Flower Petal Poem Game – The New York Times

In Victorian England, flowers were sometimes used as a form of coded communication to express emotions that could not be said out loud. Each bloom was said to have a specific meaning – for example, Daisy expressed innocence, while tulips were a declaration of love – and a bouquet can be gathered to send a secret message to the recipient. The game uses flower names as a phonetic alphabet, like the famous NATO alphabet, where each letter is assigned a word from alpha to Zulu. A poet thinks of a four-letter word and describes it in couplet, others try to guess the subject, which reflects their responses in the flower code. Try your Buttercup Echinacea Sunflower Tulip.

Start with two or more players by text or email (or on good old-fashioned paper). One player is a “poet”, and describes any four-letter word with rhyme couplets. The word may be an object, concept, or verb, such as, in this case, “love.”

Credit …Sam von Ehren, Andrew Dore and Robert Vinluan

Other players guess the subject of the poem, recalling their projections using the flower key as the phonetic alphabet for the NATO alphabet (“Alpha,” “Bravo,” etc.). So if a player guesses “HOPE”, it will be understood as:

Credit …Sam von Ehren, Andrew Dore and Robert Vinluan

The poet responds to each conjecture with more approximations, but must include capitalized words that begin with any correct letter of the previous approximation (in this case “E” and “O”).

Credit …Sam von Ehren, Andrew Dore and Robert Vinluan

The game continues until one guesses the subject correctly.

Credit …Sam von Ehren, Andrew Dore and Robert Vinluan

At that point the poet sends the entire poem back to the group.

Credit …Sam von Ehren, Andrew Dore and Robert Vinluan

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