Reverse Scrabble

Bill Couch/Flickr
Bill Couch/Flickr

Reverse Scrabble is a prompt I invented last week. The aim is to derive as many words as possible from one given polysyllabic word and then integrate them artfully into a poem.

The word I suggest we use is operation.

Your job is to break down this word into its component parts—like playing Scrabble in reverse—and to compose a poem in which you use at least one such word per line. Some short words are hefty enough to get you points (“art”), but four-letter words are a better bet. Extra credit for words of five letters or more, like “opera” or “ration.” The poem should be between eight and 12 lines long.

Why do I opt for “operation”? Perhaps because the title of one of my books is Operation Memory. I would argue that “operation” is an apt term, and one that should yield many a neat trope.

Deadline: Saturday, March 2, midnight any time zone.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

David Lehman, a contributing editor of the Scholar, is a poet, critic, and the general editor of The Best American Poetry annual anthology and author of the book One Hundred Autobiographies. He currently writes our Talking Pictures column.


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