Last night at the stanza meeting I mentioned that I have written (but am still editing) a sequence of 23 poems. Some of these have been around for a while. However, I am slowly converting the sequence to use a form that I have invented (though doubtless, unbeknown to me, it has been invented many times before). The form is quite simple to explain, but a bit of a bugger to use. It is based on prime numbers.
For those who don’t know, or have forgotten, what a prime number is the explanation is simple: a prime number is a whole number that is only divisible by itself or 1. So for example 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19 are the first 9 prime numbers. Mathematicians have been in love with the primes since the time of the Greeks, and maybe longer. Euclid (he of the Elements) proved two of the most important facts about primes. First he proved that there are infinitely many of them. More importantly he proved what is now known as the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic. This states that if you take any number (100 say) then you can always break it down into a product of primes (so 100 = 2 x 2 x 5 x 5). What’s more this can only be done one way – there is no other way of breaking 100 into a product of primes. The prime numbers are the building blocks of the whole number system!
The way I use primes in the form is twofold. First the poem must contain a prime number of lines (excluding the title). Second, each line (including the title) must contain a prime number of syllables. That’s it.
Below, by way of example, is another poem from the sequence. This one mentions someone called Mr C who has appeared in my poems lately. The poem actually first saw the light of day in 2001 after an Arvon course (my first), though it was quite different to the one here. Indeed I think I brought a version to a recent stanza meeting.
Candle drool blears at Milo.
His stubbled chin scrapes the breeze.
He reaches out over the garden railings
until he touches the crags of Golden Clough.
He shakes the dew from the Scots pines silhouetted on the horizon.
Drifting wood smoke snags his throat
while he’s splashing his face in a gritstone trough.
Blackbirds chink chink chink at his rude intrusion.
Somewhere a toilet flushes.
Steam vents from a pipe.
Someone coughs and a door slams.
An urge moves Milo to leap
into the stream by Lumb Mill.
me got language now ~ me help that mr c
me master blaster milo
The week is over.
Things will never be the same.