The Exquisite Corpse of the Way We Were

Surrealists invented the technique of Exquisite Corpse in 1918, though the game bears similarity to an even older parlor game called Consequences. Participants take turns writing sentences down on a piece of paper, folding the paper so as to conceal everything but the latest addition, and passing the paper around the room until a collective poem or story is formed. Beatnik poets brought this art form back to life in the 1960s. In the 1990s, the Surrealist exercise spread further in popularity: cartoonists and novelists used Exquisite Corpse to create their works, and musicians like David Bowie and Kurt Cobain constructed lyrics using the technique. High school students at Badgerdog’s summer camp at The Girls’ School of Austin wrote at least two of these poems every day for three weeks. It gave them a greater understanding of the writer’s collective by trusting in each other and their own instincts. The following poems are proof that even without a specific topic, we are all connected when we write together.

Jena Kirkpatrick
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Sprouts Ideas

-an Exquisite Corpse poem

Where did it go? My world?
The land was dry and broken
A small piece of paper sitting on a table
The world slows down, and time speeds up
Sirens echo in a dark hallway
With that the daggers of ice hit the ground with a resounding crack
Earth’s surface like Grandma’s apple pie crust seemed to crumble away
The wind blowing without direction
The soft touch of graphite sprouts ideas
The carrots are coming
Does it all even matter?
None of it matters now.
It is all resolved; the only thing remaining is the witching hour’s sky

Dhruv Ruttala, Anya Van Arnam, Lauren Tourish, Keziah Myers, Camille Pfister, and Zoe Slade. Composed June 21, 2017.


-an Exquisite Corpse poem

Time is but a relative concept
A million clocks on a million walls telling me a million different things from midnight to noon
Time, what are you? Who are you? You are fast and slow, can be light and dark, I am beginning to think no one knows.…
What if the past never existed, and we were simply placed in the present with these memories?
Hours race like seconds, minutes crawl like days
Every decision you’ve ever made leads you here
Tick tock the hands move along
What time was it when I began to fade away?
Time is at a standstill as the world whirls into eternity
Sometimes I wonder if our current life is just a dream, and death would just be waking up

Dhruv Ruttala, Anya Van Arnam, Lauren Tourish, Keziah Myers, Camille Pfister, and Zoe Slade. Composed June 22, 2017.


Granny’s Gold Diamonds

Writing, especially for adults, often tackles the pitfalls and the tragedies of life, but the writing that transcends its page often harnesses hope and the pursuit of pleasure, often in tandem with those more disastrous themes and times. The kiddos in our lower-elementary workshop at the Girls’ School this summer (who dubbed themselves Granny’s Gold Diamonds) leapt at the opportunity to enjoy their process, whether the subject presented itself as shiny or grim. And through that chase, their writing, like their chosen class name, presented itself as inexplicable, infectious, and downright fun. We stumbled into non-sense, we startled ourselves with the truth in our work, and often, we found it was one-in-the-same.

Tyler Gobble
Badgerdog Teaching Artist


The Shark

One day, I went out to hunt for fish. I was really good at it, but the truth was I was bored. So I ate fifty to sixty tuna, but I usually have about one hundred.

Today is the day, I thought, so I followed the markings of a ship that had sunk when it had been set in the water. While I was following the markings, I saw a scuba diver. Through her equipment, I saw she looked worried. At least I think it was a she. She had a beard, but girls have those, right? Good? Anyway, I swam quickly towards her. The cool water really felt good when going fast, and I gobbled her up. But the thing is, I’ve eaten beds, and so I forgot to chew her up.

Then I heard a sound from behind me. “Let me out,” it said. I knew it was the lady, so I spit her out but then ate her again, and then spit her out and ate her again. I did this ten times until she was able to avoid me.

“Goodbye,” she said grimly, and swam away like a torpedo. Wow. I am never doing that again. And by the way, never come too close to sharks, people.



