by Joe Tessitore and James A. Tweedie

We are issuing a challenge to all poets to create poems that incorporate word homophones. Call it what you like, but we are calling it a Homophonic Poetry Challenge. Every poem should contain at least one perfect or near-perfect homophone. Puns, while not required, are encouraged. Although our own attempts have been humorous, serious homophonic poems are also a possibility. In any case, here are some examples to get you started. Note that the requirement for meter is not strict. Note that this is a challenge, not a contest. No winners. No losers. Just fun.

From Joe:

 

On Seymour’s Weight Gain

There’s more to see of Seymour,
So I see Seymour more.

 

The First Time I Saw Paris

When I got
an eyeful of Eiffel, I ful-
Filled a life-time dream.

 

Untitled

How much did that broad
on Broadway weigh?

 

From James:

 

Icy Eyes

A frosty Highlands sky
Caught Scots by surprise.
When asked, one man said, “Aye,
“I see icy eyes.”

 

Oui, Oui!

This little piggy went to Paris, and this little piggy went to Rome
I asked them if lattés in Bern
Affected them on their return.
And this little piggy went, “Oui, oui! We wee-ed all the way home!”

 

We are confident (and hoping) that you can do better. Place your poems in the comments section below.

 

 


Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.”

74 Responses

  1. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Oh Yeah!

    I saw a bare bear
    and a hare without hair
    on the stair – did I stare?
    Oh yeah!

    I spied with shy eye,
    sidled by to go buy
    underwear for the daring pair.

    “Was it dear, deer?” they said
    with cheeks blushing red
    at the price tag they read –
    Oh yeah!

    But, I’m a doe in the know
    with a dough-splashing beau
    who never says no coz he’s fair.

    A toad towed them home
    in a cart with a groan
    from a hoarse horse who waived the fare.

    “Cheap! Cheap!” the birds cheeped.
    “Bald! Bald!” bawled the beasts.
    “Please! Please!” rose my pleas, “Spare a care
    for the bare bear and hare without hair!”

    Oh yeah!

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Susan, You have put Joe and me to shame. Hopefully, others will do the same.

      Reply
    • Joe Spring

      A tale of two tivs, by Joe Spring

      Barry built a wooden tiv

      and Billy bought a tin one,

      and each one said he wouldn’t’ve

      done what his friend had done.

      Then Billy said “Look at my tin tiv!”

      Said Barry “It’s pretty good!

      If I had money I mightn’t’ve

      made this here tiv of wood.”

      Said Billy, “Have you thought’f

      Trading yours for mine?

      For now I think I oughtn’t’ve

      gone to the shop and bought a tiv

      when p’r’aps your wooden tiv’ll’ve

      been really rather fine.”

      Then trade they did, a tiv for a tiv

      And happy they were to trade:

      the one for the tiv the other had bought

      And the other the other had made.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        I couldn’t’ve said it better m’sel’.

        Very cute and original.

  2. Joe Tessitore

    From the unhumorous side:

    One nightstand, that and just a bed.
    One bare bulb, burning overhead.
    Two lie there, nothing to be said,
    in the glare of a one-night stand.

    Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    Under the lamp-post stands a cute
    Broad, whose angles are acute.
    But if you want this honey, love —
    You’ll have to cough up money, guv.

    Reply
  4. Troy Camplin

    Confusion

    The constant, cruel cacophony can crush
    My nerves at times and overwhelm my days —
    I long for days when I’d enjoy the hush
    Of forest walks that kept me from the glaze
    That cataracts my mind when music, voices,
    Such overwhelming sounds come from my choices.

    The constant tugging, pulling, neediness
    Of everyone exhausts me, makes a haze
    Through which all light seems blinding bright — I bless
    Those moments, ever-rarer, when I gaze
    Upon a room of nothingness, where none
    Is present, making their demands I run.

    The constant pettiness that seems to fill
    The days of everyone are like a blaze
    Of heat, oppressing me. Do what I will,
    Yet going through my days brings on a daze,
    Where I cannot collect my thoughts, my self —
    I feel a toy forgotten on the shelf.

