Find the Hidden Poems Contest

Kenny Brechner -- April 2nd, 2021

It being April and National Poetry Month, we have two orders of business. First, you should enter a fun contest. And then I have a question for you.

Here’s the contest.

Find The Hidden Poems of Wuthering Heights Contest

Perhaps you have heard of that novel practice, popular among authors in the 1840s, of creating a codex of page and line numbers which allowed poems, hidden and scattered within a work of prose, to be located and reconstituted. Two prominent practitioners of this arcane literary undertaking were Henry David Thoreau and Emily Brontë. Thoreau’s codex was actually discovered by Walden scholar Thad Gullman in a cavity drilled into the handle of the Thoreau hoe, a farm implement owned by Thoreau himself. Gullman’s findings can be found in his essay, The Hidden Poems of Thoreau. 

Though it is known that Brontë created a similar codex whereby the poems she hid in Wuthering Heights might be reconstituted, it has never been discovered, though she did leave behind the text of one hidden poem, “something from which I might shape a prophecy.” For DDG’s Poetry Month contest, simply create a hidden poem of Wuthering Heights constructed of lines taken from the book and post in the ShelfTalker comments below by April 28. The grand prize entry will receive a lovely Penguin Classics hardcover edition of Wuthering Heights.

something from which I might shape a prophecy

The hint was enough to bind
our hands. Dark night coming down
prematurely, and sky and hills mingled
in one bitter whirl of wind
and suffocating snow. I listened
doubtingly
an instant; detected the disturber, then turned
and dozed, and dreamt again.

I swept it along the carpet.
The latch was raised and fell—
The lock gave way,
and grief
‘Who is that?’ I whispered.

And here is my question. I’d like to adapt the contest for younger readers and elementary classroom use. One unsurprising thing I found is that not all texts are equal for finding hidden poems. I wanted to pick a text that many people already had or could easily lay hand on and wouldn’t therefore require a purchase to enter. I looked at Pride and Prejudice and quickly discovered it to be populated with proper nouns, which made poem finding very difficult. Wuthering Heights, however, is a treasure trove on every page. So bearing these issues in mind, what children’s novel would you put forward as most apt for our purpose??

2 thoughts on “Find the Hidden Poems Contest

  1. VickeyB

    For obvious reasons, Beverly Cleary has been on my mind this week. For your elementary-level contest, some of her books might yield poems.

    For older contestants, perhaps “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Hobbit,” or “Little Women” or “Jo’s Boys” might have poems hidden in their texts.

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