A contest: Undying love in ≤150 characters

This contest ends at midnight-sharp GMT this coming Sunday, four days from now. I know our contests and games usually run longer than that, but the Sunday deadline is necessary if we're going to have enough time for Shapeways to turn the winning poem (declaration, formula, epigraph, cryptogram, etc.) into a 3-D object -- a light poem, suitable for holding candles -- and express-mail it to you or your sweetie in time for Valentine's Day.

What's the catch?

First, you only get 150 characters total. This is a contest where speed and cleverness beat diligence, so start channeling your inner small mammal, and remember that spaces and punctuation count.

Second, you have to register an account at Shapeways, and download their Creator Java applet. Yes, that's slightly troublesome. Look upon it as an investment in someday being able to tell your grandmutants how hard you had it, back in the dawn of desktop 3-D fabrication.

Third, if anyone other than Randall Monroe tries to submit 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610 987 1597 2584 4181 6765 10946 17711 28657 46368 75025 121393 196418 317811 514229 832040 1346269 2178309, there's going to be some splainin' to do.

And that's all. Try not to wait until the last minute to post your entries. Posting them earlier gives others a chance to admire them, and reduces the chances that someone else will have the same idea and publish it first. If you've posted an entry, make sure you've sent your contact information and desired shipping address to tnh@boingboing.net before the deadline. If you make "contact information" the subject line, we won't look at it unless you win.

(While you're over at the Shapeways site, you might want to take a look at their gallery and shops. It's full of people doing exactly what you'd think they'd do: putting new hats on minifigs, visualizing infectious microorganisms, prototyping models and materials, making art, printing out remote-controlled helicopters, building finely detailed instruments and artifacts, playing "Oh yeah? Then top this" with their fellow topologists, and finally getting that Legion Flight Ring they've always wanted. Also, making valentines.)

If you have an idea for a game, or would like to donate a prize, let us know! One doesn't find good games hanging on every bush. As for donating prizes, I know it's often viewed as a good way to do a little genteel promotion, but you could also try thinking of it as a way to pass along nifty old objects which you no longer wish to own, but are unwilling to throw away. Again, send suggestions to tnh@boingboing.net.


We're adding more goodies. Kevin Jackson-Mead of A K Peters, an independent mathematics and computer science publisher, is donating three copies of Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics as prizes for entries of a romantically scientific or mathematical nature.
Further note: if you're having trouble getting registered at Shapeways, or making the Light Poem option on Creator work, let us know. In the meantime, post your entry here anyway. We can work it out.
Jessica Hasson at Shapeways says that If anyone is having technical problems, they can email her directly at jessica@shapeways.com and she'll help you resolve your problem.


  1. I came back for you. I punched through my coffin and I came back for you. Now I’m at the bottom of the bay, hoping that fish will eat what remembers.

  2. A gentle being
    You come into my life over the wires
    You disturb my peace
    Thank You!

    You may wonder if I’m the one
    I do wonder if you’re the one
    You touch my strings
    Thank You!

    Oh how the world is strange
    One never knows what to expect
    Yet you see a heartbeat miles and miles away
    And I thank You!

    Will you kiss me?

  3. Papertransaction, thank you for reminding us that “undying” has a literal as well as metaphorical meaning.

    Fredicus, good haiku are moments of ineffable grace.

    Vamidus, we will admire it all the same. Have you considered doing a cut-down version?

    And speaking of poetry, did everyone notice what MGFarrelly did last night in the Cheetos video thread?

  4. Is this where we post our entries? If so, here goes:

    eternal, unlike the stars, or elements, or even the protons, but rather like pi, or the Ouroboros, or the unending side of a mobius strip, our love is

    (i figure something that wraps around might be nice for a circular candle)

  5. on coldest winter’s shortest night
    i can taste the summer sun reborn
    in the loving comfort of your mouth

  6. Am I dumb? I just signed up on the Shapeways site, but don’t see where to download their applet. I can’t login yet, I got an email that says “We are currently reviewing your sign-up information and should get back to you shortly.”

    Good advice not to wait until the last second! Not that I have a chance, I’ve read a lot of good stuff from commenters.

  7. Our fire was shared, bright and consuming in our hearts. Though now you are gone, I will forever guard this flame from the maelstrom.

    More to come later.

  8. it’s that feeling i can’t quite pinpoint. i first had it the summer i met you. in moments of quiet, i wondered what it might be, until it came to me.

  9. *shrug* Everyone else is, guess I will too. No formatting since it looks like they’re just a spiral of text in the final product….