My Friend

You draw like a sweet cupcake
trying to find its family.
You sing like a lifetime snowy voice
that will smile yourself away.
You dance like the stars leading the way
and telling you the music.
You leap and twirl, like you’re flying
while your heart is still pumping.
You write like you are a fancy girl
who is always very happy.
You make everyone smile.



The Terrible House of Kanye

– after Nick Sturm’s “What A Tremendous Time We’re Having”

I live in Kanye’s house made of twenty-one heads
sewn together to make a triangle. It is a heap
of hatred. It is a terrible house. In Kanye’s house,
I have made a small version of Wal-Mart. It is blue,
which I know is a mistake. There is Kanye West.
There is Donald Trump. There is Kim Kardashian,
who poisons the people. In Kanye’s house, I am floppy
like a chair. My emotions want to make me open things
that will never Google you. “A McDonald’s
is a building” is what my intestines want to say.
But Donald Trump wants me to tell you things
that do not make sense with my emotions.
I have the feeling I am being watched. I have the feeling
a liver is going to kick my lung off.
My baby and the alien are always jiggly.
Sometimes I think Kanye’s house is not Kanye’s house.
Other times, I yell in this terrible world
to make the apple pie not look like apple pie.



The History of Food

– after William Blake’s “The Tyger”

Pizza, Pizza! Burning bright
In the oven, in my sight.
Who could possibly escape my eye?
Maybe you can eat some pie?

Hamburgers, Hamburgers! On the pan.
Maybe we should add some ham?
I want you to call brother Sam.
Don’t forget about sister Pam!

Bacon, Bacon! In the pot.
It might be cold, it might be hot.
Do not let the Bacon rot!
Or else I will break your robot.

Chicken, Chicken! In the stove.
I went to the store. My daddy drove.
We have a lot of leftover meat.
What should we do? Just eat!



Soul and Life

My life is my soul.
If anybody wants to touch you, love.
Now, soul, come back. Oh, life, love.
Life and soul go together.
Make human life, soul and life.
Now this is the passage.
Life soul. Oh, life and soul.
Echo of life. Oh, soul, come back.
Everything has life. Oh, love. Oh, life.
Oh, affection, love. Oh, soul.



Inside My Heart

– after Zoe Ryder White’s “Inside My Heart”

Inside my heart lives
one marshmallow on Broadway
two joyful dogs
three colorful roses
four brass parades
five beautiful constellations
six soaring butterflies and
sky-lighting fireflies



Welcome to Brainytown

Hello, peeps! I am your our guide. Let us start. First, we are going to start at Test Scores and end at Sister. Right now, you see an envelope that says Test Scores. It might be horrible, but we don’t know yet. Then we see my enemy, who has dark blond hair with a Westlake shirt. Then you see my worst food, which is called broccoli, with a bad, green afro. Now you see the sneakiest thing I have done, eating a brown Hershey chocolate candy bar. Now you see my face sobbing because my favorite camp is over. The camp is called Badgerdog. You can probably see that I hate to go on rollercoaster rides that make me have butterflies in my stomach. Now, let’s go on up to when I have a family and I’m grown up and have one girl kid. Now you see movies play; actually my favorite movies are Megamind and Inside Out. Right now, you see one of my special moments—when I was born, crying. Now you can see my favorite instrument: a piano with fifty-wo white keys and thirty-six black keys, which equals eighty-eight white and black keys. You now see my favorite food, cookies with chocolate chips. Now you see my favorite place, a home built of red bricks. Now you see a book titled Weird But True with a pink lizard on it. Now you see my second favorite food, ice cream; it’s my second favorite because sometimes it makes me throw. Now, on to my mom. She is the most special person to me. She has dark brown hair. Now moving on to my favorite camp, Badgerdog—it’s not when it ends, but when it starts. I hoped you enjoyed the Brainytown Tour.



My Mother

– after Kenneth Koch’s “To You”

I love you like a
lovely diary holds secrets. I see you
like a pretty princess. You are
sweeter than a sour candy. You
are as funny as a laughing cow.
Your heart is as kind as an
open book. You are as helpful
as a duck helping a mouse.
You are as lucky as a
lucky duck. You are as bright
as a red rose. I love you.



