Math is hard

Can we talk about numbers? Yeah, yeah, It’s nobodies favorite, but I think we can agree everything has value, mathematical or otherwise.

I can’t seem to jump the gap in how certain numerical stanzas can inform form, whether it’s in terms of stanzas, lines, meter, word count, etc. The numbers-as-form method just doesn’t come naturally when I write something out “organically.” I have to go in with, say, a quatrain in mind or it just won’t coagulate for me. I don’t hear meter when I mash keys.

The only conclusion I can even remotely grasp at is that getting a feel for the numbers and patterns just follows the fundamentals in the form of intuition. Hass says the patterns “come alive… intuitively and out of sight,” but I just can’t resolve how numbers and sound resolve one another for myself while I’m writing.

Maybe I’m just reading into things, but I can’t help feeling like the numbers have to come in after, in revision, to chip away at the content while it’s dry, not mold it while it’s still wet. It could be that’s just how my brain works.

But I could just have some assumptions I’ve never really questioned before regarding stricter forms revolving around numbered patterns and, to a lesser degree personally, stress. Is a tree root that grows along a sidewalk’s seem any less natural than a root that grows of its own volition. I don’t think so. But that begs an even more complicated question for me: Can a vine grow into the shape of a sidewalk naturally? I mean, theoretically it could if that pattern was advantageous somehow, but I can’t see how that would be if the sidewalk wasn’t there. Even then, the roots end up breaking the sidewalk anyway.

I don’t think my analogy is very strong, but it’s reflective of my thought process at least. The idea of concrete (haha) forms like numbered patterns just doesn’t compute in terms of organic form for me. I guess form should/will always take the most advantageous path to expressing its content (like everything else in this world does), but how can we, as poets, be so certain of its shape without an initial design or eventual hindsight? And what else is revision besides applied hindsight?

It’s frustrating because it feels like poetry is stretching me in two directions, one commanding me to do what feels right, the other telling me to fit a certain structure. Of course those two aren’t mutually exclusive, but they never seem to line up for me. I can only assume the overall goal is to write a poem with intricate structure that still feels organic. Again, that comes down to fundamentals as far as I can tell. Or it all could be trial-and-error and I’m twisting myself in knots over nothing. But if there’s anything I’m getting out of poetry at this point is to not ignore my emotions, and express them in the best way possible. If only I knew what form “the best” takes. At this point, I feel like I’m rambling and circling around an answer I’ll never reach and I hate it. The worst part is I don’t know how to reflect frustration via the number of lines in a stanza. I just don’t feel like an effective poet when I write without thinking about everything all at once.

Thanks for reading.

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