Or Whimsical Essay on Nothing I
Poems are defined by line. I don’t think a poem can be written without line. Line is what distinguishes poems from prose. But many contemporary poems are lineated sentences, that is prose. And this is simplistic but what about the ear, the physicality of need?
The Web has introduced a new conversational prose that is more closely aligned with talking than writing. If elements of poetry and prose are both present in writing, which form is the result? Further, is there a distinction between a poem and poetry? Are poems like squares and poetry like rectangles—all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares?
Zeno postulated that getting from point A to point B (1) is impossible since there is always the value of halfway between any two points. The Athenians walked across the street (i.e. from point A to point B) and laughed at Zeno. A book, the physical object, has defined physical restrictions: front and back, beginning and end, reading and read, point A to point B. Does length times width times height equal the volume of a book?
While the Athenians laughed at Zeno, they did wonder about the implication(s) of his theory, that by using the language of mathematics it is impossible to traverse A to B with halfway always between the two points. At some point, A and B become one or other. Isn’t this metaphor, the juxtaposition of two things that creates an other whole that isn’t otherwise possible? Isn’t this one of the purposes of poetry—to be the “halfway” that another language cannot articulate?
(1) A and B are simply variables here. Variables do not have value of their own, they are like messengers. They are usually used to symbolize some value we do not yet know or some value that changes often and cannot be represented as fact. This is useful in carpentry, quilt making, beer brewing, computer programming, and anytime you don’t know how to explain something.
Originally published in “Liner Notes: Poems” by Jeffery Oliver. 2008.