Category Archives: definitional lit

Oulipost #3: Definitional Lit

Fort Hood

[fawrt, fohrt  hoo d]: noun

  1. a military reservation in central Texas, north of Austin


  1. A fortified place occupied by troops and usually surrounded by a soft, flexible covering for the head and neck, either separate or attached to a cloak, coat, or the like


  1.  A tract of public land set apart for a special purpose, of or pertaining to soldiers in, on or near the center of the uppermost deck of an inland or western river steamer lying in the plane of the meridian and to the left of a person facing the rising sun relative in scale or measurement to another name for Augustinian


  1. A distressed or mentally agitated person who has served in a military force, especially one who has fought in the war in the republic centering in the Tigris-Euphrates basin of Mesopotamia causes the death of a reflexive form of him in a state of violent anger or agitation in, on, or near that from which a commencement, as of action or reckoning, is made; a starting point or point of departure of the military forces of the nation, in, on, or near a state of the southwestern US


  1. A person engaged in military service moved from a shut or closed position so as to admit of passage a state, process, or instance of combustion the fourth day of the week, following Tuesday, on toward a place, point, activity, or object united by the same occupation of, for, or pertaining to the armed forces of a country or one of them a plurality of person, animal, plant, or group that is part of a society, party, community, taxon, or other body in, on, or near a military reservation in central Texas, north of Austin, to cause the death of, amounting to three in number, persons indefinitely or collectively plus injuring one more than fifteen earlier or sooner than to give in trust or charge the intentional taking of one’s life in, on, or near the identical with what is about to be or has just been mentioned: a unit consisting typically of two or more corps and a headquarters at which a body of troops is stationed in or at what place, part, or point one more than twelve persons indefinitely or collectively were killed by violence in a 9th year of the 3rd millennium onslaught


The Act of Drawing Straight Lines Unfastens the Harness

“People in general determined or sure to continue or remain as before highly pleased to perceive with the eyes a smaller number of paid advertisements or promotional announcements of still or moving images via radiowaves to receivers that project a view of the image on a picture tube importunately soliciting support for something done admirably or creditably by a person who seeks an office or honor or speaking of or treating slightingly the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person who is on an opposing side in a game, contest, controversy, or the like,”  the highest judicial officer in rank or authority expressed or communicated in writing.

A Set of Instructions for Making New the Plant Itself a Sauce

the season of the year astronomically from the March equinox to the June solstice in the northern hemisphere causes to come into a particular position, state, or effect, round, edible seeds of a widely cultivated plant looking youthful and healthy and well filled out or rounded in form and of the color of growing foliage, between yellow and blue in the spectrum in their somewhat elongated, two-valved seed vessels

A Happening That Appears To Be Determined By Chance

an inanimate thing understood, previously mentioned, about to be mentioned, or present in the immediate context appears or seems to the eye as sluggish in nature, disposition, or function so as to be or remain supported by the external aspect or appearance, on the contrary so as not to remain suspended from the inner or internal part

Decline to Accept to Suffer the Deprivation


The persons who direct or assist the navigation of a ship went after, took hold of, and brought units made by safely moving with haste around all the bases ahead of time and went on or kept on uniting or joining so as to increase the number, quantity, size, or importance forward, onward, or along, as in any course or process.


The self-conscious or rational beings who regulate the course of or give support to the science of plotting of a vessel proceeded behind in place or position, got into their possession by voluntary action, and carried a group of things or persons regarded as an entity brought into existence by passing from one place or position to another in a safe manner in some particular relation to swiftness of motion in a circle, ring, or the like; so as to surround the whole number of the fundamental principles or ground work in advance of the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other and proceeded forward, onward, or maintained fast combining or incorporating so as to form a single whole so as to make greater the sum, magnitude, spatial dimensions, or consequential air or manner ahead, toward a point in advance, or with a progressive motion, as in whatever or whichever route or systematic series of actions directed to some end.


Poems were constructed from numerous articles in Seattle Times 03 April 2014 Print.


Note on composition and process:

These poems are experiments with the Oulipean form, Definitional Lit (see the FPR prompt here), in which you take a found sentence or phrase and replace each substantial word with its dictionary definition. As you can see from my drastically increased output, this is a much faster procedure than either the Quote Cento or Lipogram, as the only mechanical process — looking up words in the dictionary — is actually part of the compositional process and not part of the material-gathering, or pre-writing stage. Since I suspected this would move more quickly, I decided ahead of time to try out sentences from different sections of the paper, with two from section A, just for the hell of it.

To give you a sense of how this process worked, let me elaborate on the first poem, “Fort Hood”. I started with a sentence I chose for its distinctive journalistic style:

“A soldier opened fire Wednesday on fellow service members at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 before committing suicide at the same Army post where 13 people were slain in a 2009 attack, authorities said ”

I was particularly looking for the matter-of-factness, 3rd-person distant tone, despite the harrowing and emotionally charged material it was describing. I wanted that tone, because it represents one step back in the abstracting process that the “Definitional Lit” form exacerbates. One pass with the dictionary (I used for this exercise) produced what would up as the 5th and final stanza, though I excised the “authorities said” phrase to tighten the ending. I decided not to keep going with the particular procedure since it was already getting to be a bit unwieldy, and I wasn’t looking to push this particular piece into Clark Coolidge territory (though there are times I really like to go there). I do go for two rounds on the last poem, “Decline to Accept to Suffer the Deprivation,” but it felt like it had room to stretch into more esoteric language. On the whole, though, I prefer shorter, punchier poems.

But I digress, I needed, or wanted, a title for my first poem, so naturally I looked to the headline and sub-headlines, which is what I did with all the poems. However, the main headline for this article was “4 die, 16 hurt in Fort Hood shooting” which I thought wind up redundant, since nearly all the same words were already in the sentence I had abstracted. Instead I played with the sub-headline: “Troubled Iraq Vet Kills Himself at Rampage at Texas Army Base.” I subjected it to the dictionary and came up with the fourth stanza, which was itself more a poem than a title, so I looked closer at the article and saw that the abbreviated title (used as a colophon) was simply Fort Hood. I liked that as a starting title, because part of the horror of the event described in the article was that it seemed to echo another grizzly shooting at the same base 5 years ago. I thought titling the poem Fort Hood would raise a question about what exactly the place may have to do with these acts of violence. So, I subjected that title to the definitional process. Immediately, I realized I had two options for tackling this. One is to take Fort Hood as a proper name, which I did for the first stanza. The other was to take the two words “fort” and “hood” as separate things, which I did for stanza 2. Then I thought maybe that first stanza could be abstracted further, so I took it through the dictionary grinder and wound up with stanza 3. At this point it occured to me that maybe the poem’s physical form could itself look like a dictionary entry, that Fort Hood could be both one and all these things, and that the form could signal to the reader the process it went through.

The rest of the poems still have room to expand, and maybe I will pull them out during down time next month.