Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Mental Math -- and links to Poetic Craft

     From Yellow Springs News (in Antioch, Ohio), an interesting mathy-poetic story by writer Ed Davis  -- entitled "Emergent Verse | A Poetry Workshop" -- in which is uses "Mental Math" by poet Maggie Dean and discusses the process of revising by moving toward brevity.   The process shown is one that often happens as I write a poem -- it begins with a wordy ramble and over time I am able to improve my word choices and say as much or more with fewer words.

Here's the second section of Dean's poem followed by Davis's revision -- a move toward conciseness  (nearly always a goal in mathematics).

     II. (from "Mental Math" by Maggie Dean)

          I remembered what I wanted to tell her, but by then it was too late.
          I wanted to tell my mom that the shirt she bought me for my birthday had
          Washed up really well,
          I followed the laundering instructions just like she taught me.
          This felt like such an important detail at one in the morning that it woke me
                    out of a deep sleep.
          But it was too late to call with this trivial information.
          So instead, I did some mental math:
          If I’m forty-two, that means my mom is sixty-seven.
          If my calculations and predictions are correct,
          We’ll have many more birthday shopping trips ahead.
          There will be time for me to remember the details I want to tell her.
          We’ll have time for frivolous conversations about laundry.

     II.   (from Ed Davis's revision of "Mental Math" by Maggie Dean)   

          I wanted to tell my mom that the shirt
          she bought me for my birthday had
          washed up really well.
          I laundered it like she taught me–
          such an important detail that it woke
          me out of a deep sleep at one a.m.

          Too late to call, so instead,
          I did some mental math.
          If I’m forty-two, then mom is sixty-seven.
          We’ll have many shopping trips ahead.
          Time for all I want to tell her, including
          frivolous conversations about laundry.

 . . .something's lost and something's gained . . .

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