Rallye

Posted by Rich Magahiz Tue, 25 Mar 2008 01:19:00 GMT

magnificent
selfpropelled
devices
swimming

telezoic
telltale
borated
eyeliner

Q
Four lines?
A
It’s a brick, a verse form I invented a few years ago. It was originally a four-line scifaiku poem consisting of one line of two syllables, one of four syllables, two of three syllables, in any order. I have further imposed the restriction that each line consist of a single word.
Q
But otherwise like any other scifaiku?
A
Well, it is usually pretty hard to figure out where the kireiji or “cutting word” goes so sometimes it gets left out. But it should have a science-fictional element in it, as here with the notion of swimming technology. I always like it when I can write about something that isn’t automatically about ships flying in outer space.
Q
Why not just write the poem as a regular scifaiku, which has (in your scheme) the same number of syllables anyway? Is it just the challenge of making a four-word poem?
A
I think of it as more of an esthetic difference. The compactness of the lines without any whitespace makes the poem look like a monolith on the page, or in this case, with the 4-3-3-2 syllable count, an inverted teardrop shape. It is can also come across as kind of like a telegram from the future, or an alien inscription. But the name “brick” is a little bit of wordplay taken from virology; it is what they call the smallpox virion.
Q
A lethal dose of scifaiku.
A
You’ve got that right.
Q
Yeah, but I think the second line is cheating. It should be self-propelled with a hyphen.
A
True, there I am doing some violence to the language. Or to typography. But I really wanted a single word that was three-syllable synonym for automotive there, without the little break in the middle that the hyphen would cause. I console myself that the S sound in that line and the final line counts for something.
Q
You could have put in “spluttering” instead.
A
Hmm.
Q
I don’t know for sure whether I understand that fourth line “swimming,” anyway.
A
The poem could be seen as describing either large-scale devices swimming through fluid, vehicles like submarines perhaps, or else it could be talking about microscopic things in a drop of water possibly. The first line sets up the allusion to that movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines from the 1960’s, as if one could imagine some kind of race between competitors in strange contraptions in a watery or liquid methane environment instead.
Q
I could imagine that would make a pretty picture.
A
You’re right: this is a scifaiku which really cries out to be illustrated haiga-style. Maybe I might get around to that someday, maybe even with the “spluttering” line of yours.
The fourth in a series of discussions on poetry.

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