    Reply
  5. Troy Camplin

    On History

    The restless river runs deep red
    While on the bank the people glance
    With love, make children, song, and dance.

    They come, enjoy the festive spread—
    The river tries to make a trance—
    While on the bank the people glance
    With love, make children, song, and dance.

    While killing, stealing, crimes are read
    As history—our only stance
    Great criminals or weary chance
    The restless river runs deep red.
    While on the bank the people glance
    With love, make children, song, and dance.

    Reply
  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    BAITED BREATH

    I hear a soft pause in the pad of her paws
    as I pray for the fate of her prey.
    Oh, for a flaw as she skulks across floor;
    the slam of a door near the pet I adore,
    as I weigh up the scene for a way

    to give you a tale where the mouse keeps his tail
    when I’ve sent Kitty off of the scent;
    that ripe rodent reek causing felines to wreak
    mayhem for a week; no time to be weak
    in this SHOO-WITH-A-SHOE event!

    Reply
  7. James A. Tweedie

    Okay, Susan. Touché!

    “Sheesh,” she shed a tear upon the tier,
    Which stood above the pier on which the Peer
    (He was a prince) left finger prints (Oh, dear)
    Upon the antlered carcass of a deer
    That had been gently laid upon a bier.
    “Let’s drink a toast,” he said, and raised a beer.
    “To everybody here I say, ‘Hear! Hear!’”

    Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        I am, compared to ewe,
        an amateur at best.
        And “homophonic Sue,”
        With ease, outshines the wrest.

        Let’s see some more, folks—lame or tame!

  8. Mark F. Stone

    Joe and James,

    Hi. I did not write these two.

    A noise annoys.

    You scream. I scream.
    We all scream for ice cream.

    But I did write this one today.

    The Flea and the Fly

    A fly told a flea what to do:
    “If you fly, keep that vent in your view.”
    But the poor fly was ailing,
    the tip unavailing.
    It flew with the flu in the flue.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      That’s evocative of Ogden Nash who wrote,

      A flea and a fly in a flue
      Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
      Said the fly, “let us flee!”
      “Let us fly!” said the flea.
      So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

      Reply
    • Mark F. Stone

      Joe and James, Wow! I just realized I copied the poem from my notepad incorrectly. Here is the correct version. Mark

      The Flea and the Fly

      A fly told a flea what to do:
      “If you fly, keep that vent in your view.”
      But the poor flea was ailing,
      the tip unavailing.
      It flew with the flu in the flue.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        Mark and Mike, I can hear the sound of Ogden Gnash-ing his teeth, wishing he had written that one himself.

  9. Mike Bryant

    If I had a way to weigh
    or overrate your lean cuisine
    I wouldn’t say, “You overate!”
    You wouldn’t say, “You’re being mean.”

    The package picture is a palette
    Greens and other lovely hues
    But can it satisfy your palate
    Is it something you can use?

    I guess the food is complementary
    Within itself but not to me
    You’re beauty, though, is elementary
    I am complimentary, see?

    Reply
  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    MOBY HIC (a whale-sized wail)

    When I clapped my paws on wine
    to pause and quaff, then start to whine
    (with ale I pale and start to ail):

    the only male I have is mail –
    each night I crave the bravest knight
    to write to me and put things right
    to bear the burden I lay bare
    to pay the fare to life’s fun-fair
    to take the weight; I hate to wait…

    he came at six – we ate at eight!

    Reply
  11. Anna J. Arredondo

    All’s Well That Ends Well

    Deep in the wood there dwelt a bear.
    His frame was spare, but his mind was good;
    He foraged fruits upon his share,
    And scrounged his fare as best he could,
    So he had food — but none to spare:
    When asked to share, he never would.

    Then came a female bear named Mary
    (Whose soul was sour, though her face was fair);
    She scoffed that he should be named “Harry”
    When in fact his hide was rather bare.
    He tried to hide, his shame to bury,
    Till he could find something to wear.

