## Wednesday, April 13, 2011

### Conditional statements

The "If ... , then ... ." statements of mathematical theorems are often termed "conditionals." We have, for example, the conditional, "If x < 3, then x² < 9."  And so on.  Formal conditional statements in a poem can give it the feel of mathematics, even if no mathematical terminology is used.  This is  illustrated in "Omens" by the Romanian poet Marin Sorescu (1936-1996); Sorescu's poem also treats us to word-play  -- with allusions that range from nursery rhymes to religious narratives.

Omens     by Marin Sorescu  (

If you meet a chair,
that is good, you will go to Heaven.
If you meet a mountain,
that is bad, you’ll go to the chair.
If you meet the Great Bear,
that is good, you will go to Heaven.
If you meet a snail,
that is bad, you’ll go to the snail.
If you meet a woman,
that is good, you will go to Heaven.
If you meet a tablecloth,
that is bad, you will go to the cupboard.
If you meet a snake,
that is good, it will die and you’ll go to Heaven.
If the snake meets you,
that is bad, you will die and the snake go to Heaven.

If you die,

Beware of this omen
and of all others.

“Omens” is in Selected Poems  (Bloodaxe Books, 1983) by Marin Sorescu, translated by Michael Hamburger. See also the 4 October 2010 posting for Sorescu's "The Reckoning."

Here, next, is a poem of mine -- also a series of conditionals:

Conditionals     by JoAnne Growney

If you take a rose with petals curled
and put it in a vase beside the clock
that has no hands, someone you thought
was lost returns for morning tea.

If you push hard against your belly wall
and square your shoulders while no one
watches from the pines, you hear
your sister's whisper in distant highway noise.

If you slowly peel an orange after noon
and pluck tomatoes by the quarter moon,
you see beyond obsession to details.

If you walk the river's edge to pick up stones
and pile them to mark a place, tomorrow’s dawn
shines bright upon your broken fingernails.

"Conditionals" appears in my collection Red Has No Reason (Plain View Press, 2010).

#### 1 comment:

1. I like these - in fact one could create a whole poetic movement based on conditionals. Personally I find it to have much more value than Oulipo – Here is a conditional for you: If you find define stochastic elements to be important then you have crippled your ability to be expressive.