    Reaching down with each sunrise, I grasp the clouds between my fingertips and weave them into ribands for her hair.

    In the key of love: Professor Tini playing fresh piano jazz for his wife to scat.

    grey fox in the coop picks the youngest chickens first — never gets his fill

    Play box full of sand, training wheels removed, kite in branches, ball on roof, first soft kiss: the owl in the tree observes it all.

    Rubbing noses with my lover underneath the candlelight, as we dance above the shadows — we’ve had too much wine tonight.

  10. I can’t take credit for this, I read it in the book Concrete Mathematics by Donald Knuth and two other dudes (who’s names I can’t remember). It is, by far, the greatest geek/math poem in existance.

    You are the fairest of your sex
    Let me be your hero
    I love you as one over X
    As X approches zero

    I’ll try to come up with something original later, but that one is too good not to share.

  11. I remember the first time you kicked me in your sleep. I was dreaming that we were immortal. The kick reminded me that we aren’t. Let’s live forever.

  12. I will always remember your flawless form against the sunlight, arched and playful. I would die if it were not for you.

    Another one:

    One hundred and fifty words will never do our love justice. Just know that I will do everything to be your everything. My love for you is timeless.

    Another one:

    Our love is inhuman. BESTIAL(ancient), VIGOROUS(immortal), BEAUTIFUL(unstoppable). We are superheroes and then we are villains.

    More later.

  13. It’s been a long time since I’ve written any poetry and the poetry I did write was rather dystopian. I hope this humble offering will speak to others.

    melancholy ache of separation
    alone, abandoned, awaiting the return
    triumphant reunion, the merging of souls
    hungry, needy, reveling in a singular we

    I hope the formatting and lack of capitalization can be maintained.

  14. My only guess is that we should use the Java applet to make sure the poem “works”–certain letter combinations will make the model not structrually stable, the applet says.

    Here’s my entry, with apologies to the bard–

    Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love; but there exists a bewitch’d potion for the shrouded bumps that are the rash of love.

  15. This flame that licks and flicks at the dark
    Reminds me of what you once said to me.
    Holding each other in our arms tonight
    Always reminds me of what it means to be

    Um…another one.

    Hey, lady of mine. I got you these candle holders for valentines day. Sorry I am not here. I crashed your car and I am hiding. I love you!

  16. To be honest, I do not want to win, I just like participating.
    We need contests more often.

    More wannabe poems to come!

  17. The original, wherein I read 150 to be less than or equal to 250;

    As our love did, this
    Gift of Prometheus flares to life
    With sulphorous birthing pangs
    Luminous the flames survive
    Sanctuary against the dark
    And warmth against the cold
    Yet when at last they flicker, wane
    My love for you shall remain alight.

    And the revised, wherein I wept over my verbosity and chuckled at the luck of a precisely 150 character poem:

    Prometheus’ gift flares to life
    Sulphur in its birthing pangs
    Luminous the flames provide
    Sight to mortal eye- yet, though they wane
    Our love will remain.

  18. Another;

    Like a flame, I have burned you, trying desperately to give you warmth. I have blinded you, only trying to give you sight. Please do not snuff me.

    Netrodent, yours is lovely. I am particularly fond of that style of poetry and yours is quite evocative.

  19. Two gravestones. The first names different, the last names the same. The birth years different, the death years the same. A rose, a briar.

  20. even as breath escapes, as cognition wanes, as time tumbles toward end. even as the swath of death’s cold cocoon encloses. even then, i am yours.

  21. Please excuse the emphasis on mythology. It’s what my brain reverts to when I spend all day studying Classics – my own object of undying love. Two haikus, a couple of statements.

    Undying in the
    Underworld, Orpheus looks
    Back; she disappears.

    She holds out the cloak,
    Hoping in the centaur’s vow,
    Smiling, his love hers.

    Undying love is tragic, like mortals who love gods, like Leda, Deianara, Semele; we will always see our lovers as Orpheus, and ourselves like Eurydice

    Love will always be the worship of another, the fanning of a flame that goes up without a stutter, a spark where a star in the darkness lights the way

  22. I’m still a bit confused as to whether we are supposed to be posting these here or @ Shapeways. Can a moderator please clarify?

    we meet each time being here always
    without pause if not distance
    before ever & also after
    our dyad numenous
    splays across

  23. NM the clarification, just saw the “Further Note” at the bottom of the post. Working on getting Creator set up now.

  24. I used this as a writing assignment for my seniors today, and got a bunch of really excellent entries. One of the better ones:

    I waited for you by the window, peeking through the blinds too often. The neighbors think I’m spying. They don’t know I’m in love.

