GEOMETRY AND THE BOOK

wasps' nest showing interior hexagonal cells
       Often near our house I find papery chunks of abandoned wasps' nests, fallen from under the eaves. Photo by Adrian van Leen /freeimages

I keep thinking about reiteration and recursion in poems and groups of poems. (Right?)

So when I came across this Rumpus interview with Kaveh Akbar about his new book Pilgrim Bell, it made sense to pause and listen.

The whole book is really interested in recursion, recursive forms. I read the line in a Hadith about the prophet receiving revelation “like the ringing of a bell” and it blew my mind.

And, the idea of the bell as a spiritual technology powered by the human form (someone has to pull the rope, which often literally lifts that person in the air, maybe almost too on the nose, that) is so akin to poetry, to me. A spiritual technology powered by the human body (lungs/breath/voice/tongue/ocular muscles across the page/fingers across the Braille, etc).

Repeating titles: it’s iterative, recursive. Also, nerdily: Islamic architecture and tile work is so often built around hexagons, which can tesselate a plane. Many polygons can’t.

The geometry Akbar's describing here ("spiritual technology powered by the human form") is kin to music, structures meeting in air. (An aside: or maybe the reason I'm writing this: why is thinking about patterns this way "nerdy"?)

Sometimes when we ask "how do you organize poems in a book?" what we're looking for is the geometry of our poems. As an organizing principle, it's not the same as narrative, and it's not exactly weaving, as in threads or strands of image or subject; it's similar to the forward momentum of linking and shifting, which is so much like walking, but not entirely that either. It's much more like the mosaic tile Akbar describes, or a wasp's nest, masterwork of hexagonal cells.

By the way, there are several wasps' nests in my 2018 book Yellow Crane. I'll send a signed copy of Obelisk to the first three people to find them and contact me!

 

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