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By John S. O'Connor

When I say begin, open your test booklet and begin reading. When you finish reading, write your own list poem.

I have always loved Dean Young’s poem “True/False” from his brilliant collection Elegy on Toy Piano. Since each line can be read as true or false, the result is a hilarious and profound list poem. Here are his first ten lines:

1. Usually my first answer is correct.
2. I want to break things.
3. I hear voices.
4. I am good at following orders.
5. I like jury duty.
6. Washing your hands six times a day isn’t excessive.
7. I am a good singer.
8. I have never had sex with an animal.
9. I am fascinated by fire.
10. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I cry for no reason.

I thought it was a fun challenge to imitate these equivocal propositions, so I asked some students and some colleagues to try their hand at writing T/F lines like Young. Here’s what we came up with:


1. There is life on Mars…under a rock
2. Everything is going to be all right
3. I’ve made a terrible mistake
4. There is a point
5. When a tree falls down and no one is there to hear it- it gets right back up
6. We’ll always have paris
7. The moment has passed

I can get over anything, given time.
I have nothing to wear.
Morrissey is nothing without The Smiths.
After you die, you will go to Heaven or Hell.
You will have to pay for those spoons next time.

A colleague, Charles Logan:

I love teaching.
Annotations are helpful.
College is a good idea.
Attendance is mandatory.
My degrees make me qualified.
I care about your problems.
I can help.

My list:
There’s no “I” in ego.
You can’t put a cliche back into a tube of toothpaste.
I have superpowers.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
I live in a pet cemetery.

Now you just have to write some of your own.

Comments (4)

  • On December 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm A.W. wrote:

    My opinions are respected by other internets users.

  • On December 13, 2009 at 11:10 pm Cognitive this cognitive that wrote:

    I disagree with Marie about Morrissey.

    This is not a list.

    Lists are boring wastes of time.

    Narrative is actually harder to pull off than a random list of automatic writing.

  • On December 14, 2009 at 1:20 pm Karenee wrote:

    1. Imitation is sincere.
    2. Life begins before you think.
    3. Perspective knows how to change your mind.
    4. Effective thought is provoked by looking past the obvious.
    5. Evidence comes with implications.
    6. Original comes from an originator.
    7. Obvious answers can lie.
    8. This is blank.
    9. You knew.

    (This doesn’t feel like poetry, but it’s an interesting concept.)

  • On December 14, 2009 at 2:56 pm Don Share wrote:

    Should not mean but be.
    Should not mean but be mean.
    Makes nothing happen.
    Is what gets lost in translation.
    Stays news.

    Takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
    Men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.
    It is the spontaneous overflow of emotion.
    Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.
    Write only what you know.

Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, December 12th, 2009 by John S. O'Connor.