When I was a child, my friends and I enjoyed crafting and playing with paper fortune-tellers, a form of origami made with square paper folded in a sequence of triangles.
The illustration below is of my fortune teller poem Seasons and Landscapes in two dimensions. You can download a PDF version to print out and fold into shape here. Folding instructions are given here (or here if you prefer a video version).
This poem was inspired by M. C. Escher’s lithograph Ascending and Descending (1960), which depicts figures on a staircase that appears to rise – or descend – in a continuous loop. This impossible construction is named the Penrose stairs, after Lionel and Roger Penrose.
The poem can in principle be read from almost any starting point, and in any direction.
‘We imagine we are climbing: every step is about 20 cm high, terribly exhausting and where does it get us? Nowhere; we don’t get one step further or higher.’
During a recent constraint-based creativity workshop, we tried our hand at writing a mesostic. If you don’t know what mesostics are, join the club; I hadn’t heard of them before either! A mesostic, I discovered, is similar to an acrostic in that it is a poem or piece of text containing a word or phrase that is read vertically through the horizontal lines. The difference is that in the case of a mesostic the vertical column of letters intersects somewhere within each line rather than at the beginning or end.
Just for fun, here’s a double mesostic that I wrote, inspired not only by the workshop but also a common occurrence in our household. Fill in the blank letters and then read downwards to reveal what’s missing.
The days are lengthening. Harbingers of spring
pierce through resistant soil; spikes of daffodils
and early tulips mingle, tight buds sprinkle
thin syringa stems. A few oak leaves linger,
crisp-curled and dead, rasping in the flowerbed –
but death is a stranger now. Pale hellebore
blushes shyly, fern fronds prepare to unfurl.
Clouds lift. The air is clear and bright. All winter
I have dug hard cold ground, hoed, mulched, dreamed of growth.
Now, accompanied by bird song, I plant words.
This poem was first published on The Wombwell Rainbow in February 2023. It is a variation of a masnavi (or mathnawi), a poetic form that has its origins in Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Urdu writing.
Listen to the riversong –
meltwater from mountain flanks
tumbling its own path
between resistant rocks.
Meltwater from mountain flanks
trickles down through peat and moss,
conjoins to become a burn
tumbling its own path;
tugs at roots by shaded banks,
crashes, eddies, foams.
Between resistant rocks
salmon leap against the flow,
glinting in the sun.
This poem was first published on The Wombwell Rainbow in January 2023. It is a trimeric, a recent poetic form devised by Dr Charles A. Stone.
We dispatched them to explore
the outer planets, where we
can't go ourselves: observe rings,
moons, alluring mystery.
Beyond Neptune one final
image, of a pale blue dot
clasped gently in rays of light.
Thereafter, night. They can not
go back: blinded, must journey
on, two tiny travellers
alone on separate paths
through the vast, cold universe.
They are not – yet – lost in space.
We can still trace where they are,
faint signals from the darkness
telling us how fast, how far;
but not for long. Soon, voiceless,
they'll traverse interstellar
space, bearing golden records –
earth sounds, earth words. Who will hear?
The phrase ‘pale blue dot’ was used by Carl Sagan to describe an image of Earth taken by Voyager 1 on 14th February 1990, shortly before the spacecraft’s cameras were permanently switched off to conserve power.