Friday, May 30, 2008

The Hydra

OK, Mike Keith likes a poetic challenge. But as he says here, he also offers a challenge for the reader: "The poem below is a transformation of William Blake’s "The Tyger" via an unusual linguistic constraint. Your challenge is to determine the constraint, given the hint that strict application of the rule will invariably result (as it does here) in a composition containing exactly 109 words."

The first stanza of The Hydra
By Mike Keith

Hydra, hydra, looming bright
(Be calm now, O forest night!),
No man’s art - so plainly, see -
Can ask, know, capture symmetry!


I admit, I did not figure out what he was doing. Don't continue reading if you want to figure it out on your own...

Hercules and the Hydra by John Singer Sargent

"In The Hydra, the first letter of successive words is required to be the same as the first letter of the chemical symbols (in order) in the Periodic Table, thus producing a constrained language that might be called Elemental English."
H H N B B C N O F N S M A S P: Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, Neon, Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorus, and so on...


Checking in on poetry in England:

  • Hear award-winning young slam poets from London.
  • Watch Poetry Slideshows on the BBC site. I really enjoyed Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi.

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