Poetry Friday: “First Call”

Wouldn’t you know it…J. Patrick Lewis had to go an invent another new poetic form that’s so addictive, you can’t leave it alone.poetryfridaybutton-fulll

Last Thursday, writer Michelle H. Barnes featured Pat on her blog (you can read the entire post HERE) and following the interview, she asked him to share a poetic challenge for her readers. He suggested writing a “zeno” – a poem based on the syllabic structure of a hailstone sequence, a series of numbers that rises and falls like hailstones in a cloud – and has baffled mathematicians for centuries.

I’ll save you the academics of how hailstone sequences are created…but to put it simply, one can take any number at all, do a couple of simple calculations, and the series of numbers that results from these calculations always, always, always ends in 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1. (And the crazy thing is, no one knows why!) So a zeno poem would have 8 syllables in the first line, 4 syllables in the 2nd line, 2 in the 3rd line, and so on.

For someone who enjoys wordplay, challenges like this are poetic crack.

I wrote a couple and am still working on a few more. Many thanks to Michelle for sharing one of mine this past Monday – and thanks a LOT to Pat for suggesting this form. (and yes, Pat, I’m saying that honestly AND sarcastically!) Michelle has been sharing zenos from other readers all week at her blog, if you’d like to read more. Here’s my latest:

First Call

Books and bags unpacked, the act is
that he’s glad he’s
on his
a young boy’s life
long out-
until he hangs
up the

© 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine

For more poetry, fun and links, please visit Tricia Stohr-Hunt, who is hosting Poetry Friday at The Miss Rumphius Effect! And be sure to get your CYBILS Awards nominations in soon – you only have a few days left!

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16 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “First Call”

  1. Love that you found a way to capture that moment in the zeno, not an easy task, Matt. I’ve written a few too, the challenge is that it’s a challenge, right? I loved your other one, too!


  2. Tabatha

    This one resonates with me because, in a couple of years, I will be on the other end of that phone call. You made this difficult form look easy. Well done.


    1. Thank you all! I appreciate your thoughts. And yes, it’s not an easy form, even though it seems like it would be. You need to find 3 rhymes that don’t feel forced (due to the brevity of space between them), you need to try to have the lines flow without feeling choppy, and the poem itself should be appropriate for the shape that the form creates…and of course, it needs to be an original thought!


  3. Heidi

    Wait–it has to rhyme, too? You scored a big one here, Matt. But what I’m really grappling with is “the syllabic structure of a hailstone sequence,” and I’ll be listening carefully the next time it hails…


  4. Pingback: Poetry Friday: “Jack’s Lament” | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  5. Pingback: Poetry Friday: “Standards” – and more zenos! | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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