Experimental Poetry Form: inside the box

Today’s experimental poetry form is called inside the box.  The form is based off of layout on the page.

It consists of two main elements: a box and a line within the box.  A poet can decide how the two elements relate to each other.

The box can be any size and should be a rectangle.  The line must only be one line and must fit within the box.  The top line of the box should be read first, the left line second, the right line third, the bottom line fourth, and the inner line fifth.  The lines on the left and right are read from top to bottom.  The other lines are read from left to right

Here is what the form looks like:

*                                        *
*                                        *
*                                        *
*  ****************  *
*                                        *
*                                        *
*                                        *
*                                        *

Here is an example poem to illustrate the form:

There were five days of exercising.
W                                                    A
e                                                     n
g                                                     e
h                                                     l
t                                                      l
s                                                     p
–                                                     t
w    Six pounds were gained.     i
e                                                    c
r                                                     a
e                                                    l

l                                                    w
i                                                    a
f                                                    s
e                                                  u
d                                                  s
.                                                   e
–                                                  d
–                                                   .
Healthier food was eaten as well.

Poem with an explanation: It sneaks up on you

It sneaks up on you,
you don’t really feel it.

it’s subtle.
Just a slight aberration,
nothing to really note.

there’s a slight tick,
and all of sudden,
it becomes real.

Still though,
it’s only small,
nothing to be worried about,
not really a concern.

Then though,
it becomes normal.

Five more.

It becomes normal.
Your way of speaking changes.
Your name changes.

Then though,
there are lights.

It’s only a day,
or two,
or maybe a week.

But it’s special.
There are lights.

And so,
and birds,
and the smell of smoke.

It adds.

Now ten.

So there’s a panic.

How did this happen?


So you try.
Run around the ellipse.
You do something,
that to a casual observer,
would seem very pointless.

Still though,
it creeps.

You compensate.
Five out,
ten in.

You compensate.
Run now.
Sit later.

It creeps.

Time passes.
Cycles pass.

One day though,
something changes.

You buy new pants.

The end?



This poem is about the process of gaining unwanted weight.

The first stanza states an idea about gaining unwanted weight – It sneaks up on you, you don’t really feel it.  For some people who have gained weight, this is true.  It happened slowly.  It was subtle.  The poem describes the process.

The second stanza, talks about gaining the first two pounds.  It talks about seeing it on the scale but not really noticing it.

The third stanza, talks about the point when five pounds are gained.  Five pounds is enough that a person doesn’t think that maybe it’s just an aberration.  Five pounds, as the stanza relates, is real.

The fourth stanza though, says that this five pounds isn’t really something to be concerned about.  It express the idea that “It’s only five pounds.”

The fifth stanza expresses a change in thinking.  The gained weight stops being “gained”.  It simply become weight.  It becomes part of you.  It stops being something extra.

This notion that the five pounds stops being five “extra” pounds is related in the seventh stanza.  It relates the idea that a person starts talking about themselves differently.  Instead of saying, for example, that they weigh 135 lbs.  They now say 140 lbs.  It becomes part of how they reference themselves.  Their identity changes.

The eighth stanza talks about holidays, birthdays, and special events.  It refers to them as “lights”.  It makes reference to them as a time when a person doesn’t watch what they eat.

The ninth stanza minimizes the extra food eaten.  It refers to it as being for only a short time.

The tenth stanza continues this idea.  It sort of expresses the protest, “But it’s a special time.”  It justifies the extra eating.

The eleventh stanza talks about extra holiday eating.  It talks about cakes with flower designs (flowers), turkey (birds), like might be had at Thanksgiving, and the smell of smoke, making reference to cookouts.

The twelfth stanza talks about this extra eating adding up.

The thirteenth stanza says that now ten pounds have been gained.

In fourteenth stanza, this ten pounds causes a panic.

The fifteenth stanza questions how the weight gain happened.

The sixteenth stanza expresses an idea of disbelief.

In the seventeenth stanza, there is the idea of exercising to lose weight.  It talks about running on an elliptical machine (Run around the ellipse) and lifting weights (something, that to a casual observer, would seem very pointless – this references the idea that a person lifting weights moves lots of weight, but without an observable result – they aren’t loading a truck or something.  They are just picking heavy weights up and putting them back down.  Nothing seems accomplished.)

The eighteenth stanza says that this is not enough.

The nineteenth stanza talks about a person compensating for the exercise.  The person loses calories by exercising (Five out), but they eat more because the exercise makes them hungry and because they think they can eat more because they exercised (ten in).

The twentieth stanza extends this idea.  It says that a person compensates for exercise by being more sedentary at other times.

The twenty first stanza talks about the weight gain rising to fifteen pounds.

The twenty second stanza talks about the cycle described above continuing as a person gains more weight.

In the twenty third stanza, something changes.

The twenty fourth stanza says what this change is – You buy new pants.  The idea here is to express the notion that the weight gain has been fully accepted.  It is something that is permanent.  You buy new pants.

The twenty fifth stanza asks a question – is this acceptance the end?  Is the weight gain really permanent?  Is this new weight the new norm?

The poem doesn’t answer the question.  It leaves it open ended.

The idea of this poem is to express the process were a person gains unwanted weight.  It isn’t meant to criticize a person who goes through this process, rather it just describes the process.  The poem isn’t meant to ask, as the narration in part of the poem does, “How did this happen?”, but it rather simply describes how it can happen.  The idea is to shine a light on something that is often unnoticed as it happens.  The idea is to make something subtle for a person, be less so.