Seven to One – Notes

Background Notes for Seven to One

For the first visible poem we post in Heptahedron, we have selected one on which all authors in our group collaborated. (Yes, even the one who wishes to remain in the background.)

Since Sara’s vision was the spark that gave birth to our collaborative effort, for this initial visible poem we relied on a 7-line 7-stanza form that was first presented in Sara’s remarkable essay, A Numbers Theory of the Sestina and Similar Repeating Forms. As Sara pointed out in her development of this 7th-order version, the near familiarity of this form’s stanzas is almost seductively deceptive – the casual observer might think we are seeing the main stanzas of a classic sestina! And as Sara observes, her formulation does preserve the essential character of the retrogradatio cruciata procedure, insofar as her form exhibits recycling and uniqueness.

Each author took primary responsibility for one of the seven teleutons, composing the initial draft of each line ending with the assigned teleuton. The author with the teleuton for the first line of a given stanza drafted a background idea of where that stanza was meant to go. All authors worked with each other to try to make the lines flow together toward a single voice and unified style as though a single hand had written the entire work. Each author also helped each other author rather generously with ideas, corrections, variations and other suggestions. That said, the work remained an open collaboration in the sense that each author remained free to see and say whatever they felt true to the effort.

Besides there being well over a hundred revisions before the public posting for this poem, we do not consider the current version to be final – there will be further revisions. Along the way there were two very major restarts of the entire effort, both after well over half the lines of earlier versions had been drafted, and both major restarts sorely trying the patience and collaborative spirit of every one of us. Part of that struggle represented new learning of the form – watch for completely new versions of the “heptina” form in future postings! All was well and remains well, as any two or more who work or play or communicate together honestly and openly would know.

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3 thoughts on “Seven to One – Notes

  1. maggie October 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

    As Sara’s article observed, the traditional reverse cross procedure of the sestina does not “work” for a 7-line 7-stanza version, in the sense that the poem recycles back to its origin in less than 7 cycles. With letters for each line’s teleuton –

    1: ABCDEFG
    2: GAFBECD
    3: DGCAEFB
    4: BDFGECA
    5: ABCDEFG which of course is the same sequence as the first stanza.

    Which at least for me makes Sara’s discovery of other weaving approaches – such as the one giving us our 7-stanza version written here – all the more exquisite.

    But Sara gets very fussy at me if I look down on something like the layout I’ve given in this note, as if it is thought to be inferior to any other pattern (or inferior to even the sestina itself). These are simply different forms, no better, no worse.

    So I’m working on one that uses the straight reverse cross, producing the five stanzas I’ve laid out here (where since it recycles early, I’m tentatively planning to have that 5th stanza repeating the sequence of the first). Thanks again to all the work Sara poured into all this – she is truly the mother of many verse forms, even if most will never see lives in a poem.

  2. davidelicet October 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm Reply

    Hey Maggie, I just got a mental flash of something I was trying to put into words, about how this all feels to me, getting involved with y’all on all this.

    It feels like when you and Dean showed Sara and me around Manhattan when we passed through last month. And like all these discoveries and inventions and delights in all these verse forms and rhymes and images and everything else y’all write and say and see, it feels like turning another corner or going into another doorway or taking another subway or walking another park or meeting another friend. So when you play with new variations on our Seven to One like this, it feels like we’re getting ready to enjoy some new and exciting part of living in Manhattan.

    Sara fusses at me not to mind what others might think about how that feels to me. If I want to enjoy your poetry, I should be open to say so and not have to excuse myself to others with their own agendas. OK then, I absolutely love when y’all weave things like you’re doing here, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.

    • maggie October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm Reply

      *gentle smile* Uh David? You should think about using that to write a poem. That’s one of countless ways for a metaphor to emerge, what you just did in seeing our collaboration like sharing time in New York’s infinite possibilities. Think of it as a homework assignment.

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