Regular readers know my affection for the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. (Take a class, you won’t regret it.) I just finished yet another fabulous class, this time titled Poetry and Poetics, again with Rebecca Ariel Porte. I thought only a poetic summary could properly honor what I learned, though it’s by no means comprehensive. I start with a frivolous prelude.


Identical if two by three, or three by two,
Or one by two by three, or one and two and three.
So it’s triangular. As is its square. (Add one
Through eight. (fun, in semitones it’s half an octave
(Western, of course).)) A perfect number: sum its primes.
Tilings, snowflakes, quarks, Bach’s Ricercar, sestinas…

I listen, I think, I speak

I have lately sought Beauty in greater measure
To chance upon more Truths. So BISR’s “Poetry
And Poetics” drew me straight to the signup form.
I’d written some, and heard my speech has a lyric
Quality, but didn’t know how to read an ode,
Sonnet, epic, or poem by another name.

We must be very considerate with a Name.
Both Power and Existence, in equal measure,
Start thereof. Who decides what gets to be an Ode?
What gets to be? What can we ask of Poetry?
Must it be useful? or do nothing? like lyric
Equations: lossy compressions of nature’s form?

Structure may inform. How queer that, like games, a Form
Enables and constrains. Do [poems] earn the name
If Form-less? What affordances do song lyrics
Offer the composer of their feet and measures
Versus sonnets? Does Form serve more the Poetry
Reader, lighting a path? Let’s probe the case of Odes.

Misdirection. (I led myself astray.) If Ode
Is a Genre, its Species conform not to Forms
But have other common qualities. Poetry
Will do what it will, though. Even a poem named
“Ode to…” may not be. No one has the one measure.
Let’s make our mental models meek, even lyric.

All groupings are subject—does Lyric mean lyric?
Are Lyrics all lyrical? Where do we place Odes—
Within or touching? The bounds of Lyric measure
Greater over history. Concept drift. No form
Of analysis will define for all the name
Of Lyric. I say we each own a Poetry.

I sing for you my newborn sense of Poetry.
I want to hear your song. Render me a lyric.
Bestow upon a state of your self a fit name—
A poem. As a niche, I’ll send the fittest odes
On to see evolve Poetry’s diverse forms
And scatter some sententious seeds for good measure.

I want for the Platonic form of Poetry
To reside outside measure to preserve its name.
I’ll drink poems instead. Hail, fluid Lyrics, Odes!