Experimental Poetry Form: hierarchy

This experimental poetry form is called hierarchy.  In the form, a reader has choices.  When they get to a line, they have a choice of what line to read next.  This means that different readers could read the poem differently, and that the same reader could read it more than once in different ways.

The form has fifteen lines.  Here are the hierarchy choices written out:

Line 1: go to line 2 or 3

Line 2: go to line 4 or 5

Line 3: go to line 6 or 7

Line 4: go to line 8 or 9

Line 5: go to line 10 or 11

Line 6: go to line 12 or 13

Line 7: go to line 14 or 15

 

Visually, it would look something like this:

hierarchy experimental poetry form image

For example, a reader starting on line 1, has a choice after reading it, to go to line 2 or 3.  If they choose line 2, after reading it, they have a choice between lines 4 and 5.  If the choose line 5, after reading it, they have a choice between lines 10 and 11.  Once they choose one of the lines, for example 10, the poem is finished.  They could then go back and read it again making different choices.

In writing the poem, a poet would should number the lines and put the choice instructions for the reader.

One difficulty in writing a poem using this form, is that it would have to make sense in all choice combinations.

There are eight choice combinations.  They are:

1 – 2 – 4 – 8

1 – 2 – 4 – 9

1 – 2 – 5 – 10

1 – 2 – 5 – 11

1 – 3 – 6 – 12

1 – 3 – 6 – 13

1 – 3 – 7- 14

1 – 3 – 7- 15

 

In writing the poem, a poet should approach it methodically and check that the line combinations make sense as they go.  This is not that difficult, because the two branches from lines 2 and 3 are separate and don’t connect, and because only seven of the fifteen lines have a choice.

One way to write the poem is in the following line order: 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 5, 10, 11, 3, 6, 12, 13, 7, 14, 15.

Here is an example poem using the form:

Line 1: Outside on the porch the dog coughed. (Go to line 2 or 3)

Line 2: No one inside heard him, (Go to line 4 or 5)

Line 3: By his side a man wept, (Go to line 6 or 7)

Line 4: for they were absorbed in their own worlds, (Go to line 8 or 9)

Line 5: but in the yard, ears did listen (Go to line 10 or 11)

Line 6: understanding the pain the dog felt, (Go to line 12 or 13)

Line 7: thinking of the days when his father coughed (Go to line 14 or 15)

Line 8: and outside the dog was alone.

Line 9: but next to him his fellow dog showed compassion.

Line 10: and came to his aid.

Line 11: and a voice cried out for help.

Line 12: for in the smoke he too could not breathe.

Line 13: but unable to ease it.

Line 14: and knowing what had happened.

Line 15: and having hope through the tears that the dog too would get better.

 

In the explanation above the example of reading the poem lines 1, 2, 5, and 10 was given.  With this poem, that would result in:

Outside on the porch the dog coughed.

No one inside heard him,

but in the yard, ears did listen

and came to his aid.

 

The form can make for an interesting poem because a poet can present different outcomes based on the line choices.

 

Post series: Advent: Poem: This first day

Today is the first day of Advent.  From now through Christmas Eve there will be a series of posts related to Advent.  Today’s post is a poem called This first day.

This first day

did not go as planned

but a lesson was learned

and hopefully two.

A dose

of humility

was served,

as pride was on the floor.

This first day

through it all

was a good day.

Artwork to inspire poetry: faded iris

faded iris

Above is an artwork of a faded iris.  It can inspire poetry.  A poet could be inspired to write about:

  • Life fading. The iris is fading and a poet could relate this to a person who is dying.
  •  

  • Rebirth. After the flower fades, there will be seeds (although an iris might more normally be grown from bulbs).  These seeds could be new plants.  This idea could be translated to rebirth and applied to other situations.
  •  

  • Time. A flower fading shows the progression of time.  A poet could apply this idea to other things.  An example might be a building that deteriorates over time.
  •  

  • Tired. A flower fading could be related to the idea of being tired or spent.  A poet could apply this idea to other situations.
  •  

  • Losing vision. An iris, in addition to being a flower, is also a word that describes a part of the eye.  A poet could write about someone losing their vision.

Here is a poem inspired by the artwork:

her breathing slowed

Experimental Poetry Form: pennies, nickels, and a dime

Today’s experimental poetry form is called pennies, nickels, and a dime.

Five pennies are equivalent to one nickel and two nickels are equivalent to one dime.  This idea is the basis of the form.

The form has four stanzas.

The first stanza is the penny stanza.  It has five lines.  Each line has one syllable.

The second stanza is the nickel stanza.  It has one line.  That one line has five syllables.

The third stanza is the two nickel stanza.  It has two lines.  Each line has five syllables.

The fourth stanza is the dime stanza.  It has one line.  That one line has ten syllables.

The idea is that the stanzas are related the same way the coins are related.

Here is an example poem:

Some
nights
it’s
so
still.

Sitting by the bed,

in the hospital,
watching the lights glow.

They might look pretty but for the reason.

Poem: tears of regret

There’s a moment,
where you think someone may die,
and as you sit by their bed,
holding their hand,
you are filled with regret.

You regret the time,
you didn’t spend with them.

You regret the anger,
that you showed them.

You regret all the meaningless things,
that you put before them.

In that moment,
as you watch them breathe,
and pray that it will not stop,
the days and years pass by in your mind,
and all those moments that should not have been,
are reminded to you.

You say kind words,
and express your love,
and say from within your depth,
that you are sorry.

In this moment,
whatever happens,
learn from this.

Learn from the regret,
learn from the sorrow,
learn from all that you believe you lost.