    Mary grew merry at his plight
    (Her heart was cold, she did not care);
    She raided his berry stash one night,
    A deed that no one else would dare.
    This ruthless, cruel act of spite
    Proved more than the spare bare bear could bear.

    Now, despite his varied outward flaws,
    He had true friends — a hart and hare
    Who joined, with willing hooves and paws,
    To chase that scoundrel far from there,
    Who’d hurt their Harry without cause.
    She fled to wrathful cries — “Beware!” —

    And did not pause for time or tide.
    Now finished with the sad affair,
    Returning home, Harry espied
    A she-bear shapely as a pear
    Whom he desired for a bride,
    Wherein his feelings did not err:
    With joyful haste the knot was tied,
    And jubilation filled the air.

    Now side by side, with love and laughter
    They share their happily ever after,
    Wrapped in each other’s arms, rapt pair.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      “Spare bare bear could bear.” As sweet and lovely as a ripe, juicy grapefruit!

      Reply
  12. David Watt

    I should have gone some time before
    At three o’clock, or latest, four.
    Instead, I now must make amends
    By quickly searching for a ‘MENS’.

    Reply
  13. Joseph S. Salemi

    Which witch
    Made the whale wail
    As the world whirled?

    (This is actually an old example used in philology classes to help distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated “w”).

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Dr. S, I love your wit. It triggered this:

      He sought in vain for inspiration;
      For greatness he had aspiration.
      Alas, his only aspiration
      Came in words like “perspiration.”
      At last, attaining perspication,
      He expired in perturbation.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        It’s nice to have whit of wit.
        Wet your blade before you whet it.
        Don’t whine about the wine.
        Put the whole thing in the hole.
        I got a weal from rubbing that wheel.
        He did play whist, I wist.

      • James A. Tweedie

        The middle three would be a good start towards a collection of homophonic aphorisms.

  14. Paul Oratofsky

    Bandit, is my
    prison sound? My
    irons, are they
    well-wound?

    Here are not my
    grounds grand?
    Bandit, nor my
    prison, sound.

    Banded is my
    prison – sound my
    irons are. They
    well wound.

    Maybe it doesn’t quite fit the protocol, but the first and last stanzas are homophonic.

    Reply
      • Paul Oratofsky

        Thanks, James. I later realized that “wound” is pronounced differently – and is a different word – in the first and third stanzas, but I guess it’s close enough to the exercise.

  15. Benjamin L Perez

    Read Writinghood

    Once upon a time,
    one Momaday,
    I came upon a crime,
    along the Hemingway;
    the crime I couldn’t mime
    was like a needle in a hay———stack.

    In Atwood
    (dark and Wilde)
    a Woolf stood
    (winked and smiled):
    god-saint-self-person-false-unlikeli-likeli-hood
    were ears, eyes, jaws, paws, claws, styles compiled but never mild———mannered.

    Horsing around Djuna Barnes,
    skipping along those Gwendolyn Brooks,
    combing through treasured golden yarns,
    poking around in textual nooks:
    fancy-wise-kiss-ass kicked, punched, and drug by the tale of ancient crooks
    and left in Paine among Robert Graves while Robert Burns the books———hop———down to the ground.

    To part that Ishmael sea of Reed,
    to be filthy, stinking, Adrienne Rich,
    to be Jonathan Swift, to do that deed,
    to Harold Bloom, to find that niche,
    to plant that seed—indeed, succeed—
    and with that Shakespeare scratch that itch:
    but all at once and once and for all and all the while and why not because again and like always I didn’t use the right amount of weed———killer.

    And I only and I only and I only and I only and I only———wanted———to Richard———Wright.

    [Note: Published in Angry Old Man (2018).]

    Reply
  16. C.B. Anderson

    It’s fairy obvious here that many commenters have misunderstood what a homophone is; it’s not just a silly rhyme.

    Cure-All

    Whatever ails you,
    Good ale won’t fail you.

    The Fast Track to Weight Gain

    No need to wait
    While gaining weight:
    Just stuff your pie-hole
    And swallow pie whole.

