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Friday, July 16, 2010



This week’s prompt, by guest maestro Nathan Landau
Recently I’ve become enamored with the concept of steganography, a form of ‘security through obscurity’ in which a secret message is sent via an innocuous medium –– an image, a letter –– and decoded using a method known only to sender and recipient. The beauty is in the message being truly hidden in plain sight.
(You can read all about the history and uses of steganography on the Wikipedia article
Steganography can be incorporated into writing in any number of ways, from specifically coded poems, to inside jokes and key words, to concealment of one concept within the conceit of another, but this week try keeping something in your poem hidden in plain sight. You can share your decoder ring with the other circus-goers if you please, or decide to keep the secret all to yourself and your recipient, it’s your call.
Alternatively, if secrecy isn’t your style, you could try and find the hidden in an already written poem: take your hand and place it vertically over half or three-quarters of a poem –– preferably one of your own pieces, though someone else’s works just as well (remember to credit the author!) –– and see if a hidden message leaps from the remaining uncovered line fragments.
Encoding or decoding, be sure to come back with your poems on Friday (and through the weekend) and let others in on the secret.
About our guest maestro
Every once in a while we’ll be sharing prompts offered by some of you, of our circus-goers. (Thanks for your generosity!)
This week’s prompt is Nathan Landau’s, who blogs at
Poems About Nothing in Particular and is currently studying creative writing at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. Be sure to stop by and visit his blog, okay?


The quest for knowledge begins

Expecting a manual
Received a sheet of A4
Handwritten, vague instructions

Take a digital device

Such as a calculator
Liquid Crystal display
Light Emitting Diode

Enter a number sequence

Viewed from revised perspective
Tree Of Knowledge is revealed
Once-forbidden fruit is served


The combination number

Three, seven, six, oh, oh, six
Inverted reveals a word
Familiar to us all


  1. Thanks Mama Zen; Many other words can be written in the same way.

  2. I used to while away the hours figure out words to spell on the old calculator (well, maybe not hours). That was long before Google, of course.

  3. Thanks Francis; Me too, back in the last quarter of C20.

  4. Don't get it! 376006..how did you get this?

  5. In my job as a primary school teacher trying to explain the rules of mathematics to 5 - 11 year olds I often had an outerbody experience and found myself somewhere else lol! Oh,,,,I have an idea now! Wonderful stuff! Dxx

  6. Thanks Mrs. Nesbitt; The rules are a bit too rigid for a lot of kids. If you can make it fun for them, I'm sure they'll learn more quickly.

  7. Now I can't recall any of the words we used to spell on our calculators, but I know I did them. Most of my students are playing games on theirs now.

  8. Stan, This rocks! Ha, good eye...that one would have slipped right by me.

  9. I like going from handwritten instructions on paper to digital tree

  10. I love this Stan how clever of you!

  11. The poem is a tease, you make the numbers look like a breeze, and turn it all into trees serving forbidden fruit. I love it,


  12. Thanks to:
    Nan; A numbers game.
    Twitces; Shell, Esso, Oil, Sleigh... etc.
    Mory; Google it is...
    Brenda; You have to think upside down.
    Cynthia; Calculator games...
    Barbara; It's all about technology.
    Pamela; Now we can all know everything!

  13. Thanks 1sojournal; Can you Adam and Eve it...?

  14. Adam showed Eve his thing,
    she shrugged and began to think.
    "It is a very good thing,
    but might have even more

  15. Great fun, Stan. I would only ever use a calculator for sums not words!

  16. I love it when analytical meets intuitive - awesome!

  17. OH, that is wild! Great perspective you've got there.

  18. I remember from childhood....

    58008 and for the less fortunate 55378008.

    My contribution to the poetry community this evening.

    :) Dina

  19. Oh, I'd forgotten all this fun, but google was one I didn't learn way back then. Terrific post!

  20. Thanks to:
    1sojournal; There's more than one way to skin a cat.
    Derrick; They do sums as well... ?
    Zouxzoux; When A meets I, it's often Artificial Intelligence.
    Alice; Search engines have made nearly all knowledge available almost instantly.
    Dina; The one part of school life where you prefer a D over an A...
    Tumblewords; When google was just a glint in it's father's eye, calculators were about as hi-tech as it got.

  21. I'm glad you had the picture of the calcuator at the bottom.

  22. Took me a second to get your response (still drinking my morning coffee)...thanks for the chuckle.

    - Dina

  23. Very clever... and I thought your response to the prompt apt, perfect. And I don't mean to be niggardly, but, um, the poem itself isn't like your poems, more like a series of directions. And that was my problem with the prompt, and why I knew I couldn't do it. To fit together those two very different ways of thinking -the analytical detective decoding a secret message, and the poet who writes of the verities of human existence, could we say left brain/right brain if we wanted to be silly with dichotomies, was a challenge, to say the least. I like what you've done.

  24. Thanks to:
    Evelyn; I decided to reveal a way of hiding a message, rather than keep everyone guessing.
    Dina; "Eh..? Oh...! Ha..." was all the reaction I was looking for.
    Brenda; Quite an epic prompt - first working out a code, making it into a poem, reading the responses and trying to work out everyone elses. I wanted to post something that could be read and allow the reader to move on.