Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LEMONADE, AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD (Poetry)

by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
Roaring Brook, 2011

Tuesdays with Morzant:
A Book Review by Morzant the Alien
(An Extraterrestrial Attempts to Write Earth-Style Poetry)


Since I began my studies of Earth literature several authors have encouraged me to attempt writing creatively. Unlike Earth literature, virtually all Zeentonian literature is based on mathematical equations. I pride myself on my mathematical abilities; however, even on my home planet I never attempted a creative endeavor such as writing a novel. For that reason, and because I feel my studies of Earth literature are in their infancy, the notion of writing any style of novel overwhelms me. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the impact experimentation with creative writing would have on my studies of Earth literature. Furthermore, the question of whether a Zeentonian can write creatively without employing differential equations or axiomatic geometry has gripped my curiosity.

A scientist devises small-scale experiments to understand larger, more universal trends. If I apply the same methodology to determining my aptitude for creative writing, I find I needn’t write a novel, or even a short story. Poetry is the ideal medium for my purposes. In addition to being a scaled-down creative writing format relative to a novel, poetry encompasses a wide range of forms, both structured and uncontrolled. These diverse forms offer a wide range of experiment possibilities.

I have determined that trying to write poems in the unusual poetry form presented in LEMONADE, AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD will be an appropriate initiation to this offshoot of my studies of Earth literature. The book is comprised of poems that are comprised of words that are comprised solely of the letters contained in the original word. The resulting combination of words illuminates the original word in an imaginative way. The form’s restrictive format appeals to my appreciation for rules and its strict limitations will narrow my creative focus to help reduce the likelihood of my becoming inundated with divergent ideas.


Experiment 808.1: Am I a Poet and I Just Don’t Know It?
Date: May 24, 2011
Subject: Morzant the Alien
(experiment preparation, execution, and report by Morzant)


Attempt #1: Selected a favorite word.

research

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

see
hear
share

Notes:
As required, I restricted myself to the use of letters within “research.” The three words do relate to the selected word, but does this arrangement of three words qualify as a poem? This arrangement lacks concrete imagery. Were the talented artist of LEMONADE, AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD called upon to provide a lively and expressive illustration for this “poem” such as the ones she created for LEMONADE, I believe she would be hard-pressed to settle on a specific graphic representation.


Attempt #2: Selected another word.

literature

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

a
rare
tale
a
real
treat

Notes:
Perhaps a more successful attempt, but it still exudes a certain vagueness. When I read it, I don’t feel the sense of wonder and wholeness I experience when reading Bob Raczka’s poems.


Attempt #3: Considered the possibility that I’m overthinking the process. Looked out the window and selected the word that represents what I first saw.

dandelions

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

“lions
dine
on
snails,”
said
a
seal.

Notes:
What does that even mean? Am I allowed to add punctuation? This is more difficult than I imagined.

Threw pencil across the lab in frustration. Woke Mortimer from his nap. Sent him to make me a potentially inspirational pumpernickel smoothie.


Attempt #4: Tried again after ingesting a delicious pumpernickel smoothie.

asteroid

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

stare
at
it

it
is
a
disaster
to
ed

Notes:
Pumpernickel smoothies do not provide significant creative writing impetus. They are, however, quite delicious.


Attempt #5: Programmed computer to produce a poem using a classic Zeentonian literary equation.

pistachio

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

acho
a
cat
is
hip
oh
i
sit

Notes:
Initial studies suggest Zeentonian literary equations are not an effective means for producing this type of poetry.


Attempt #6: Selected the name of a friend.

Bigfoot

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

boot
too
big

Notes:
Perhaps sufficient if Bigfoot wore boots. He does not.


Attempt #7: Considered that I needed more letters with which to work and selected the name of another friend.

Norman the Half-Invisible Turtle

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

Norman
is
not
a
fable

Norman
is
a
teaser

Notes:
I believe this result reflects the spirit of the exercise; however, I arrived at it using dubious means. This result must be disqualified from the experiment.


Attempt #8: Selected a Zeentionian word.

chimstourgney

Resultant Poetic Configuration:

hungry
it
comes
I
run

Notes:
I’m actually quite pleased with this result, but it’s meaning will not resonate with Earth readers unfamiliar with the vicious, fleet-footed chimstourgney. Regretably, this result cannot not be used to support the supposition that an extraterrestrial can write creatively in a style commensurate with Earth writers.


Conclusion: If I’m a poet, I still don’t know it. Further experimentation necessary.

Auxiliary Conclusion: Bob Raczka is a talented poet.

Notes Regarding Future Poetry Experimentation:
• Try a poetry format with less rigid rules.

• Write in a different location than the lab—is there a connection between successful creative writing and location?

• Find out what type of smoothie, if any, Bob Raczka drinks while writing.

8 comments:

mouseprints said...

I am sorry to hear that your experimentation met with less than the desired results. I thought they were good attempts. I will not attempt the experiment since I am NOT a poet, and I know it! (psstt! If you are successful in determining what type of smoothie, if any, Bob Raczka drinks, this human might be able to find moneys in the slush fund. No one will have to know that any secrets changed hands!)

Kelly Bingham said...

I think your experiments in poetry are very good! Have you ever considered branching out and writing a poetry novel? I see great potential in the asteroid poem especially. Poor Ed.

I am going to go get this book and read it now. It sounds very interesting!

Morzant the Alien said...

Mouseprints, I’m unfamiliar with the terminology “slush fund.” It was my understanding that smoothies and slushies are two quite different beverages. As to secrets, scientists have none. If I discover a smoothie that provides quantifiable creative writing impetus, I will certainly share my findings with those interested.

Kelly, When I interviewed you last summer you declined my suggestion that you write a book about gastropods. You then offered a suggestion of your own—that I should write such a book myself. You are, in fact, one of the authors who inspired me to begin this experimentation with poetry. Despite your kind words to the contrary, and those of Mouseprints, I believe this experiment proves at the very least that I’m not prepared to write an entire novel. Perhaps I’ll try a sonnet: ODE TO A SNAIL.

proseandkahn said...

Wow! You're a dedicated scientist! I just tried to squeeze one poem from a single word and was exhausted!

brenda

Morzant the Alien said...

Brenda, Thank you. It’s a comfort to know that you found this poetry form as difficult as I did. I assumed the frustration I experienced was due to my being unfamiliar with how to write Earth-style poetry. Of course, making assumptions is unwise in scientific studies. I’d like to make a note of your physical reaction to your poetry-writing attempt for later reference; it would be helpful for me to know whether you are human.

proseandkahn said...

Haha! I like to pass as one, but my cover was once almost blown when I busted a seventh grader for chewing gum in the library. His friend asked, "How does she do that?" The bustee exclaimed, "Because she' a mountain lion who watches everything and pounces when something's wrong."

bk

jfitz said...

I thought of doing this with fifth graders next week, using graph paper - now I think I better work with it myself before discouraging them too much. I think there must be a "trick", like make sure you have lots of letters in the word. Does anyone else have some hints?

Morzant the Alien said...

I didn’t observe any human fifth graders in my experiment, so I can only relay to you my own personal experience with writing these poems. It was much more difficult than I expected. As you can see, I found that using longer words did help, especially words that offered a wide assortment of consonants and vowels with which to work. I’d be interested to learn if your students were amenable to the experiment.