    Scholarship

    A classic paradigm
    Is worth less than a dime
    If everybody knows
    You have a Roman nose.

    Reply
  17. Joseph S. Salemi

    Kip Anderson is correct. Homophones are two semantically different words that have exactly the same phonic expression. Silly near-rhymes don’t fit the bill.

    Perfect homophones:

    feet/feat
    sale/sail
    tide/tied
    whore/hoar
    wrack/rack
    shoes/shoos
    waste/waist

    Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        Or would it have been better to spell it out?

        A door was ajar and
        Isadora asked,
        “Is a door a jar?”

      • D Robin

        My last post was to Joe Salemi, for his Perfect homophones.

        Thank you for your clarity.
        To you I raise my glass!
        (That also is quite claret-y).

  18. D Robin

    Joe’s post reminded me

    There is a place called Dore
    That’s near my Sheffield door.
    I live inland and sure,
    In land there is no shore.

    Reply
  19. D Robin

    Where are you leading people, ‘Messers’ Tessitore and Tweedie ?? Into a procrastinators’ self-help group ??
    This ditty was complicated to do: And still I carried on:
    And still the big rhyme at the end is a phoney in the homophone stakes.

    My guest is late, where can he be?

    Each time, before he leaves,
    I pour some tea of quality.
    Last time, some leafy leaves
    Got stuck outside, atop the pot.

    Poor bloke. Before he went,
    I rubbed the pot of goodbye tea,
    But he, poor gentle gent,
    Sneezed! Refused my good buy tea.

    And now my guest is so far late
    I check his genealogy.
    O my poor mate, I’ve guessed your fate:
    You’ve died of genie allergy.

    Reply
    • D Robin

      And another one of mine was also not a homophone
      “Thank you for your clarity.
      To you I raise my glass!
      (That also is quite claret-y).”

      And so I learn, by having a go …

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        D, “Geneology” and “genie allergy” may not be perfect homophones but they are perfectly hilarious!

        As for where are we leading you? All we did was hook a leash into your nose and put the other end of the leash into your hand.

        Here is where my leash led me just now:

        I loved a lass,
        By her disdained.
        And so, alas,
        My heart is stained.

  20. Anna J. Arredondo

    Farm Fresh

    Farmer Brown had a grandson named Pierre,
    Who was sent to breathe fresh dairy air.
    When the lad turned out naughty,
    The plan came to nought. He
    Shoved Brown who went down with a splat
    On his derriere in bovine scat.
    Overcome by the smell,
    Brown leapt up with a yell —
    He sure made the boy scat after that!

    Reply
  21. James A. Tweedie

    Anna,

    “. . . breathe fresh derrière.” lol Unfortunately, that’s the image that’s stuck in my head! I suppose that means your poem was a “bottom” line success! Thanks for adding to the collective wit and for spreading a smile.

    Reply
  22. Dan

    Morning Mercies
    by Daniel J. Davis II

    The mourning dove speaks one soft coo.
    The air feels cool as morning dew;
    The purest breath I ever drew
    Gives me more joy than I am due.

    The sun has only kissed the air.
    Its light awoke the baby hare.
    The grass sways in the breeze so fair,
    And flows like flowing angles hair.

    The sky – deep blue; the trees – dark green;
    The golden sun completes the scene,
    And from this feast my eyes did glean
    More glory than they’d ever seen.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Dan,

      In the introduction to this challenge we wrote: “Although our own attempts have been humorous, serious homophonic poems are also a possibility.” Your poem has proven this point true. Nicely done.

      Reply
    • D Robin

      Thanks Dan, your poem changes my view of the homophone that I would mostly have reduced to mere ‘pun’ in the past. I wondered if it only succeeds because it is serious among so many pieces that gurn and twist for amusing attention. Reading it with a fresher mind, it stands up to what I see as its straight forward intend.
      Therefore I look at it in a different light and find that there are two issues I have with it. One is that I think there is a typo – that “angles hair” should be “angels’ hair” or even “angel’s hair”. Another is in the first stanza. Tagging the dove as “mourning” seems strained. There’s no indication in the poem why it is described as “mourning”. There is only the link to “coo” as though cooing is always mournful, which I don’t think is true.
      But, Dan, you are getting this scrutiny from me because you have achieved a fine rendition of an uplifting feeling. Thank you.

