Ed Pacht, who contributes regularly to this blog, recently wrote, "You know, the very existence of a word is a powerful attack upon randomness. Every word or phrase, even a bit of nonsense like 'slithy tove', is a purposeful ordering of reality to an end. I'd say further that it is impossible for a single human mind to make a truly random selection among words. One's brain is, it would seem, wired so as to make connections, even when they are not apparent. Actually, the list I worked from, if I'd found it without attribution, would have made me think of a personality much like what I've come to know of yours. I would not/could not have made that selection myself. Writing the poem actually felt like taking a journey with Alice into her own wonderland."
This caused me to wonder what would happen were Ed to provide me with a random list. Would I create a poem that reflects his inner world? So I proposed an experiment and he wrote back with his list and said: "You're on -- as random as I could make it. A couple of them popped into my head. I randomly did page roulette on a thesaurus, a dictionary, my BCP, my Bible, and a couple of books I've been reading. Even so, the choice can't be entirely random as what was chosen is whatever caught my attention during the process -- and my attention is uniquely mine."
Here is Ed's list: tinder-box --magic-lantern slides--peace offerings--semi-transparency--tabernacle--headstone--visible sign--careful observations--gaunt little man--leaping lizard--hearing impaired--attention deficit--waterfall--bright image--spring pollen--bouquet--diamond sheen
And here is the poem I wrote. I wasn't able to use the phrase: magic-lantern slides.
Alice C. Linsley
Gaunt little man in monkish garb
beside his hermit house sits
in contemplation of the headstone moon
streaming light on his bearded face.
From gnarled fingers flow whispered prayers,
a waterfall of beads on a black cord with a diamond sheen.
At prayer, attention deficit, though not hearing impaired,
He strikes a bright image of semi-transparency.
Careful observations of high soaring hawks and leaping lizards
Of spring pollen from earth’s bouquet,
He too is a visible sign of Heaven’s peace offerings,
His soul a tinderbox for the Divine Fire.
Related: Random Word Contest