t going anywhere.
    This Breakup
    Today, my
    leaves are
    just as pedestrian,
    and our lilting rest
    is the revet
    getting this
    impossible shiver
    or mouth,
    each barnacle
    is clear, from here.
    Let your mole
    space crow
    that we are
    This mountain of cinderblock
    I swear
    isn’t gold.
    This month
    Today, my rottng
    leaves are hollow
    just as pedestrians whom I’m
    forbidding to enter
    our little shop.
    Are the little jagged bastards
    getting this close? It is
    impossible to tune a piccolo
    or the mouth of an idiot—
    each disgusting mole
    is clear. I see each blister
    from her finger to her nose.
    Let your scythe swing, death! clear
    space, crop their larynx
    that we may be free from this human
    This month,
    I swear on my rigid mother’s grave, it
    isn’t going to spread.

  3. This “story” is nonsense.
    I’ve never done anything of the sort.
    I resent your publication of such a rumor.
    ——Bill Knott

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