      Reply
  23. D Robin

    Hello James (a tweedie (bet you haven’t had that homophone thrown at you since high school or lower!)) re “As for where are we leading you? All we did was hook a leash into your nose and put the other end of the leash into your hand.” Well said.
    My response:
    Being lead through the nose, as everyone knows,
    Is as though you are led through a hole in the head
    With a lead that can lead you
    To what may precede you –
    A lure to pre-seed you
    And tie you and tye you and knot you to not-you,
    Not whole any more, running circles round lead.

    Reply
  24. James A. Tweedie

    D,

    Heh! I never thought of nose piercing as having a hole in the head! Funny.

    Now we all need to match Dan with another “serious” homophonic attempt. Any takers?

    By the way, mourning doves are a widespread and common form of dove (with the homophone linked to the title of Dan’s poem). As a “robin” I should think you have flown around in the same circles with them on occasion . . . .

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      James,
      A “serious” attempt:

      Pastoral Remedy

      Since you left, I have been gazing
      With a dreary, empty stare
      At the fields where we were wont to spend our days,
      Where the hungry flock is grazing,
      Gaily free from earthly care,
      Basking in the sinking sun’s last slanting rays.

      In a daze, I rise up, quiet,
      And on silent sole I steal
      Down the stair, and swiftly hasten to the field.
      As I go, I wonder why it
      Is so hard for me to feel —
      Now my soul is steel; it seems it will not yield.

      Surely, though, my heart is bleeding,
      Aching, longing for release,
      So I flop down in the evening’s dying glow.
      Soon the sheep’s soft, rhythmic bleating
      Lulls my troubled soul to peace,
      And my tears begin their gentle, healing flow.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        Very touching and descriptive. As your soul’s weeping I can clearly see the sweeping vista of the pasture and the soon-to-be sleeping bleating sheep!

        As usual, you have written a fine poem shaped by an interesting and effect metric. I hope you feel good about this poem, because it made me feel good, too! I only hope that others are still following the thread and will have the pleasure of reading it as well. Thanks.

    • D Robin

      Hi James, different country here, don’t have mourning doves. And the American and British robins are very different.
      Thanks for pointing out that mourning doves are widespread on your continent. We can withdraw that part of my comment on Dan’s poem.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        Very true. Your British Robins (such as Hood, Leach, and, of course, D) are quite distinct from ours (Williams, for example). Also, I am glad to hear that British doves are happier than ours. 😉

  25. James A. Tweedie

    A Semi-Serious Poem

    Opposites Attract

    My address is down-west Manhattan
    You live in Toledo.
    You wear a dress of faded satin,
    I wear a tuxedo.

    Your sense of fashion’s bad-assed wrong,
    I’m into fashion week.
    My sense of what’s in style is strong
    Your eye for “chic” is weak.

    I travel with my own chauffeur
    I’m into Tori Amos.
    My Metro-style is trim faux fur
    My stylist is famous.

    You can’t afford a Jag-u-ar
    You drive a Ford 150
    You think “First Rate’s” a drag, you are
    Convinced George Strait is nifty.

    Like Michael Jackson I prefer
    To wear one kidskin glove.
    And I (‘cause you’re not hip) refer
    To ours as “ragtag love.”

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you, James, for your kind feedback. Now, with this semi-serious poem I’d yours, I’d say the whole homophonic gamut has been covered, from punny to serious to in-between.

      I particularly like your more challenging rhymes (Manhattan with satin and so forth), and you sure have a knack for “manufacturing” homophones (prefer/hip refer, glove/ragtag love, etc). Thoroughly enjoyed your poem.

