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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Closed Form Poem

by Alan Lindsay
This is a closed form poem. The rhythm
is invariable. It does not rhyme.
But the third line has to be
enjambed and the fifth line always begins with the word
yellow. I am sorry. You cannot alter the subtle play of vowels.
The glottal stops, the fricatives—all stay the same.
Also caesura, strategically deployed. You cannot change
the words, or the order of the words or any of the line
breaks. The form is locked tight as a drum or painter’s canvas.
I have created the form. It is mine.
How can you make the poem your own?
You can change the name beneath the title.
That name is not part of the poem and does not belong
to the form. You can tack the poem to a tree
deep in the woods, overlooking a stream. You can place the poem
on a pole in a field above the swaying grasses, above the gazing grain.
You can tattoo the poem to your breast and embarrass men by asking them
to read it to the final period. You can recite it before crowds on New York City streets
hurrying to work with cardboard cups of Starbucks in their free hands.
Do not worry. This is language, this is earth. There is only so much
you can do.


  1. This, though, is no poem at all. The form
    is inviolable and cannot rhyme.
    That third line, enjambed as it is
    with the fourth, demands that the poem’s fifth turn
    yellow. You’re not sorry. At syllables’ altar, hearing only vowels,
    you banish unvoiced consonants, like T – they disappear.
    Also caesura, however misemployed. We’ll never change
    these words or the words’ marching orders, even if the poem
    breaks. The form is all that counts; the form, and simile.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Correct, of course. I'm not sorry.
    But that's not what "I'm sorry" means.
    Which is the point. Not everything worth experiencing
    Is worth noting. That does mean they're banished or they
    disappear. And anyway, who's counting?