Saturday, October 1, 2016

Prompt #263 – Fibonacci Poems by Gail Gerwin

My dear friend and fellow poet, Gail Fishman Gerwin, 
prepared this prompt on the Fibonacci for us,
 and I'm pleased to share it with you this week—with many thanks to Gail.

Write a Narrative Fibonacci

Several years ago, I was fortunate to receive an invitation to read at the Barron Arts Center’s PoetsWednesday in Woodbridge, NJ. The series offers workshops prior to the features and open readings. Luckily, that evening renowned poet Joe Weil facilitated a lesson on how to write a Fibonacci, a poetic form named for 13th century mathematician Leonardo Pisano, later known as Fibonacci. That night’s workshop dealt with one form of Fibonacci. The formula:

First line – one syllable or word
Second line – one syllable or word (0 +1, sum of previous two lines)
Third line – two syllables or words (1+1, same pattern)
Fourth line – three syllables or words (1+2)
Fifth line – five syllables or words (2+3)
Sixth line – eight syllables or words (3+5)
Seventh line – thirteen syllables or words (5+8)
Then reverse:
Eighth line – eight syllables or words
Ninth line – five syllables or words
Tenth line – three syllables or words
Eleventh line – two syllables or words
Twelfth line – one syllable or word
Thirteenth line – one syllable or word

The finished product: an interesting-looking narrative.

I preferred the word count to the syllable count. I chose a television show of my youth, starring Milton Berle, a comedian; it was live television in black and white. Families would gather in some lucky person’s living room at 8 p.m. on Tuesday nights (not everyone owned even a single TV) to watch.

Many early television sets were made by a company named Dumont. The screens were small but the laughs were large. Some skits were extremely silly, like when Milton called “make-up,” someone would come out and smack him in the face with a big powder puff and he always acted surprised. You can see an example of this on an old Donny and Marie YouTube ( at about minute 3:07 (+/-).

When I received Joe’s prompt to compose a Fibonacci with the above formula about something in my past, I thought of Uncle Miltie, as he was called with affection. One feature of the show involved an ad for the Texaco gas company, where service-station attendants sang a jingle that began “We are the men of Texaco, we work from Maine to Mexico . . . Everyone watching knew this song and could sing along. Hence the mention of Texaco men in the poem below. I like to put dialogue in italics, not quotation marks.

Slapstick Fibonacci

Tuesday nights.
Whack! Maaaaaaaakeup. Hilarity.
Dust flies on the set.
Oh no, who turned the sound way down?
Fix it Daddy. I can't. Just go to bed, there's always next week.
There it goes, Ben, it's on again. Whew.
Can I stay up, Mommy,
‘til Texaco men?
Why not?

After that summer evening, when Joe introduced me to the form, everyone in my family received Fibs as birthday poems. Muse-Pie Press’s The Fib Review, an online literary journal edited by Mary-Jane Grandinetti, published that one and another I wrote about my obsession with the style.

Check out The Fib Review’s current issue and archives. 

  • Explore the variety of Fibonacci styles.
  • They don’t always follow the 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-8-5-3-2-1-1 format (my personal comfort zone). 
  • They’re not all narrative. Some may take on the image of what the words describe.
  •  See if you can figure out which formulas the poets used. 
  • Was there more than a single stanza? If so, did they take the same shape? 
  • Then write a Fibonacci of your own and think about posting it in a comment on this blog.

Happy Fibbing.


 Many thanks, Gail!


  1. This is great! Thank you Gail Fishman Gerwin! I have two of Gail's books (which you recommended, Adele, and I love them both).

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Jamie! So glad to hear that you're enjoying Gail's books!

  2. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)October 1, 2016 at 11:04 AM

    Very interesting concept. I shall try to obtain a copy of Gail Gerwin's book. It is not always easy here in Mumbai, although I sometimes find books I can order on ebay UK.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Amita! I, too, find many books on eBay for very reasonable prices.

  3. A fun prompt. Math and poetry, strange bedfellows but not incompatible. Thanks Gail and Adele.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Diane! You're right, strange bedfellows, indeed, but the combination works.

  4. Isn't this fun! Thank you, Gail Gerwin! Something different and appealing to both poets and "mathematicians" alike. (Didn't someone famous write that poetry and geometry are similar?)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sandy — I think the quote to which you refer is Flaubert's "Poetry is as precise as geometry." Coincidentally, I read that quote yesterday in Diane Lockward's recently published THE CRAFTY POET II, which is now available on Amazon. It's a great companion to Crafty I, filled with prompts and poems.

  5. I have been resisting taking the Fib challenge, but now I think I am ready to take a shot at it. Thanks Gail for the challenge of your prompt!
    Also, thanks for the scene description and the Youtube URL with Uncle Milti. He was one of my favorite comedians

    1. POSTAL DREAMS (For Gail Gerwin)

      put together
      handouts for the
      postal foreman’s exam, areas ARCO
      books didn’t cover, number sequences, areas of general
      information. He hoped to sell them to other civil service test takers like
      himself. It’d be extra income, another side job.
      He scored high on his
      exam. He hoped
      I’d follow

      Bob Rosenbloom

    2. Thanks so much for your comment, Basil! I remember Uncle Milty too!

    3. Robert, R. this is great! It's always a pleasure to see how poets make the prompts work! Well done, and many thanks for sharing with us.

  6. My students will love this! Thank you Gail Gerwin.

    P.S. I don't have a Google account and sometimes have trouble posting. Hope this comes through.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rich! I hope your students enjoy the Fib format.

      Your comment came through just fine!

  7. my
    kaleidoscope eye
    lightness of being energetically turn
    phantasmacle uber visions rainbow colorings
    coursing through a relaxed body
    mindless and weightless
    ever so