      Reply
  26. Joe Tessitore

    Two more with potential:

    Beer/bier (Draw near, my dear. Bring a beer to my bier …),
    and amuse/a Muse

    Reply
  27. Anna J. Arredondo

    A Royal Getaway

    Act I

    She hid a yawn behind a fan
       With dazzling jewels on it
    Each time a suitor came in sight,
    And one by one they earned her spite,
    Until one hopeful got it right —
       He won her with his sonnet.

    But things weren’t quite as they’d appear:
       His peasanthood, once hidden,
    Was soon found out. The old king roared,
    “He’s not a PEER!” So her adored
    Was ushered out at point of sword.
       Their union was forbidden.

    Act II

    To ward him off, each gate they barred
       Lest he should slip inside,
    But nought could make him hesitate:
    The bard pressed on with measured gait
    Toward the palace and his fate —
       To claim his lovely bride.

    “Who says a princess can’t elope?”
       Her servants heard her say.
    To represent her royal head,
    She crowned a cantaloupe instead
    And left it in her vacant bed
       So she could sneak away.

    Act III

    A frayed knot on her window bar…
       Some footmarks on the ground…
    The king asked, “Have we foiled their plot?”
    A servant shook his head, distraught,
    “Oh no, Sire, no; I’m afraid not!”
    — The pair was never found.

    Reply
  28. James A. Tweedie

    Anna,

    “jewels on it”/”sonnet” and “a frayed knot”/”afraid not” are my two favorites.

    You most certainly have the know-how to tell a darn good story, too!

    So, in conclusion, could it be that our challenge has reached a grand finale with a serious poem written with the poet’s tongue planted firmly in cheek?

    If so, then perhaps it is time to summarize the hole end ever:

    One day Joe and Jim started a merry search
    For something the SCP folks could research
    For homophone poems we yearned across miles
    And those who wrote poetry earned a few smiles
    What once we began with the dew of the morning
    Now ends with a final adieu and with mourning.
    Yet each poet boasts, since the whole wide-earth heard
    That on “Popular Posts” we are now listed third.

    Reply
  29. Madeline Alderman

    After my first taste, I had to come back for seconds
    But you gave me minutes, and hours, and days,
    months, weeks, and years

    My clocks turned to calendars
    My spoonfuls to plates
    , my my’s to {h}our’s and back again to days
    weeks
    months
    and years

    time passed with you
    by then away

    Our years turned back to months, weeks , days
    Our {h}ours turned back into my’s
    My plates to spoonfuls, I couldn’t take a bite
    My calendar fell, my clock stopped.

    Could you please come back for seconds?

    Reply
  30. Mia Panayi

    Homophonic poetry

    I read the title and saw red,

    Homophobic poetry?

    It could only be mean

    It could not be right

    What could it mean?

    So I continued to read

    As I was curious to see what others did write

    But was further confused

    By, “A bare bear that needed underwear”

    Not to mention “a hairless hare,”

    Upon my word, what rabbit hole is this,

    I have well and truly fallen in, I wandered
    as my befuddled brain wondered,

    Flummoxed I adjusted my spectacles

    And I looked again

    Oh homophonic poetry, not homophobic

    I nearly made a spectacle of myself
    Well who knew

    But for me it is really nothing new

    Good grief I got the brief wrong
    Glad I am alone in my living room,

    Oh well, I had a whale of a time
    But English is my second language!

    Reply
    • Mia Panayi

      Perhaps I should have left this in my living room. Sorry I could not resist.
      This exercise is so much fun.
      Even if fools(like me) are always destined for a fall…
      I am glad I have found this site
      thanks to my poor eyesight
      I now have such great poems to read
      and hopefully one day might improve
      and have something worthy for all of you.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        Mia,

        Welcome to the SCP. I’m glad you didn’t leave everything in your living room! Hope to see more of you in the future.

  31. Benjamin D Lukey

    The Cobbler’s Sign

    DROP OFF YOUR SHOES OR BOOTS TO BE RESOLED!*

    *If left past thirty days, they’ll be resold.

    Reply

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