Saturday, June 27, 2015

Prompt #228 – Let's Fib


Don’t let this prompt’s title mislead you! We’re not going to write poems in which we tell fibs. Nope! This week we’re going to work with Fibonacci poems.

Math has never been my strong suit (I even failed geometry in high school, and I can only count on my fingers), but some time ago, I was introduced to a form of poetry based on the Fibonacci numbers sequence that appeals to me despite it math-based origins.

To introduce you to the form, I’m going to quote from a definition provided by The Fib Review’s editor, distinguished poet Mary-Jane Grandinetti.

"The Fibonacci poem is a poetry form based on the structure of the Fibonacci number sequence. For those unfamiliar with the Fibonacci Sequence, it is a mathematical sequence in which every figure is the sum of the two preceding it. Thus, you begin with 1 and the sequence follows as such: 1+1=2; then in turn 1+2=3; then 2+3=5; then 3+5=8 and so on. The poetry sequence therefore consists of lines of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and so on with each number representing the number of syllables or words that a writer places in each line of the poem. As a literary device, it is used as a formatted pattern in which one can offer meaning in any organized way, providing the number sequence remains the constancy of the form.

The subject of the Fibonacci poem has no restriction, but the difference between a good fib and a great fib is the poetic element that speaks to the reader. No longer just a fun form to write as a math student, the poets who write Fibonacci poems have replaced the ‘geek’ with the poet."

Here's the format: 

For a 6-line poem:

1 syllable or word for first line
1 syllable or word for second line
2 syllables or words for third
3 syllables or words for fourth
5 syllables or words for fifth
8 syllables or words for sixth

Note: A Fib poem doesn't have to stop as above but may continue the sequence as far as the poet wishes to take it. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 ...

An example (one that I wrote, published in Fib Review, Issue #3)

     Still 
     there,
     through the
     frame of a
     broken window—the
     torn lace curtains flutter like wings.

Bear in mind that Fibonacci poems go beyond mere number sequencing and should incorporate poetic language, heart, and spirit. It isn’t enough to just adhere to the syllable or word number sequence. In other words, you don’t just drop a so-what poem into a numbered frame. Instead, you create a real poem that appears in Fibonacci form.

At first, I found myself comparing Fib poems to haiku. Mary-Jane Grandinetti offered the following in response:

"Several Wiki sites have called the Fib the Haiku's "cousin". People who are unfamiliar with formal poetry don't realize how many other poetry forms require a specific syllable count. I've been holding workshops every Tuesday night for the past 7 years on short poetry forms and there are hundreds of forms that count syllables. I believe it is an injustice to haiku to continue the "myth" that haiku is all about 17 syllables of 5-7-5, so I try to make a point of debunking the supposed relationship of the Fib to haiku.

I don't believe that a Fib needs to focus on a single moment of experience. In any short poetry form that would be the most important part of the poem - capturing a specific moment, thought, idea.  But having given our Fib poets the freedom to experiment with the form, many have written substantially longer poems with line lengths of over 55 syllables, or with multiple stanzas.
Ms. Grandinetti also offered us the following suggestions (for which many thanks):
  • Sentence versus Poetry—shouldn’t be a sentence divided in 20 syllables/words.  This is especially true in word count Fibs.  People just split a standard poem by words, and use enjambment just to make the poem fit. Poetic - this is poetry isn’t it? It should be a poem, poetic, each line doesn’t have to be a sequence of the one before it but the natural break at the end of each line should work to the advantage of the poem
  • No Cheater words—words like a, the, very, unnecessary adjectives are not the best choice for those one syllable words, and no fair using “very, very, very” to make up the 8 syllable line.  Rethink what you want to say and use different words that do fit.
  • First two lines should set the tone—these two words should show what the poem is about. The first 2 words are always the most difficult. And if you use the reversed or diamond shaped form the last 2 words are equally difficult and the most important.  This is where most poets fail - they can't find a way to end the poem.
  • Last line —the juxtaposition, punchline, point of the poem - just like with any other poem.

Guidelines:

1.  Fib poems may include figures of speech, so don’t shy away from similes and metaphors.

2. Remember that you may use the Fib number sequence through syllable count or word count. You choose whichever works best for you.

4. You might like to try a Fibonacci sequence—that is, a series of Fib poems that link to one another or, in some way, relate to each other. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

5. Of course, you may begin with a Fib poem and veer off into something else. Let your poem take you where it wants to go!


Tips:

1. Keep your poem accessible and engaging.

2. Use fresh language

3. Avoid abstractions and clichés.

4. Avoid “preachiness.” Poetry that instructs on some level is fine, but don’t annoy your readers with something you feel compelled to "teach" them.

5. Craft counts—always—no matter what form of poetry you’re writing, pay attention to technique.

6. Working with a form is a good way to practice discipline in your writing. It can also be fun, so enjoy writing your Fib poems.

7. If you'd like to read more about Fibonacci poems, here's the link to an article on Gregory Pincus's blog  that you'll find helpful:
www.gottabook.blogspot.com/2006/04/fib.html.

Examples:



15 comments:

  1. What fun! I've never heard of this form before, but it's a wonderful challenge and really enjoyable to read and to write. Thank you, Adele!

    And thank you to Mary-Jane Grandinetti for her inputs. I've been reading the Fib Review this afternoon and am excited to be introduced to this form.

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    1. Thanks, Jamie! So glad you like the form! Have fun with it.

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  2. It's worth experimenting with this form of poetry, especially for generating new ideas. Thank you, Adele :)

    ~ ~ ~

    Sat
    alone,
    her thoughts
    give her pleasure.
    On her lips — the song
    of a happy heart like free winds everywhere.


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    1. Very nice, Lewis! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

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    2. Well done, Lewis!

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  3. So interesting! A "doable" challenge. I always learn new things here on your blog. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for your comment and kind words, Sandy!

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  4. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)June 28, 2015 at 2:15 PM

    Greetings from Ireland, Adele. What a great concept -- a poem based on a number sequence. I would have made a haiku connection myself and was most interested in Ms. Grandinetti's comments to the contrary. (Of course, real haiku have nothing to do with the commonly misunderstood 5, 7, 5.)

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    1. Hello, Maire! It's always nice to hear from you. Thanks so much for your comments.

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  5. death
    comes
    slowly
    clinging painfully
    weeping loudly till the end

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    Replies
    1. Powerfully sad, Risa! Thanks so much for sharing with us. I had a feeling this form would work with your style.

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    2. Very solemn -- you create a strong tone in so few words. Well done, Risa!

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  6. Marmalade
    Cat
    Dreams blue
    Wings black eye
    He trills and crouches low
    Glass sheeted screen divide-bluebird finishes his bath

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    1. Well done, Rose! You really did a great job, and thanks so much for sharing it with us! (I really like the way you incorporated color and a sense of texture.)

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    2. Ditto to Adele's comment, Rose! Thank you for sharing this!

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