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Will Shakespeare Meets Big Brother

He jousted with unticketed police,
Enlightening the traumatized, and then
He looked for jars of stressed remarks and grease
To pour on tarnished tongues to joust again.

(Sample poem created during Inverse: The Poetry Game)
Illustration by H. Sidney,
from Shakespeare for the Young
Shakespeare with his pen

A friend of mine once lamented, during a game of Scrabble, that the "quality" of the word didn't count. In jest, I replied that the only perfect word game was writing poetry. Later I thought, "Well, why not? Maybe there's a game idea there". InVerse: The Poetry Game was the result.

During the course of this game, the players each write four line poems using words created from random letters. Very interesting poems, to say the least, can result. Sometimes, the result is not unlike computer generated poetry, where the poem seems to mean something, but it's hard to figure out what. Other times, aesthetically pleasing and remarkably meaningful poems result.

There are two phases to the game: the Creation phase, where word scores are calculated by the number of random letters used; and the Judgment phase, where an artistic score is determined based on the aesthetic merits of the poem.

Some players (myself included) try for high scores in the creation phase by using more random letters to form the scoring words. This tends to result in more nonsensical sounding poems and thus less aesthetic points. Other players (my wife, Angelee, among them) concentrate more on their poem's aesthetic qualities which generally means lower word scores, but better artistic scores. Regardless, it is always fun to see what kinds of poems develop.

The Creation phase consists of seven rounds during which the players form their scoring words and incorporate them in their developing poems. One enjoyable aspect of the game is that after each round, the players read aloud the portion of their poems completed so far. This can make for a lively discussion of what the (often nonsensical sounding) portions can or will eventually mean. On the seventh round, during which the poems are finally completed, the author supplies a title to the poem, and then reads the -- ahem -- masterpiece aloud. It is amazing how much meaning can be imbued into an otherwise incomprehensible poem with a well chosen title.

This game is an example where, even though scores are accumulated and a winner is determined, the primary enjoyment is the creation of a poem and hearing those of the other players. I have kept a record of all the poems created while playing the game, and some of the most interesting, funny, serious, and nonsensical ones are presented on the InVerse examples page.

I have developed special playing and scoring sheets along with a unique random letter selection method and instructions. If you are interested in trying the game out, please email me and I will be glad to send them to you. I would love to see your results, and will be adding interesting examples created by readers of this page periodically to the samples page.

E-mail us at sangreal@jps.net

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