Skip to main content

A Poetry Experiment

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.

Athos Tabernacle
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


poetreader said…
How about this for a conclusion?

Midst the icons hanging on the wall,
magic-lantern slides of heav'nly realm,
as that humble soul with fire is burning,
there is found the uncreated light.

ed pacht
The perfect ending! Yes. Yes.

Popular posts from this blog

INDEX of Topics

Kayaking: A descriptive essay

Hannah O’Malley (Grade 7)

On clear days when we’re done with schoolwork, my mom will order my sister and me to go outside. We’ll tromp out in the afternoon light, unlock the garage door with a struggle, and fetch our orange life jackets and yellow paddles. If, as we click our life jackets on, we can hear and feel an inquisitive wind combing through the trees and brushing our faces with soft hands, we grin and say it will be a good day.

Since our twin kayaks are stored below the house, I always have to a venture there to fetch them. Impassively, they wait like faithful pets in the cold, stale air and the damp, orange sand which seems to be below every house. Ducking my head, I clamber down there, shoving the kayaks to the square of light so that my sister can pull them the rest of the way out, trying not to scrape their sandy undersides on the ground. Then I emerge back into the light, unfolding from the cramped position that the maze of pipes dictated.

Chatting and laughing about th…

Response to Sayers’ “Lost Tools of Learning”

Alice C. Linsley

I have been fond of Dorothy Sayers’ writing for over twenty years. It was while reading her Lord Peter Whimsey novels that I came to appreciate the power of literary fiction and I began to write fiction. I consider Sayers’ Nine Tailors and Gaudy Night to be the most finely crafted English mystery novels ever written. They reveal her exceptional eye for detail in story telling, her remarkable vocabulary and grasp of syntax, and her spiritual insights.

Sayers' facility with the English language rests on her exceptionally good classical training. In “The Lost Tools of Learning” Sayers begins by criticizing the modern tendency to regard specialized talking heads as “authorities” on everything from morals to DNA. She opines that the greatest authorities on the failure of modern education are those who learned nothing. We can imagine chuckles coming from some in her audience and frowns on the faces of self-important academics.

While Sayers is correct that we can’t “tu…