Thursday, July 14, 2022

Poems with multiple choices of what to read . . .

      When you pick up something to read -- a newspaper article, instructions for a new appliance, or a poem, or whatever  -- in what order do you read it?  For many of us, reading is not a beginning-to-end process but a jumping around in which we survey the scope of what's to be read, look for internal highlights, focus on particular terms, etc.  A fascinating exploration of multiple ways of reading a particular poem is a treasure I have found in a blog that I visit often, Poetry and Mathematics by Marian Christie.

      Born in Zimbabwe and now living in the UK, mathy poet Marian Christie offers a delightful and informative blog that thoughtfully explores various ways in which the arts of mathematics and poetry are linked.  In this January, 2022 blog posting Christie examines what she calls a "multiple choice" poem -- that is a poem that offers multiple ways of reading what the page presents. The poem she considers is one written in 1597 by Henry Lok in honor of Elizabeth I; below I offer a diagram of that poem, copied from Christie's blog.

"Square Poem in Honor of Elizabeth I"  by Henry Lok

In addition to reading the ten horizontal ten-syllable lines in downward order, Christie suggests other choices -- for example, in vertical columns, read from top to bottom.  The shaded area in the diagram above suggests particular lines to explore.

     Besides exploration of the poem above, I encourage you also to follow this link to enjoy the full scope of Christie's blog and also, if your time permits,  to explore your reading habits.  Do you jump around, as I do, first creating some sort of framework for what you are reading and then, afterward, carefully collect the details -- and enjoy?  Or is yours a different pattern?

 Henry Lok's poem also is included the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008), collected and edited by Sarah Glaz and me.

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