Flat Ozymandias

Earlier this year I shared my Lipograms, the new form called (ingeniously) “flat poems”. Shortly thereafter, I picked out Shelley’s Ozymandias as a poem which I could try to flatten. Here’s the result, and the original.

once ere our era, a man or woman came:
“saw an enormous carcass, no arms,
near an ear, a nose or sneer
no emo. was carve so
we see ever more.
over a remem-verse
‘name me ozemanus
crown me ever, rex over rexes
woe on mere men – swear
ozemanus owns our arena
oz never wears awae
nor comes over-won’.
no more was seen
save a scar, a crow
an area ever same.”

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


one swan swam on a mere.
we saw one more.

This is perhaps my favourite product from a recent experiment. The challenge involved writing only with letters which had no “heads” or “tails” – i.e. I didn’t use any letters which extend above or below the line. It turns out that this is fully half of the alphabet, and a good deal of punctuation on the side. The constraints of working only with the letters w, e, r, u, o, a, s, z, x, c, v, n and m are quite frustrating, but yield interesting results! The result is “flat poetry”, poetry with both hands tied behind its back, where each line is unerringly neat as a ruler.

If you give it a go, please comment below!

I also wrote a few longer-form story poems in this format, which I’ve shared in three separate posts on my Patreon page. If you’re interested, you can start reading here.

UPDATE: this type of writing is called a lipogram, specifically the omission of a letter or letters from the writer’s bag of tools. I don’t know if anyone has done flat poems before. Other lipograms may, for example, avoid using all vowels except the letter “a”.