This post is part of a series of weekly found poetry prompts. If you have an idea for a found poetry source, email Senior Poetry Editor Beth Ayer.
The power of the golden section to create harmony arises from its unique capacity to unite different parts of a whole so that each preserves its own identity and yet blends into the greater pattern of a single whole.
— György Dóczi, The Power of Limits
For this week’s prompt, you’ll need to do some math. Wait: hear me out. Math, science, and poetry fit together quite nicely. After all, math explains many common patterns and examples of beauty in nature, and science and math texts have proven to be excellent sources for found poetry. So, please join us in a little experiment.
For this exercise, we’ll refer to two related concepts: the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio. Numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence are produced by adding the two previous numbers in the sequence. So, the sequence begins 0+1=1, 1 + 1=2, 1 + 2=3, 2 + 3=5, and continues in that pattern. The Golden Ratio (1.61803398875), based on the Fibonacci Sequence, represents a pattern that occurs in nature, often expressed in a spiral. The proportion not only appears commonly in nature, it has also long been mimicked in art and design. Look at the layout of the page you’re reading right now (unless of course you’re reading on a mobile device): the proportion of the body text to the right side columns is surely based on the golden ratio.
Fibonacci numbers, like many elements found in nature, follow a 1:1.61 ratio – this is what we refer to as the Golden Ratio, and as it forms such a common sight in nature, it feels pleasing to the eye…
You can learn more about these concepts by following the links sprinkled throughout this post. But for the purposes of our task at hand, the above is probably enough background. Let’s get started.
Follow these steps to create your poem:
- Select a book from your shelf.
- Use the Fibonacci sequence to identify the page numbers to which you will refer: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377…
- Turn to the first page and count the number of lines. Divide the total number of lines by the golden ratio (1.61803398875) and round to the nearest whole number.
- The text in the resulting line will be the first line of your poem. So if your page is 25 lines long, you will use line number 15.
- Turn to the next number in the sequence (page 2) and repeat the same process outlined above.
- Once you have recorded all the lines of the poem, it is acceptable to revise by removing words, fixing tenses, and changing punctuation.
- Lines should stay in original order, but it is OK to change line breaks by combining them.
- You may choose not to begin with page 1 of your source text.
- If you come up with an alternate technique for using these numbers, please let us know!
- Please share your poems in the comments. I’ll start by adding the first comment.
Top image by jitze on flickr