Slate Petals (and Other Wordscapes) by Anthony Etherin (Penteract Press)

Tears in the Fence

Question: what’s so distinctive about this stanza?

Nature painted this morning

as a thorn in untried pigment,

a mad night in turpentines, or

the turning points in a dream…

And about this one:

I sat, solemn.

I saw time open one poem.

It was in me, lost as I.

Answer: the first makes each line an anagram of the others; the second is a palindrome. There are some writers who, as if writing weren’t already hard enough, set themselves extra hurdles out of sheer fun, ambition, masochism, or a kind of liberation-through-confinement. This collection is in that tradition, alongside Oulipo’s variousjeux d’écriture, Christian Bök’s best-sellingEunoia, and most recently, say, Luke Kennard’s ‘The Anagrams’, and it’s something of a masterclass of constrained super-formalism. There are sonnets in monometer and dimeter, tautograms, pentograms (only five-letter words allowed), pangrams, aelindromes (a type of complex palindrome actually invented by this…

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