Friday, December 11, 2015

Alphamath - poetry built on 4, 8

Since the late 1960s Toronto poet Victor Coleman has been energetically committed to innovated poetic practices.  A fine introduction to this poet is offered by Alex Porco in this linked review of Coleman's recent book, ivH: An Alphamath Serial (Book Thug, 2010).
          ivH: An Alphamath Serial is a book-length poem composed in the tradition 
of such precursors as Pythagoras, who taught that Number was the essence of all things; 
Plato, who argued that geometry was the foundation of all knowledge; 
Leonardo, whose work clearly follows the Renaissance aesthetics of mathematics 
and the mathematics of aesthetics; Descartes, Pascal, and d’Alembert, 
all of whom were both writers and mathematicians; 
Schopenhauer and Lewis Carroll, and then moderns such as Valéry and Ezra Pound, 
who, in his Spirit of Romance, declared that “poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics.”

The numbers 4 and 8 provide Coleman with his arbitrary formal constraints. Each line in ivH: An Alphamath Serial has four syllables, and each stanza has eight lines. In addition, each page of ivH offers a concrete poem in the shape of the letter ‘H’ -- the 8th letter of the alphabet.. 

Here is a stanza of Coleman's poem (one of the several stanzas also quoted in Porco's very informative review); this link leads to a pdf that offers three sample pages.

     Listen to the
     image without
     disturbing its
     enchanted curves
     in accordance
     with these rumbles
     of intended
     obfuscation. (“ivH 47”)

Coleman's work demonstrates poetry as other than a form or a genre but, instead, a counter-method (math + pun) of keeping something of ourselves for ourselves alive—a light, a love, a life in “the dark wood.”

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