T-shirts and Poetry Games

Brian and I were just in Chicago where I attended the Podcast Movement ’16 conference. I’m currently working on a QuOTeD episode that documents the extra day we spent in the Windy City after the conference. As we bummed around, with the exception of advertisements, I started to note the words people were wearing on t-shirts. I wondered if they could be strung together to either snap a sort of picture of the day or a specific time and place in the culture.

Woman in t-shirt
By Friedrich Haag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The t-shirts we saw were:

Chicks dig diamonds.
Save Ferris. (this turns out to be a band, which technically should not be included)
Run faster.
Kicking your ass one step at a time.
I am culture.
Swoosh. (this might be a Nike ad)
Time to shine.
Look on the bright side.
Play like a champion today.
Keep calm and dream big.
Better sore than sorry.
You can put it on the chalkboard.
It’s Go Time.
Detroit vs. Everyone
I’m awesome!

Writing Exercise Using Words on T-Shirts

What rules could be applied to a writing exercise using the given phrases? We could start with:

  1. Arrange the phrases as is in any order.
  2. Insert line breaks and punctuation as you like.

I came up with the following:

Chicks dig.
Diamonds save.
Ferris run faster.
Your ass.
Step at a time I am.
To shine look on.
The bright, side play like.
A champion today keep.
Dream big better
Sore than sorry you can
Put it on
The Chalkboard
It’s Go Time
Detroit vs. everyone.
I’m awesome!

This needs work. Maybe the initial list of phrases could have been arranged better? Or maybe more rules would help. For example:

  1. Contractions can be made or undone.
  2. Verb tenses can be changed.
  3. Up to 10 words can be deleted (we could also say “must be deleted”).
  4. Homonyms can be used.

The list of rules could go on. Finding the right parameters that make a game a game would take some trial and error. Given the rules above, here’s another version.

Chicks Dig.
Diamonds save.
Ferris Run faster.
Your ass. one step
at a time I am.

To Shine.
On the bright side
Play. like.
A Champion today.

Dream big better.
Sore then sorry you can
Put it on.

The Chalkboard.
It’s Go time.
Detroit vs. everyone.
I am.


This could lend itself to a round-robin exercise. Randomly selecting the next rule to apply with dice or cards could work. So the game might look like this.

  1. On a piece of paper, arrange the phrases as is in any order.
  2. Pass your paper to another player.
  3. Using the list you just received, insert line breaks and punctuation as you like.
  4. Pass your paper to another player.
  5. Draw a card to reveal the next rule to apply and apply it.
  6. Continue to do this until…

How would we know when the game is over? Is there a timer or a set number of rules that can be applied? How is a winner determined? Can works get eliminated along the way? Or do they all make it to the final round? How would that work? One piece gets eliminated and another is duplicated so that every player participates in every round? This would mean that one piece is on two tracks, which might be interesting. Are there bonuses for certain moves? Penalties? The equivalent of buying a vowel? Are there certain moves that can be made at any time, regardless of what rule card is drawn? Can rules be invented? Is there a board? Pawns? A deck of cards?

I like the idea of a final round where each player selects a piece to make final edits. It does not necessarily have to be the piece they originated. In this round the player would have a lot of latitude. Maybe there would be no rules in this round. The scoring system could reward the originator and the final editor. This is a foggy idea, but I wanted to jot it down in case it’s worth more consideration.

I’m seeing a bingo grid.

How would we know who wins? Is it an accumulation of points earned by certain moves? A vote for the best? The problem with a point system is that it creates a motivation that is separate from writing what you want to write. And a subjective vote doesn’t feel satisfying either.

Or maybe it can just be amusing.

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