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.

PM

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

6

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.

Final projects: Risa

Risa devised a really neat composting practice she’ll summarize below. But first one of the poems resultant:

MURDER

Water the piece I
visit. Such that I
could be alone. I
want to develop
the thought of you
before I start.

You were the same this
time. None of those
modifiers used
before. Each decade
they drive me to
murder.

One thing I really like here is how each sentence or fragment feels both a great distance from, and intimately bound up in, its neighbours. That a poem can be both fragmentary and whole (see, for instance, Creeley’s Pieces). And the fierce enjambments enact the same paradox line-by-line — each line both broken and intact. And the process by which the poem was generated is remarkably close to invisible.

Risa’s account of the process, with some abridgement:

Choose a word you’d like to end your poem or paragraph with. Google search the word (for example, “murder”). Scroll to the end of the first page of results and find the last substantive word in the last search result (for example, “decades”). Note that word down (so you now have a list with two words on it, in our example “murder” and “decades”). Repeat the process, using the second word as your search term, and adding your third word to the list (for example, “each”). Continue until you have around 15 words or get bored. Then compose a poem that uses each word, either in the order they were found in, or in the reverse order (as in our example).

The words Risa used to compose “Murder” are boldfaced above.