Oh, Food

Oh, Big World, chrysanthemum. Oh, fine tea.
Croissants’ odors are for good.
Oh, tofu. Oh, carrots.
Odor of cocktails. Oh, tomatoes. Oh, pork chops.
Oh, taro bait, fish will not like you.
Oh, taro bait, a three-year-old will keep you company.
Odor of cocktails, pork chops have come.
Shipping homes’ happiness is their full-time job.
Oh, pork chop, tea. Oh, chrysanthemum. Oh, Big World.



The Way the World Works

The way the world works is a curious thing.
A shiny gold token mixed with despair.

Oh, the good days. Oh, the bad days.
The way the world works as tokens mixed with despair.

I respect it and go against it,
for this is the way the world works.

The way the world works is
a hard thing to deal with.

The way the world works is
a peculiar thing indeed.


The Long Road

Often, the ambiguous lines of abstract art seem impenetrable, cold, unwelcoming—as if to say: “I am not for you.” To be intimated by art is not an uncommon experience, and this alienation is only strengthened by the select few who claim to be “insiders,” the true readers of art. However, this week, Badgerdog writer Aubrey refused to be kept out. She not only visited the Blanton Museum of Art (and Kazuya Sakai’s painting), she made it her home. The result of her daring journey is this poem, which rejects the idea that art has any single meaning. Aubrey enters Sakai’s canvas, becoming three distinct speakers as she walks along the painting’s lines. Here is the sea. Here is the rainbow. Here is the world. And here is a possible traveler. She is speaking.

Girls of Kilimanjaro

inspired by Kazuya Sakai’s Filles de Kilimanjaro III

I am a twisting path of rainbows going anywhere I please, with little stops along the way.

I am a girl of Kilimanjaro traveling from Asia to Europe to Mexico on a path of rainbow light.

I am the sea of green around the path. I will never let her pass.

Aubrey, sixth grade, Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp at the Girls’ School of Austin

A Steely Constitution

As summer arrives, Texans collectively begin the annual rituals: backyard barbecues, trips to Barton Springs, lively complaints about the heat. And another event takes place. After their winter hibernation, amusement parks are back open for business, and crowds swarm through the gates; an army of adventurers, ready for thrills! This same montage of sights and sounds lives in the minds of us all; we can’t help but equate “amusement park” with “summer” and “sun” and “heat.” In this week’s Unbound feature, seventh-grade writer Saskia  eloquently states the allure of the roller coaster and all its horrifying delight. Her careful exploration of our almost fatalistic fascination with these steel dangers evokes our deepest fears. But then we come back to earth. At the end of the reader’s journey, we find the life-affirming power of her final sentence. Just enjoy the ride!

Roller Coaster

The air is cool and light, but it won’t last long. We board the stuffy bus, with its scratchy fabric seats and windows that creak loudly when you open them. No one is quite awake, and if they seem like they are, they are running on adrenaline. There is the anticipation of excitement, and it hangs in the air through the light conversations on the bus.

Two hours of half-sleeping on the ride, and finally we are there. One by one, we are off the bus and into a new area of excitement; screams and bright colors fill the atmosphere.

A roller coaster delivers a group over a tall hill in the distance; you can hear them scream bloody murder as they go down, lightning fast.

You get to your first roller coaster. You sit on your cold metal and plastic seat, and you feel scared. You get that weird feeling in your stomach, and you grip the metal bar in front of you so hard your hands are pale. Then you are off, slowly climbing to the top of an incredibly tall hill, and then you’re at the top. You think you’re going to die. You smell metal and plastic, and you find yourself screaming louder than you ever thought you could. The car is rattling loudly, and you can see for a mile. Then suddenly you are at the bottom. The relief rushes over you. You survived, you’re alive.

Saskia, seventh grade, Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp at the Girls’ School of Austin