Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem in Progress: "A Periodic Table of Elementals"

During the March 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl, I started writing an epic poem.  I spent a significant chunk of time just figuring out the infrastructure.  The prompt called for describing the scientific elements as elemental spirits, a project which appealed to me greatly.  I wanted to design the poem like a periodic table ... eh, I had forgotten that there isn't a universally agreed version, but rather many different versions.  I finally picked the Wikipedia one because it is among the most legible and can be clicked through for extra information about each element.  Then I dug in and started writing...

Structural Aspects

How do you design a poetic form to represent a periodic table?  First I looked up the important divisions in the periodic table of elements.  I settled on the periods, the groups, and the blocks.  I wanted to use the categories, but 1) there are lots of different versions, and 2) the parameters were getting overcrowded.  So, three aspects make up the infrastructure.

1) There are 7 periods, the horizontal rows.  The number of the period indicates the number of lines in the verse.  So there are 1-7 lines per verse, starting at 1 line for the first period.

2) There are 18 groups, the vertical columns.  Each group is distinguished by a specific poetic technique which is used in the verse.  (Some techniques are really common and may appear elsewhere, but they must  appear in the verses for their group.)  I added an extra poetic technique to cover all the F-block elements, so they will all have a caesura.

3) There are 4 blocks, the main sections: S-block, P-block, D-block, F-block.  Verses alliterate using the relevant letter of the block's name (S, P, D, or F), so there will always be several examples of that letter in each block's verses.

I'm writing out the verses one by one, in numerical order, starting with (1) Hydrogen.  In terms of posting these on LJ, if you-all wish to sponsor this poem, they will have to be published that way, in plain vertical order.  But of course, this is really a hypertext poem, and the proper way to display it would be to create one of those clickable periodic tables so that each element's square would lead you to its verse in the poem -- that way you could read them in any order you wanted to, by numbers, periods, groups, blocks, etc.

Poetic Aspects

The idea here is to figure out the "personality" of each element, characterize it as an elemental spirit, and then render that into a verse for that element(al).  The verse has to follow the parameters designated by the element's position on the periodic table.  I am reading about the elements, their history, uses, associations, etc. as background for imagining what each spirit might be like and be in charge of.  Fitting that into the verse parameters is challenging but fun (for sufficiently flexible values of "fun").

So far, I have written five verses: Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron.  The first two are 1 line each, the others are 2 lines each, so a total of 8 lines so far.  I'm not counting the "guide" lines that list the name, period, group, and block; only the poetic lines.  Take your pick whether you want to see just the poetic lines, or the guide lines as well.  (In my draft, I'm printing the guide lines in italics, above the poetic lines.)  Essentially, each verse is like a miniature poem about that element(al), all part of the table.  As described above, the ideal final format would be a hypertext poem using the periodic table for navigation.

Crowdfunding Aspects

A few folks have expressed some interest in this project. I don't know whether that's a casual "this sounds cool" or a serious "I'd chip in toward that." I do think this would be a fun epic to microfund, though.

My usual price is $.50/line. This poem is going to be a lot harder to write than average, because the parameters are so tight. That usually boosts the price to $1/line. On the third hoof, this is going to be a really long poem, which gets expensive.

Priced Per Verse
I had a third idea, while writing this post. Instead of pricing this per line, I could price it per verse. That way, I could count $1/line for the verses with long dense lines -- but if the later period verses wind up with shorter lines, I could count less for those lines. You might get a 7-line verse for $3.50 or $5 or $7. This would also give you the unique opportunity to sponsor a specific element, if you have a favorite.  That would make it:
Hydrogen -- $1
Helium -- $1
Lithium -- $2
Beryllium -- $2
Boron -- $2

This is the first time that I've considered letting folks microfund a poem that isn't finished yet. It's such a big project, this will take me a while to finish. (I intend to write a verse for each element, although it's possible I could get stuck partway through the set and have to give up.) So it's kind of like a web serial, with each element being its own "installment."

What do you think?

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, magic, poetry, reading, science, science fiction, writing

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