  25. My entry, below, will only make sense to the person I’d be giving this to. I promise is one word because it is “structurally unsound” to have them separated according to the almighty ShapeWays Creator.


    Only 133!

  26. Shallow breath
    Parchment skin
    Ring too large removed to a chain when rasping ceased
    Not long too
    she for this world
    rocking, waiting

  27. On Saturday morning I hide in the office and you kick things. At two in the afternoon you do the dishes, and suddenly I know what true love is.

    In a slightly more geeky vein:

    My love is a sine wave, continuous and gently fluctuating and older than worlds.

    Oh, this is great fun. I really like working on a tiny canvas. Couldn’t get the app to work, though.

  28. Further technical notes:

    How to find the app: Go to the Creator page, http://www.shapeways.com/creator. In the upper right-hand corner, they give you a choice of three text projects. Click on “light poem”. A box should pop up and offer to let you download the application.

    We’ll be judging the entries as they’re posted here. If you can’t make Shapeways’ technology work, write your 150-character text anyway, and post it in this thread. I trust that Shapeways can get their technology to work.

    If you are using Creator to prototype your entry, I will assume unless told otherwise that you have the text set to run in a continuous spiral.

    The other option you have in Creator is choice of font: Bitstream Vera Sans, Gill Sans MT, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. I won’t recommend one of them over the other, since it’ll just get me into arguments with people who don’t like Gill Sans.

  29. The Shallow Breath poem is mine. As soon as I can get into Shapeways, I’ll run over and submit it there.

  30. (It seems the creator doesn’t support any punctuation, incidentally, but I’ll include it in the entry anyway)

    They may say you are impossible, they may say I am impossible. They may say two wrongs don’t make a right. How wrong they are!

  31. OK OK! the ultimate minimalist poem of Undying Love:
    (are you ready? you sure? I’m only doing this once.
    you paying attention?)
    ready, ready,…..


  32. Not much of poem, love X 20, but it looks good in the creator.


    P.S. Why is the comment box scrolling horizontally?

  33. This is what you’re trying to fit into 150 characters, including spaces. This is the Sullivan Ballou letter written July 14, 1861; many of you will no doubt remember this letter from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary.

    My very dear Sarah:

    The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

    I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

    Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

    The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

    But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

    Sullivan Ballou, age 32, was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861; he left Sarah, age 24, who lived to be 80. They are buried next to each other at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, RI. There are no known living descendants.

    Ironically, Sullivan Ballou’s letter was never mailed. Although Sarah would receive other, decidedly more upbeat letters, dated after the now-famous letter from the battlefield, the letter in question would be found among Sullivan Ballou’s effects when Gov. William Sprague of Rhode Island traveled to Virginia to retrieve the remains of his state’s sons who had fallen in battle.

  34. I don’t see the irony there. If I were to write a letter like that, it would be intended to be found after my death, not mailed.

    But then, if I were to write a letter like that, I would be better favored by Aphrodite and worse by Ares—and beloved of the Muses.

  35. Before you were born, when you were inside me, I heard your little voice say, “You are the one for me.” Yes, I am yours and you mine. With love forever, Your mother. (insert a heart here)

  36. Ooops, can I switch it up a bit? Change it to, “When you were inside me, before you were born.” I like that a little better, kthxbai.

  37. Somebody mentioned the Fibonacci Numbers for a poem.
    Well…I guess…here you go.

    First I will lay the lines down as I wrote it first.
    Then I will give a number layout.


    Okay, so there is, without spaces, 143 characters.
    I wrote this without spaces. I only added them to aid in reading the poem here on BB.

    Okay, so here is the layout so all of you naysayers may debunk my poem:

    1 I
    1 1
    2 US
    3 TWO
    5 FIERY

    Enjoy. Earlier I said that I did not want to compete, all I wanted to do was participate.

    I changed my mind. I want in. Sorry!

  38. Not the entry, just an observation:

    Light Poems don’t support RickRolling.

    … What? It Never Gets Old.


  40. Within my love
    Is found a pain so great
    That but for the pleasures of our friendship
    I could not bear its burden

    (The model is made without spaces.)

  41. My Entry:


    132 characters (+/- 2),

    Which, with spaces, capitalisation, and punctuation is:

    “Cysteine and Tyrosine
    Isoleucine, Glutamine
    Asparagine and Cysteine Once More;
    Proline and Leucine
    And Finally Glycine:
    Oxytocin For The Win! C43 H66 N12 O12 S2″

  42. Undying love, from the core of our beings:


    “Ok, what?”

