Poetry Prompt: The Golden Ratio


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.

The Math

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:

  1. Select a book from your shelf.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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


  • December 19, 2013



    The foundation for success
    enables you to identify mistakes quickly
    or even sufficiently, for capturing your potential.

    Things go wrong.

    The difference in your end,
    therefore, depends on
    clear calls to action.

    The process of forming

    at least once per month,
    downloading a file, watching a movie—
    particularly in relation to discovering—
    triggers that defined conversion.

    Your visits:
    the greater this number, the better.

    My poem comes from Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics Third Edition by Brian Clifton. I did some erasing after recording the lines of text, and altered some punctuation.

  • December 20, 2013

    Mary Bast

    Like Her Mother Before Her

    Proud as roosters in their red mufflers,
    belting melodies and collecting
    her father through a pose beyond
    her years, legs crossed, head tilted;
    such is the way questions in the family
    remain unasked and all but abandoned.

    Strangers at the same gravesite mourn,
    complaining of the bottle of XO,
    neglecting to consider such things
    have grown mossy with shadow.
    She is lucky, of course, will
    never tell anyone of this.

    From Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2009

  • December 20, 2013

    james w. moore

    THE OLD DAYS (for Winston)

    Winston made for the stairs
    where the black-mustachio’d face
    squeezed out some childhood memory
    in his belly down and the world began to
    swim away (with a helicopter after). First you saw
    everybody, every day, a thousand times a day,
    with the military music which still
    thrust its hand into the past
    and said that
    Zeal remembers what it was like in the old days:
    “Dearest! You’ve gone quite pale. What’s the matter?”
    I said.
    Said it over and

    – from 1984 by George Orwell (Signet Classics 1977)

  • December 20, 2013


    a reasonable competence at sums

    american recipient of the nobel prize
    for literature now living, 5’8,
    now four months short of his
    fifty-seventh birthday, a poet to whom news

    and trees and home’s rear façade
    is very still and composed,
    asked to come to the pool.
    You wanted to come alone

    but a birthday is…
    she hasn’t looked to see where you are.
    she sips something sweet. hey kid.
    and says like a pathetic a total fool

    her faith never faldering
    ships can meet her needs
    and to what degree; dramatic or not
    the brutally honest assessment of her

    by an objective
    to think such a thing might be possible.
    reflexively concerned, in another

    a child whose intellectual acme
    was a reasonable competence at sums

  • December 21, 2013


    this was one of the better ones, i think – from cormac mccarthy’s ‘the road’

    over the wet flowstone walls
    like pilgrims in a fable
    he watched the boy and he looked
    out through the trees

    below them. He got the binoculars
    out of the cart and
    coiled over his shoulder.
    He picked one out

    with an advertisement
    in faded ten-foot letters across the
    what? we’re survivors he told her
    across the flame of the lamp

    they hiked out along the dirt road
    and along a hill where
    he pointed with the spatula
    toward the low steel door

    in the wind from off the sea
    with the grass hissing all about

  • December 21, 2013

    Chris Hassan

    John & Elena
    (Using F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack-Up”)

    Elena Wilson,
    John Dos Passos.

    Through storm and darkness, time’s contrary stream,
    Reluctant to die outmoded.

    Skirts came down,
    He convulsed-
    abstract forms.

    Paid later in the Boom.

    Paris sunlight,
    Money and culture.

    Weary hands.

  • December 21, 2013

    Jody Rich

    Her Mirror, Reflecting Winter Sands

    Pillows piled on the bed, covered in ruffles, coordinating.
    I ask this: had our lives allowed, we would have become
    how young? Look. Her open Irish face, her guileless blue eyes, her
    friends. One to cancer, one to a heart attack that came without warning,
    walking down to the little inlet beach on the bay,

    snow mostly melted. More due tonight and tomorrow.
    She brushes tangles out of her hair. It hangs down, straight, and
    where is she?
    Airy white cosmos, and black-eyed Susans.
    Upstairs to bed as soon as she finishes her plate.

    Source Text: The Ice Margin, by Marcia Woodruff Dalton. Editing techniques included erasure of words, punctuation changes, and a pronoun change in the final line.

  • December 21, 2013

    Fibonacci Poems | Jody Rich

    […] The Found Poetry Review offered an intriguing prompt today: using a combination of the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio to pull text from books for raw material for Found Language Poems. Here’s the relevant site: http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/poetry-prompt-the-golden-ratio/ […]

  • December 21, 2013

    Tim McMahon


    The thing about such games – is that there is an “internal universe”
    (Yes, just like that cat)

    Futures become indeterministic

    Do not experience directly
    nor interfere in an ordered non-linear event

    The image – and the mask – are likely to be very small, and very stable
    where the infinite converge

    If we have | ∫jf(y) dy -|J|/|I| ∫I f(y) dy| ≤ ∑ |I| for all . . .

    Then there can be some opportunity for arbitrage

    From this, one quickly sees that the problem is in some sense

    My poem comes from Structure ans Randomness by Terence Tao. I did some erasing, line merging, altering of punctuation and tense after recording the lines of text.

  • December 22, 2013

    Beth Ayer


    With all the noise and the excitement
    and the general chaos,

    even the manager of the human resources division
    had no luck in love .

    A catastrophic burial during the Genesis Flood,
    with two standing next to each other

    stuck in the sun and the sky,
    gold-crushed velvet instantly recognized
    as the one right


    From Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007:

    “Best American Names of Horses Expected to Have Undistinguished Careers”
    Mike Richardson-Bryan

    “Best American Beginning of Ten Stories about Ponies”
    Wendy Molneux

    “Best American First Sentences of Novels Published in 2006”
    A.B. Yehoshua, A Woman in Jerusalem

    “Best American Six-Word Memoirs”
    Leah Wethersby

    “Best American Creationist Explanations for the World’s Natural Wonders”
    Creationist View

    “Middle-American Gothic”
    Jonathon Ames

    “A Happy Death”
    Alison Bechdel

    “Rock the Junta”
    Scott Carrier

    “Selling the General”
    Jennifer Egan

    “All Aboard the Bloated Boat”
    Lee Kelin

  • January 7, 2014


    Rising up and rising down, taking everything with it

    “Hide inside!”

    Depression among the side effects

    Shrinking and scanning

    Necessary affliction

    As close a thing as I had to augustus

    In exchange – reading

    He asked you whether it would kill us

    And how

    Champagne to children

    We sat

    From The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

  • […] and giving various books the Fibonacci/Golden Ratio treatment from their December 19, 2013 prompt ( http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/poetry-prompt-the-golden-ratio/ ), and was surprised what came out of such divergent sources as an Experimental Psychology […]

  • […] your article or until you’re happy with the poem’s conclusion. (Found Poetry Review) We used a related prompt on the FPR blog back in […]

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