What Can Be Named in Numbers Reassures

     Theory operates according to the principles of indeterminacy;
what furnishes one perception obscures another.

     We can not construct the questions for the answers we think
we want.

     The axiom can not disprove itself. Nor God undo math.
Forgive necessity.

     Most communication is nonverbal; all communication is
partial. Half-truths are not lies.

     We only bear witness to our own imagination.
Rumour shapes experience.

     Meaning precedes the word. Perception is narrative.
The bee, too, has patterns.

     Enigma is the conflux of patterns.

     As record of time, a poem is narrative. Image is submerged
narrative. Nouns are verbs.

     Imagery is not necessary to a poem. Musicality is not
necessary to a poem. Ideas are not necessary to a poem. A
poem says how its words feel.

     The associations of poetry work through convention.
Distrust the subconscious; it furnishes clichés.

     Disruption, too, is a convention.

     Today is new to the old; yesterday is new to the young.
What is wholly familiar no longer is true.

     I am the story I tell. You are my different story.

     To resist the sentence is to resist fellowship.

     It is not the poem which closes, but the reader who is let go.

Questions and Answers

What poetic techniques did you use in “What Can Be Named in Numbers Reassures”?

“What Can Be Named in Numbers” is technically “free verse.” That is, it doesn’t rhyme neatly at the ends of each line. The echoing neatness of regular rhyme suits some poems, but not this one. But I do like the effect of a more subtle sort of rhyming: the repetition of similar sounds. “Measure” “signature” and “reassure” all have the same last sound, and the “ure” is a little like the “er” at the end of number. The last five lines of the poem all contain words that have “al” in them. And the insect stanza is full of rather buzzy “s” sounds.

Pauses at the end of the line, as well as the pauses for commas and periods and stanza breaks are very important to the sound of a poem. They function like the rest marks in sheet music. When you read the poem out loud, say “3 by 5”, pause for the line break, and then say “paper cards;” when you say “7 by 9” pause for the line break, and then say “tin cans.” It’s a matter of rhythm. The space after “summer” in the next stanza creates a pause, before the poem leaps, like the bug, to the next bit. And I wanted the last line of the poem to slow up, to sound like an end.

This poem “What Can Be Named in Numbers Reassures” originally appeared in DeMille’s Utopian Fantasy. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 145 (Summer 1995): 20-20.

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