Ars Poetica Topologica

I come back and back to a sense of my writing as topology, traveling the Möbius strip to confirm yet again that it is one and not more ways I write.

An article is a directed graph, mostly from A to B, its degree limited. We start and have way stops and end, if we have done the job right, having neither plodded utterly predictably nor lost the main road in too many departures.

A short story is a connected graph, of higher degree, perhaps also directed. Here is where I start to lose my way as the writer I am right now. I can give you a potential story’s emergent properties–themes, characters–and its statistics–various time frames planned, a summary of events. But, needing to apprehend my writing as a single whole, I’m not a good plotter: scenes I can do, scene sequences but awkwardly.

This is, I think, what has pulled me to short lyric. Still some naive Imagiste, I like words sharp and clear. No ideas but in things (of which ideas are a kind). In moments of cheerful weakness I like sound-play and quips. But I am less interested in allusive density and more in sculpting the form of a unity, as depressingly conservative a poetics as that seems.

What I mean is I want my poems to be apprehensible suddenly. Some evolve in time, unrolling like a road over terrain. But the journey is not the point–the one sight to see appears in looking back, zoomed out, when it’s all been laid out.

This is not to say that I aim at still lives. I’m a physicist: motion fascinates. But more interesting to me is motion’s signature in the space, noises used to sound out its shape. I’ve always liked harmony with its overtones more than melody, though my favorite is the polyphony that kinks the border between the two.

If I’ve a world to explore in a poem, I do it as topologist relaying the sense, not geometer calling out its measurements. But it is the sense, not a sense, still less some sense: the report must be precise before my poem is finished.

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