Gestalt & the Poet

The inspiration for my poem was not as æsthetically pleasing as this.

The inspiration for my poem was not as æsthetically pleasing as this.

Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting in a completely rural destination, driving along a completely rural "highway."  (It had state signs and everything.)

It being a completely rural highway, the roadkill was frequent and squishy, mostly possums and armadillos.  Without warning, the first line of a poem popped into my head:

No one mourns the armadillo

I mean to say, when Euterpe hands you a line like that, who are you to refuse?

Since I was still thirty minutes out from my meeting, I began to think how this might go.

GESTALT-speaking-wise, here were my thoughts:

  • The poem, with such a stupid, mock-serious subject, was of course meant to be comic, in the tradition of Ogden Nash or John Updike in his larkier moods.
  • It had to metrically rigorous, trochaic tetrameter all the way, baby.
  • The rhymes had to be razor sharp, and probably the rhyme scheme needed to be abab.

There.  The poem now has a shape, dictated by its amazingly perfect first line.  (Thanks, Euterpe!)

So now all I had to do was fill in that shape.  The first order of business is to figure out what the heck rhymes with armadillo.  The first word that occurred to me was willow, and that's perfect: the willow tree is a classic symbol of grief and mourning.

No one plants - / - willow

...with the -/- representing the missing metrical feet that I need to fill in.  Aficionados of Lichtenbergianism already recognize the precepts-within-precepts here: this line is an ABORTIVE ATTEMPT, and we'll use the GESTALT of the thing to guide us through our SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATIONS.

This one was easy—what else might a mourner plant, preferably a one-syllable item?

No one plants the yew or willow


Now in my head the poem looks like this:

No one mourns the armadillo

/ - / - / - / <—missing line (DUM-de-DUM-de-DUM-de-DUM)

No one plants the yew or willow

/ - / - / - /

To be continued...