    It says “TJ-Loves-Rachael-leahcaR-sevoL-JT” using three letter codons mapped to the alphabet. The second half of it (the backwards half) is the inverse mappings: M->G and B->S.

    If you’re thinking “genetic code parody” you’re on the right track! Here they stand for Meme, Gene, Body, and Soul.

    So whats the significance of making an “X hearts Y” statement in a such a code? Genes are the foundations of bodies, and Memes are the foundations of souls (minds). So you could say that my love for her arises from the inner most core of my being, and that its an integral and inextricable part of me.

    Hows that for effing romantic?

    You could also interpret the backwards part: “TJ loves Rachael, Rachael loves TJ”, just to be clear about the two-way love-flow.

    I originally made the code for a sculpture project involving ambigrams and ten foot tall helixes:
    I tried to get shapeways to print that sculpture, but I could never get the damn thing to be watertight.

  43. response to 67.

    My counter for love:


    1992 world’s most powerful nerve gas.

    I have been retaining that information since I read it as a child in 1996. Could be a bit rusty. But, whatever.

  44. Some sweet things we whispered meaninglessly ages ago keep me happy still when you are not here with me.

  45. Despite years of mass accretion and ever increasing density, I will be with you though every collapse. I love you.

  46. You might as well have put the sand under my feet. I feel every grain.
    Say yes and I will consume you
    my flame.

  47. You are the sparkle, glimmer, luster, shimmer, blare of sun and Mars and stars, blaze of lamp and match, halo around the chandelier of moon. Flood me.

  48. You are the sparkle, glimmer, luster, shimmer, blare of sun and Mars and stars, blaze of lamp and match, halo around the chandelier of moon. Flood me.

  49. .
    actual message she sent
    on plane ABZ orig flt overbooked swapped twostop LHR BOS now onestop arr SFO 2 hrs earlier plus free ticket fullstop defrost steaks chill bubbly x

  50. what was I was your bean and you were mine became our bean together planting and growing to a sprout an oak a family tree

  51. Signed up to Shapeway, and got this:


    Thank you again for wanting to be a part of Shapeways. We are currently reviewing your sign-up information and should get back to you shortly.

    By signing up to Shapeways you will agree to a lot of legalese. While you wait please read our terms and conditions and our privacy statement so that you know what your rights and obligations are.


    All they’ve got is (1) my username, (2) my password & (3) email address. What is there to “review” ?

    This is the sort of procedure/language/EULA nightmare that I’d normally expect to be attacked on BB – not promoted?

    Don’t get me wrong, the competition’s a *lovely* idea, the Shapeway company seems to offer a great service – but I’ve signed up to 100’s of website’s & *never* had such “maybe you can join if you’re good enough” mumbo jumbo thrust at me.

  52. Iodine, Americium, Iodine, Nitrogen,
    Liquid Oxygen, Vanadium Evaporation,
    Tungsten, Iodine, Thorium,
    Yttrium, Oxygen, Uranium,

  53. I spent some time playing with the Java app and its particular set of limitations (150 chars, all caps, no commas, certain text/font/layout combinations report as unstable), then spent some time in thought about the woman I love and the light behind her eyes. This was the result:


    It looks better in 3D spiral than as a flat string, I think, but is still readable like this.

    Thanks for the opportunity to wriggle around inside a new set of linguistic constraints.

  54. (Undying love, 3-cubed poem)

    From lights and
    their absence
    I conjure

    your spirit,
    our distance.

    Please, come back
    and be my

  55. (I Love, YOu, Valentine!)

    With you to tune my motor,
    I’ve much more than transportation—
    I’ve got combustion.

  56. A candle between us flickers a smile, drops tears of wax.
    Which do you see: the tears or the twinkling eye?
    the downcast body or the smile?

  57. ooooooooooooooo

  58. I love you like oxygen loves a flame
    I burn for you, fervent, and fast
    I have no fear of the unknown future
    nor the darkness past.

  59. past the precipice, unafraid to fly or fall, you remember that we are air and vital, breathed in, enable me to forget entirely the idea of gravity

    – J. Roth

  60. you give me not wings but fins to glide through all the vast dark oceans / made buoyant and sure, i will always find my way back to where you are

  61. Final judging going on here. It’s frustrating when an entry that would have been a contender is posted anonymously.

  62. I would never have guessed that judges would find so much more to disagree about when judging short entries.

  63. Wait, the judging happens here? Where in the instructions does it say we have to post our entries here?

  64. In many ways loving is like missing deadlines.
    We can only hope that one day all deadlines will be met, and love will be without the restraint of superficial boundaries.

Comments are closed.