In time,
either good or bad,
the time will pass,
and when it does,
do not forget.

Do not forget,
the feelings you had.

Do not forget,
the sorrow you felt.

Do not forget,
your regret.

Do not,
let things,
become normal again.

Do not,
let things,
be as they were.

Although the effort may strain,
and the logic may strain,
and the petty things may strain,
do not forget.

The day will come,
again,
when you sit by a bed,
and hold a hand,
and all those words,
and all those logics,
of why you should not have changed,
will shatter like glass.

Don’t let that happen.

Don’t be in that place.

Learn from the tears,
and go a new path,
so that by the bed,
in the future,
while there may be tears of sorrow,
there will not be,
tears of regret.

Poem with an explanation: the unseen grew within the walls

The wire circled,
and earth removed,
thorns did grow,
beneath solid sand,
cool iron flowed,
across the trees,
while sentries stood,
with trumpet horns,
and there within,
the unseen grew,
and all collapsed,
within the walls.

 

This poem looks at the idea of preparing for one thing, but encountering another.  It looks at the idea of taking precautions for one concern, while another goes unseen.

In the poem, there is a person with a home.  The person is fearful of a home break in.  Because of this, the person takes precautions to protect their home.  The idea, is that the person wants to protect themselves from a potential harm.

At the same time, the person gets ill.  They get an unexpected disease and their physical condition suffers.  While the person took many steps to protect themselves against a perceived threat, an unperceived threat ended up causing them harm.  In the poem, the person’s efforts to protect themselves from harm turned out to be futile.

Although the poem examines the idea of futile efforts, it doesn’t imply that the efforts were inherently futile.  The efforts were directed in a wise way, however, another wise way was ignored.  An analogy might be a knight in battle wearing chest armor, but having no helmet.  The chest armor is good and was a good thing to prepare.  The helmet was important too, but just not considered.

In terms of form, all lines of the poem are three words long.  The poem is one stanza of twelve lines.

In the first line, The wire circled, the person has a chain link fence put up around their property.

In the second line, and earth removed, the person has ditches dug along the front of their property to make it so vehicles can only come down their driveway.

In the third line, thorns did grow, the person plants thorny plants.

The fourth line, beneath solid sand, relates to the third line and says that the plants were planted beneath windows.  The windows are solid in that they are the type that are difficult to break.

The fifth and sixth lines say, cool iron flowed, across the trees.  The cool iron are locks and the trees are the person’s doors.

The seventh and eighth lines say, while sentries stood, with trumpet horns.  The sentries are various sensors, such as motion sensors.  These sensors are connected to an alarm system which are the trumpet horns.

The ninth through eleventh lines talk about the disease the person has.  The disease was within the person, and not like the threat the person perceived from the outside.  The disease was unseen in that the person did not feel it growing and it was not something they thought to protect themselves against.  The disease takes a physical toll on the person (and all collapsed).

The twelfth line relates the irony of the situation.  The person built walls to protect themselves from the outside, and yet they are damaged from the inside.  The walls were ineffective at protecting them from the threat that occurred.

As related above, this poem relates to the idea of preventing negative things.  It looks at the notion that a person can go to great lengths to protect themselves from one type of negative thing, while something they did not consider can cause them harm.  The poem does not say that the protective measures were bad, just that they were not the right kind for what the person encountered.

Although this poem looks at home protection and illness, the same sort of idea could be applied to other situations.  For example, a person might go to great lengths to protect their home from fire, only to have their house flood.  Or, a person might spend a lot of time learning how to repair their car, only to have something in their home break.  The same idea can be applied to many situations where efforts are directed to one place but they turn out to have been needed in another.

Poem with an explanation: drifting after the storm

in darkness the storm
the leviathan thunders
drifting out to sea

 

This poem is a haiku.  It is written in the 5-7-5 format.

This poem about the first signs of a serious illness.  In the poem, a person wakes up in bed, covered in sweat.  At this point, the person feels that something is physically wrong, but is not aware of the seriousness of it.

The poem uses idea of the sea as a metaphor.

The first line says, “in the darkness the storm”.  This alludes to a few things.  “the darkness” refers to the night as well as to the idea of the negativity of the illness.  It also refers to the idea that the person is “in the dark” in regards to the condition they have.  “the storm” refers to the person sweating, and again to the negativity of their condition.

The second line says, “the leviathan thunders”.  A leviathan is a mythical sea monster.  It is representative of the illness the person has.  The thunder the person metaphorically hears is not natural thunder, as a storm might suggest, rather it is the sound of the leviathan.  The idea here is that the person thinks what is happening is normal, like thunder during a storm would be, but what is happening is not normal.  The person is seriously ill but thinks they are just having a temporary condition.

The third line says, “drifting out to sea”.  This line changes the tone of the first two.  The first line had a storm and the second line had something thundering.  This line has something that sounds calm – the idea of a person in a boat drifting out to sea.

The idea is to reflect that the person is going on an unknown journey where they lack control.  The person is about to be faced with an illness they know nothing about and over which they have no ability to control.  Something is happening to them.

While this may be something that could be described as abrupt, for example with the line “over waterfalls”, in this situation that is not what is happening.

The person is about to go on the journey of their illness.  This journey has not really started though.  The person has not had the moment of diagnosis.  They have not had the “waterfall moment” of finding out they have a disease.  At this point, the person is in the dark and in some way slowly moving toward their journey.

As the person lays in bed, they have the abrupt moment of waking up covered in sweat, but this moment subsides as the person thinks they are just not feeling right.  They believe that the feeling will pass and they will return to normal soon.  They do not know what is really happening to them.