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Writing Challenge: June 22, 2011
Writing to a form is one way to challenge your literary instincts. It’s easy to write rambling stream of consciousness free verse but often the result is just that: a rambling stream. Poetic forms provide a structure for your writing that
increases specific use of language. When you pay attention to meter and rhyme scheme you are more likely to pay attention to content as well. Strict poetic forms force a writer to think about words.
Here’s one poetic structure you may not have tried: a piem.
A piem is a poem whose structure is dictated by the mathematical constant pi. Each word in a piem represents a digit of the constant and has the same number of letters as the digit it represents. For example, the first word will have 3 letters, the second word only 1 letter, the third has 4 letters and the fourth again has 1, the fifth has 5 and so on. 10-letter words are used to represent the zero (0) digit. Short novels (10,000 words) have even been written using this forced
structure. Piems exist in many languages besides English and the best-made piem may not even be recognized as a piem at all!
While mathematicians have used piems as a mnemonic device to help them remember the numerical value of pi, you don’t have to be a mathematician to try your hand at writing a piem.
Here is the value of the contant π: 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288
(that should keep you busy for a while!)
And here’s an example of a piem by Mike Keith as he retells Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”:
Near a Raven
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary,
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap – the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber’s antedoor.
“This”, I whispered quietly, “I ignore”.
—Mike Keith, First
verse of Near a Raven