Form and Content

It seemed necessary at the beginning of this year-long project to create a structure that I could keep coming back to and operate within. This structure manifests itself in certain constraints as to content and form. The constraint as to content is straightforward. What I do, each morning, is take a book from my collection, more or less at random, open to page 52, and copy line 5 or the useable part of line 5: this becomes the first line of my poem. Sometimes it suggests pretty strongly what my poem is going to be about, but sometimes it’s a mere hint. I always think of it an opening, a suggestion, a starting point.The constraint as to form is threefold. Each stanza has 3 lines, a tercet. The number of stanzas has to be between 5 and 12, to fit on a single page. The last word of the third line of each stanza rhymes with the last word of the second line of the following stanza. Lines can be long or short, as fits the subject and the mood. I like working within these constraints not just for the comfort of having a structure to work with, but also because I’m forced to find words that I would never think of otherwise. And with the words come images, stories, music that I would never have occurred to me, consciously. So much of what I write comes from the unconscious and has to feel right to the unconscious mind. And I’m discovering that around midnight is when it comes most freely. And it’s also when I’m less likely to try to force things to fit the structure.

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