Final projects: Zoe

Zoe took the “worm in a compost bin” exercise and ran with it, burrowing through paragraphs of her own work and arriving at prose poems like this.


I want to yearly remember your surviving and stay. I see you take your change, and with deeply you are in this small want. To hold each messy water-relapse and be daily when hard and heard. Parenting one or both of us is to stay. Edited puffy eyes, 7:33.

Spun to folds I can be.

One thing I really like here is the rhythm of her sentences — the prosody of her prose, as one of my colleagues would call it. Zoe and I talked a little about counting syllables or words in each phrase, clause, or sentence, and seeing what patterns emerge. Usually you’ll see trends of increase or diminution or equilibrium. Sometimes when a passage just won’t come right it’s because the rhythm is wrong for that place or that thought.

This piece feels masterly to me rhythmically. But let’s see. If we count syllables per phrase and phrases per sentence we get:

9   5|5   16   10   6|5


Yup, there’s a pattern. The number of syllables per sentence climbs from 9 to 10 to 16 and then drops back to 10. The last sentence in the main body stands out, for instead of continuing the diminution, it grows in size again. So the startle we get from the shift in diction (from high lyrical to compressed technical) is reinforced by a deviation from the expected rhythmic pattern.

Lots more we could say here — on the deferral of the expected short sentence to the following paragraph, on the difference between a 10 and a 5|5, on the primacy of five- and six-syllable units, on the counterpoint between syllables per phrase and words per phrase — but my day is done, time to ride to Joe’s Gardens for corn and blueberries. THANK YOU to all my students who’ve allowed me to post their really very striking work on this blog.

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I write draw teach blog in and from the Pacific Northwest of America.

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