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Star Potential

by Mickey 

Posted: 23 August 2017
Word Count: 79
Summary: Hope this works - it looks quite good 'centred' but we can't do that here

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                             that is
                           a burning
                         mass of gas
illuminating our night skies but looking like
    a small dot of white light so far away
       is not just there however to give
         glory to an inky black evening
            It’s also a sun like our own
        around which possibly revolve
      a group of planets like our Earth
   on which may exist life forms similar
or perhaps identical to anyone down here
                      which includes
                          your friend
                            you and

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Comments by other Members

Mickey at 16:21 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
Not too bad, but it's not as balanced as when the lines are centred rather than indented

Cliff Hanger at 20:24 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
Hi Mike,

Is this part of your thinking about shape because it does look beautiful and very appealing on the page. It does read a little bit clunky in parts for me but I think you could sort that by changing or leaving out the odd word. Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way, though. Maybe it's more about meaning in shape rather than meaning in words?


James Graham at 21:16 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
I like this! First thoughts – the star shape is of course one of the traditional star forms used in heraldry and all sorts of other contexts. In other words, it’s a human representation of a star. And that’s appropriate because your poem gives us a very human perspective on distant stars in space. Down to earth, so to speak. I love the way it segues from the great burning mass of gas, to the planets, to similar life forms, to identical life forms, to ‘your friend you and even me’ – like zooming in from light years away right into close-up, to the folks we know. Somehow this suits the tapering shape of the lowest star point.

There may be some scope for revision, as Jane has suggested. I’ll think about that and get back to you.


Mickey at 21:33 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
Hi Jane

Thank you for your comments.  First of all, no this is not what I was talking about in my forum post.  You may recall that I said specifically that I wasn’t talking about ‘shape poems’ which is what I consider this to be.

I readily accept that the piece does read a ‘little bit clunky’, but it is not as simple as just changing or leaving the odd word out.  In fact, it’s not so much about the words themselves at all, but rather the actual character, hyphen, and white space count contained in each line.  Even further than that, the width of the individual letters themselves can make or break the pattern.  As you will obviously realise, an ‘i’ takes up less space than an ‘o’.  Moreover, the length of each line has to combine with the preceding and following line to create as near as possible two equilateral triangles.

What I found most challenging however, was to compose a poetic statement about a star that could exactly fit within the pattern of increasing and decreasing line lengths and to start and finish on as short a word as possible (I wish it could have ended on ‘I’ again, but that wouldn’t have made sense)  The top and bottom ‘points’ made up of five lines each wasn’t so difficult, but composing the nine lines  in between to achieve similarly shaped side triangles to create the two interlocked larger equilateral triangles was more problematic, hence the ‘clunky’ read.

Finally, no I don’t think it’s more about meaning in shape over words.  I hope it is a balance of meaning in both

Thank you again for your observations


Mickey at 21:42 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
Hi James,

Regarding the choice of star shape, it had to be this Star of Solomon design in order to create continuous, readable lines of text.  If, for example, I had tried to  accommodate a five pointed star, then the resultant poem would, perforce, have to have had two trailing and separated elements to the lower, closing sections of the piece and would not therefore have worked


Cliff Hanger at 21:42 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
You've done a great job. if it's that technical probably best not to tinker with it. I really like the mathematical angle (if you'll excuse the pun).

Like James, I particularly love how the static shape manages to convey a tremendous sense of movement.


Mickey at 22:04 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
James and Jane

Just to expand on my explanation to Jane, the ‘illuminating o’ and the ‘but looking like’ in line 6, must both be of equal length to the angled lengths between the initial ‘A’ and the ‘m’ of ‘mass’ and the ‘s’ of ‘gas’ in lines 1-5 respectively otherwise the larger equilateral triangles would not form and you would not arrive at the bottom point. It's me architectural training!  smiley


Mickey at 22:14 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
Hi guys

My postings seem to keep crossing with yours.  Thank you both for your positive feedback.  Once again, I am amazed at the added depth of (unintentional) meaning that you manage to find James (It was difficult enough writing the bloody thing) but now you've pointed it out, it seems even better than I had intended!  Thank you


V`yonne at 23:03 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
It's a gr8 shape laugh Well done! I could do with some archetectural training methinks.

ronaldanne at 23:25 on 23 August 2017  Report this post
Hi Mike,

This is a most interesting shape poem. I simply can't imagine attempting one so complicated as this. 

