Saturday, November 10, 2012

Symmetry in poetry

In Euclidean Geometry, objects retain their size and shape during rigid motions (also called symmetries); one of these is translation -- movement of an object from one place to another along a straight line path.  Here are a few lines by Alberta poet Alice Major that explore the paths of rhyme as a sound moves to and fro within a poem :

     Rhyme's tiles slide
               from line
     to line, a not-so-rigid motion --
     a knitted, shifting symmetry
               that matches 'tree' 
     to 'infinity', 'identity'
     or 'melody.'  Rhyme bides
               its time
     until a tuneful congruence
     chimes in --
     with a difference, like forests
     that line a river with the glide
               of pine
     and aspen, an automorphic chorus
     of translation.

These words from Major are the closing lines of a paper, "Tune and rhyme:  Translation symmetry at work,"  presented by the poet at the 2012 Bridges Conference (Session I-7) in Towson, MD.  Major also participated in a poetry reading at that conference.  Bridges 2013 will be held in the Netherlands.

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