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How to write a brick

Updated on July 25, 2011

What is a brick?

By definition, a brick is a poem written using a fixed width font where each line has an equal number of characters. The number of characters wide a brick is, and the number of lines there are can vary from brick to brick, but one brick will have the same number of fixed width characters.

History of the brick

Back in my BBSing days in the late 80's I started to write these poems as the BBS software that existed at the time only operated using a fixed width font. I thought it would be a vocabulary challenge to compose a post where each line was of an identical length, and thus was the brick born. The BBS software also allowed for different coloured fonts, so I would apply a different colour to each line of the brick. When I started posting bricks to the alt.good.morning newsgroup colour was no longer available, so bricks became monochrome. More recently when I started blogging, I could go back to using different colours, though I have not always done so.

How to Write a Brick

With the advent of the internet brick writing became much simpler. When I first started writing them I had to rely only on my own vocabulary, but now you can easily search for lists of words by word length. In any case, any brick will start with a first line that can be of any length as it does not have to match a preceding line's length. Here is an example of a first line:

This is a brick that is not


So, for a first line that is pretty easy. The tricky part now is to write the second line that is equal in length to the first one, so my first attempt was this:

This is a brick that is not
made of oranges or lemons


Now you can see that there are only two remaining spaces to be filled here, and there is no word or punctuation mark that would make sense here, so we take the last word and replace it:

This is a brick that is not
made of oranges or limes, I


If removing only the last word was insufficient to find a replacement word that would fill the line, remove the last two or three words to rewrite the new line to have it fit. For example, instead of only replacing the lemons with limes I could have gone back three words and written

This is a brick that is not
made of floors or ceilings,


So all that remains is to repeat the instructions above until the brick is complete. How can we tell if a brick is complete? Normally I try to end a brick with the end of a complete sentence, sometimes including the appropriate punctuation mark and other times not. So here is how I finished mine:

This is a brick that is not
made of oranges or limes, I
should know.  I wrote these
lines to create this brick.

Brick contents

Early attempts at composing bricks can result in nonsense or simple ideas being presented. As brick writers obtain more experience through practice, multiple interpretations can be imbued into the brick to allow for various layers of understanding.

The example in the How to write a brick part of this post is a simple one. An example of a brick that is more involved is this:

feign wisdom and ignite
the decision into a red
herring. Ice makers are
sleds without wings, on
top of the world while,
ignoring the sky, flour
prices are skyrocketing


What is the intention of this brick? What does it mean? There is a message, or even more than one message, so clearly this is a more complicated brick.

Conclusion

Take a stab at writing one, post it somewhere that you know that you can set the font to be a fixed-width font. Here at hubpages the preformatted format is what allowed me to produce the fixed with. In pure HTML the <pre> tag will do it, and in MS Word or other software where you can pick a font the Courier font is a fixed width one.

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    • profile image

      gepeTooRs 21 months ago

      I’m now not certain where you’re getting your information, however good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or figuring out more. Thank you for wonderful info I used to be looking for this information for my mission.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      BT, thanks for stopping by, I hope your brick attempts work out to your satisfaction.

    • BusinessTime profile image

      Sarah Kolb-Williams 5 years ago from Twin Cities

      I've never heard of this before -- how fun! I'm going to experiment with this interesting form of poetry. Thanks!

    • ShonEjai profile image

      ShonEjai 6 years ago from California

      thanks for introducing me to a new form! can't wait to try it out. www.picture-speak.com

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks for stopping by, Jami!

    • profile image

      jami l. pereira 6 years ago

      Cool Hub ,thanks for sharing

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks Alex.

    • Alexander Props profile image

      Alexander Props 6 years ago

      This is great!

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks, a, that's an ace of a brick.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Grace is the ace we

      can face or race in

      our inner place and

      lace to our base in

      case of nays. Pace

      With infinite gratitude to who introduced bricks and who evolved them.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      If you do write one and are okay with posting here, I'd like to see it.

    • ceegee415 profile image

      ceegee415 6 years ago from Lake Elsinore, California

      Up and awesome. This is something that, as a poet, I'd like to try!

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Cool, it is no problem. It isn't as straight forward as it used to be back when the internet was only text based before the WWW.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Hi,Phil.

      It seems I screwed up a bit there. I forgot about Courier new and used the wrong font -when it was pointed out it seems that it didn't work, so I wrote a quasi-brick instead. I must try again!

      So, I'd like to amend my statement: :)

      Phil-I have writen a quasi-brick in response to your hub. I will try again, this time using the proper font.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Sally, thank you for the very generous comment, it is very much appreciated. I agree that bricks can be a good writer's block solution; even you are staring at a blank page, any random first line should be not too difficult to put down as a start.

      Flora, while the comments here are not fixed width, I'd like to see your brick - would you post it here as a comment? A reader would then just have to past it into notepad or some equivalent to see it take brick form.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Hi, Phil. I wrote a brick poem called Inner Beauty as You Age. It was quite a challenge! I put a link to this hub so people can read it.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      An awesome topic, offering a fascinating challenge, and beautifully described.

      I'm always looking for exercises to rattle me out of a writer's block, and this one looks like a winner, in many dimensions. Writing by character count, writing to a physical form, and then delivering a message. If I had the power, I'd give this Hub a 100 score right now. Unfortunately, all I can do is give it an Up and Awesome. Done.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Kate, thanks... I also really enjoy writing bricks.

    • Kate Spenser profile image

      Kate Spenser 6 years ago from Austin, TX

      This looks like SO much fun! I am definitely going to try it...maybe if any of them turn out half way decent I will post one for you. :) I'm going to send this to my sister, too - she's really good at writing haikus and I bet she'd be great at this, too. Thanks for sharing this really neat form of poem!

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Well, I started with revenue and I'm all the way up to a whopping 34 cents! Woo Hoo!

    • whoisbid profile image

      whoisbid 6 years ago

      I have not even turned on the revenue yet.. LOL!

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks, I only wish some of the ideas I had would translate into a hub that generates a lot of traffic for revenue. I think I'm too far from main stream to ever have that happen.

    • whoisbid profile image

      whoisbid 6 years ago

      Man, you come up with a lot of fresh ideas.. Hail Phil Plasma!

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Bliss, thanks - any occasion I find to help improve my vocabulary I tend to jump on.

      RM, thanks, the nomination is giving me some attention I would not have otherwise received.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      A brick poem...really really cool!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! To read and vote, this way: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Nuggets-for-El...

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      That's very neat. I agree that it would be a good mental exercise in vocabulary and writing.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks Flora, I had no idea this hub would be considered for a hubnugget.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination, Phil.

      This is the first I have ever heard of a brick poem.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks Simone, I look forward to reading a brick of yours.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Gosh, I had never even heard of a brick before! Very cool.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Brick writing is likely a new concept for most people, considering I started doing it and only those who were in the groups mentioned above were ever a witness to it.

    • kidcool4jesus profile image

      kidcool4jesus 6 years ago from Johnson City, TN

      Brick writing is a new concept for me. At some point, I might want to give it a try.