Note card poem

Ten classmates each wrote down a word and phrase on separate index cards during our first class, and we went around the classroom repeating the words in random orders as sound poetry. We collectively explored the way that sound and repetition works within a composition, both related to and divorced from its literal meaning. At the end of class, I was tasked with collecting the note cards and constructing a poem from them. I have had few experiences with collective poems: it is not specifically a collaborative effort, because others did not have input past the initial word choices, but the limitations placed on the poem by the vocabulary I had to incorporate made this an unique experience.

Although our class experience was centered on the aural experience, I wrote the poem with less abstraction in a more traditional free-form narrative. A friend wrote the word “Apopenia” for his card, a vocabulary choice that amused me greatly given the experiment. I provide the definition first in the beginning of the poem, and then split up the definition throughout the four sections as a means of linking otherwise disparate elements. Feel free to critique the poem and my methods as a comment – I find criticism and critique valuable in my own writing, and would love to hear of your impressions of this piece.

Apophenia – the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

Apophenia Apophenia Apophenia

If I had a cup of joe for every time someone said that
I’d be drinking coffee forever.
I rejoice because the experience of the trite proverbial sentiments fuel my caffeine addiction,
although I never took a shine to coffee the way that I ought to.
It seemed like a great opportunity,
Though the bitter taste reminded me of charcoal.

Because seeing Jesus was a fisherman
(a biblical factoid that I don’t know for certain anymore)
I treat myself like a prophet. Catch one and return it.
Butter him up, tell me I’m pretty.
Carry the words like a pocketful of rocks
With patterns of holes in my trousers –
I lack the style to be eloquent, but have eloquence enough
To eat nonparaphrasable gleanings for breakfast
An atypical comestible that betrays my transcribed affectations.

Call me Persephone.
Stain my lips with pomegranate juice and mythic literary allusions.
Because love is only somewhat fatal,
Because we grew cold when the summer ends,
Because we allow our connections to lack agency
Because it’s easier that way.

I’m told that it’s always sunny in Philadelphia,
And it’s true that our heat waves are historically unpleasant.
We sponge our damp foreheads as the sun beats down
and sweat at the random mention of potato salad or barbeques.
This is what we fought for, what we erect monuments to.
“With liberty and justice for all” is up for debate
But my patriotism (or thorough ambivalence) keeps me from integrating
With either of those groups that criticize it as meaningless, or defend it so openly.
Stars and stripes and mayonnaise, data each beautiful in its own way.


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