While I was doing my English A level, I studied a poet (whose name now escapes me – can anyone help?) who laid out a poem in this manner.  The phrase he used was ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. For some reason that came back to me recently so I decided to have a go myself. It’s a strange thing to do; because you are very limited in your selection of words, they kind of dictate what you say rather than the other way around. I don’t think the result has any value as a piece of writing but it was an interesting exercise.


10 thoughts on “117

  1. Found the poem you were referring to:

    MESSAGE CLEAR, by Edwin Morgan (1965)

    am i
    i am he
    he r o
    h ur t
    the re and
    he re and
    he re
    a n d
    the r e
    i am r ife
    i n
    s ion and
    i d i e
    am e res ect
    am e res ection
    o f
    the life
    o f
    m e n
    sur e
    the d i e
    i s
    s e t and
    i am the sur d
    a t res t
    o life
    i am he r e
    i a ct
    i r u n
    i m e e t
    i t i e
    i s t and
    i am th o th
    i am r a
    i am the su n
    i am the s on
    i am the e rect on e if
    i am re n t
    i am s a fe
    i am s e n t
    i he e d
    i t e s t
    i re a d
    a th re a d
    a s t on e
    a t re a d
    a th r on e
    i resurrect
    a life
    i am i n life
    i am resurrection
    i am the resurrection and
    i am
    i am the resurrection and the life

  2. MESSAGE CLEAR, by Edwin Morgan (1965)

    am                           i
    i am                       he
          he r         o
          h     ur   t
         the re           and
          he       re     and
          he re
      a                 n   d
         the r                  e
    i am     r                     ife
                      i n
               s      ion and
    i                       d      i e
      am   e res   ect
      am   e res   ection
                       o            f
         the                      life
                       o            f
       m   e            n
               sur e
         the                d      i e
    i          s
               s   e t    and
    i am the   sur          d
      a  t   res     t
                       o          life
    i am  he r                       e
    i a             ct
    i        r  u       n
    i  m   e  e      t
    i                t             i e
    i          s     t    and
    i am th            o      th
    i am     r            a
    i am the   su       n
    i am the   s       on
    i am the  e   rect on       e  if
    i am     re         n     t
    i am       s          a         fe
    i am       s   e    n     t
    i     he  e             d
    i    t e   s     t
    i        re           a d
      a  th  re           a d
      a        s     t on       e
      a  t   re           a d
      a  th  r         on       e
    i        resurrect
                          a       life
    i am              i n         life
    i am     resurrection
    i am the resurrection and
    i am
    i am the resurrection and the life

    (Desperately trying to use a subset of html that wordpress comprehends)

  3. Funimation – excellent! I really appreciate that, and also your hard work in reproducing the poem (I removed one of your attempts to leave the right one and the readable one). If I had a prize, you would win it.

    As I recall, Edwin Morgan was an experimental poet whose work is well worth checking out.

  4. Very interesting!! I was just wondering whether it would be possible to come up with a poem where the layout of the words formed a picture which was relevant to the subject-matter!!! Well – of course it would be POSSIBLE – but could it be done in a reasonable time-scale?!! Anyone up for it?

  5. That’s really interesting – going off at a bit of a tangent, it makes me think of the way they had to work out what order to put the letters on a keyboard, because having them alphabetical led to too many jammed keys on a typewriter. There’s probably some rules to do with the frequency of letters and how many words they appear in that could help in formulating a last line which offers numerous possibilities for words elsewhere in the grid. Words ending in vowels are probably useful when they come before a word beginning with a consonant, for instance. Or maybe not.

  6. Barriejohn – I think that would take an eternity to pull off! I’m happy to leave it to someone else…

    Ariane, Rob A, thanks (Ariane is now enlightened!).

    Matt, you make an interesting point. I’m sure some phrases are much easier to work with than others. Perhaps I got lucky. The phrase I used just came off the top of my head.

  7. Hmm, you could make a game out of the choice of the phrases you use as a starting point – taking the iconic line of a Shakespeare play, say, or the last line of a famous book, and seeing if you can construct a poem that roughly recounts the source’s original story.

    Is there a name for this kind of poem? It’s sort of a logical descendant of the acrostic, isn’t it?

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