I agree with James about the poem moving us along from light years out down the an individual on the surface of a planet. This reading really does add to the poem and makes the shape that much more a part of the poetic statement.

Very impressive work. Given the intricacy of the design I wouldn't dare to make a suggestion for revision.


joanie at 10:30 on 24 August 2017  Report this post
Wow, Mike, this is really impressive!  I just love the shape of it.  It must have taken ages for you to perfect it.  I like the sentiments too;  I do think that there is a balance of shape and meaning.  Excellent!


Mickey at 12:04 on 24 August 2017  Report this post
Dear Ron, Joanie and Oonah

Thank you for your very kind compliments.  During my latter years working as an architect and designing housing developments, a new requirement of a written ‘Design Statement’ was introduced in which the developer had to explain the rationale behind his design.  You soon got to know what they wanted to hear, but it was still unsettling to have to explain what you had been doing subconsciously and automatically for years.  I was reminded of this when I tried to explain to Jane, above, how I ‘designed’ this poem.
As I tried to explain, the first five lines were no problem at all.  All I had to do was to increase subsequent line lengths by the same amount to create a small equilateral triangle, and then to decide when the top point of the star was finished (ie should I go on to 6 or 7 lines for example).  Bearing in mind that this was created in Word where I could simply centre the text, the emerging visual effect was plain to see and easy to adjust.

Line 6 was where the challenge began, because I had to try to write something meaningful whilst at the same time watch as the line grew to a length where it created the tops of the side points that, themselves were equal to the angled length created by the start and finishing characters of the first five lines.  That is why the poem sounds ‘clunky’ to Jane.  To achieve the right effect visually might mean using ‘alternative’ second-choice words for the ideas that are being conveyed.  In this respect, it might even depend on the actual letter widths contained in the alternative word chosen, or the use of a word containing a hyphen to stretch the line.
The ability to ‘centre’ was crucial to enable the emerging lines to be terminated as required to maintain the shape, and is why I would like to see this facility available on WW.  When posting the poem here, I had to use the space key to try to approximate the same effect.  In fact, after having posted, I must have ‘owner edited’ at least a further half-dozen times until it looked reasonable.

I think the biggest challenge poetically however, was to arrive at an intelligible conclusion to the actual narrative that fitted into the overall shape!

Thanks again for reading me


LA at 12:19 on 24 August 2017  Report this post
Mike, I'd like to echo Joanie's comments. A great poem, interesting shape and content. You've proved yet again how versatile you are. My brain is now whirring away thinking of other shaped poems to match their content. Best not go there...

James Graham at 15:13 on 25 August 2017  Report this post
I'd just like to round off this discussion by saying I think this succeeds 100 per cent. There were reservations about it being 'clunky' but that's not really relevant in this case. It's hard enough to write a shape poem without having to write it in iambic metre! We should accept that a poem of this kind can be done as a prose poem, with prose rhythms. Its main strength as a poem is the way the words and the shape (with all its connotations) interrelate. 'Star Potential' succeeds admirably in doing that.


Mickey at 21:35 on 25 August 2017  Report this post
Thank you James

V`yonne at 22:55 on 25 August 2017  Report this post
You know I am looking for poems for our Canzonet at The Linnet's Wings and I don't have one about a star and star poems are pretty seasonal!

Cliff Hanger at 09:01 on 26 August 2017  Report this post
It'll look beautiful in there.yes


V`yonne at 12:25 on 17 September 2017  Report this post
If you are intending to send me Star Potential it will have to be now because I am nearly out of time.


Mickey at 12:52 on 17 September 2017  Report this post
Just replied in your mailbox Oonah

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