Glossolalia – Behind the scenes

Glossolalia was my first experiment with a pantoum. I really like the pantoum form, though I didn’t include the traditional rhyme scheme. I’m including the poem here on the blog without attempting to submit it for publication elsewhere. I do still think it has some interesting ideas and moments that are worth sharing, despite being a bit of an experiment.

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Glossolalia – mid draft, and well underway


I’ve only started writing poetry again since October 2017 – that was after a 25 or so year hiatus. In that time, I have generally written because an idea took hold. This was the only time so far that I have written out of an experiment to follow a traditional form. I had read a pantoum and was really intrigued with how it slowed down the reading, but also kept changing the context of phrases that were already read.

I love the phrase “until at last the whole earth is at rest” – it echoes Isaiah 14:7 and other places in scripture. That phrase was there in this poem from the earliest draft, but it was late along that I realized it could be the first and last phrase. Two other phrases came early: “the logarithm pulls at the seams” and “a hundred threads of brevity.” These were phrases that I had written when composing earlier poems, and though they didn’t fit those poems, I hung onto them and they belonged together here.

The phrase “hold the line” has longstanding military significance, but the poignancy for me comes from Peter Gabriel’s song “San Jacinto,” long one of my very favorite songs.

“I worry because there are only so many words….” This one is significant for me on a couple levels. I used to write music (see for example, my work with Bravery Test) – and every time I finished a song, I used to wonder if there was another one in me. Would that one be the last? I think about that with poetry now. I’ll work and work with a poem, and finally finish it when I’m satisfied. But will there be another? I worry because there are only so many words.

Last – Glossolalia is a great word, as defined by wikipedia:

…the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning…

That definition just feels like my poetry 🙂 As I worded it in my poem New Year of the Trees, “Ignotum per ignotius” – or an explanation that is worse than the question, leaving one even less illuminated by the answer. That’s my writing! 🙂