Maths poetry

Paul Brookes’ chosen form last week was maths poetry in its different manifestations. Using a straightforward sequence of 1, 1, 2, 5, 8, 13 etc words or syllables doesn’t appeal to me much, but I had already been impressed with Marian Christie’s poem that merged the ideas behind Fibonacci sequence poetry and the trimeric, in particular the tide-like back and forth of the lines, overstitching, until the words ebb away completely. It gives a purpose to the diminishing (or increasing) length of the lines, an effect you don’t get with forms like the nonet that simply count syllables. I have written quite a few poems using this idea, and find it almost hypnotic.

The hares are running

The hares are running in the meadow again,
boxing for joy, for spring,
among new daffodils,
bending in

boxing for joy, for spring
is stirring blood,
wild and

Among new daffodils,
long ears

bending in


The tritina is a form I’ve used before and hadn’t considered it as mathematical in any way, but that probably just reflects my ignorance of maths. The repeated end words, I found, risk creating a rather forced effect, particularly as the last word of one stanza is repeated in the first line of the following one. Also, the use of all three end words in the last line is hard to manage without it sounding like an afterthought or a make-weight. I’m certain it’s possible to write a good poem using this form. It’s a challenge, but that’s what we’re here for.

These winter days

These winter days are never silent
never still with flocks of homing birds
and trees that rustle handfuls of dead leaves.

These winter nights enrobe the rustling leaves
with hoar frost crisp as ice and silent
as the unseen swooping wings of night birds.

I hear them calling in the dark, the birds
that hunt the night fields. Filtered through the leaves,
moonlight streams, silver as the sea and silent,

but no birds stir the leaves in this silent moonlight.


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Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

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