Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekly Workshop: A Numbers Game

Jonathan Thirkield uses code to compose in his debut collection, The Waker's Corridor. Following the title of a poem, he includes two numbers in parentheses--"Upstate (7:127)" and "Abend (10:101)" are two examples. The first number corresponds to the number of stanzas, the second to the number of characters in each stanza, minus white space. This leads to some interesting musical and metric moments, as in the poem below:

The Tilethatchers' Play (16:36)

Roofless night. The tilethatchers rest in

The nativity hay. One clutches a sheep mask

To his chest and snores loudly. The dusting

Of sequins, mimic-starlight they had cast

Through the broken roof upon the toy child,

Reflects the actual moonlight moving over

The exposed stage. And now it is time for the

Wings. Sweeping dark fabric against a dark

Backdrop. Wheeling each sleeping scene to

The carriage houses. A boy holds his finger

And thumb over the tongue of a bell. Hushed,

He follows them in across one life bolted

To the doorway. Now is the time for putting

Everything away. Some bread carried off in

The beaks. Some sweepers again making wing

Noises or brushing bottles off of the curb.

A couple suggestions for trying this new form: 1. Use the word count function in MS Word to avoid crossed eyes trying to count each letter and puctuation mark; 2. Try converting a piece that's not quite working into this numerical format; or 3. Assign yourself random numbers and see what sort of fun you can have.

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