When I first started brainstorming this poem, and realized I was going to write seven stanzas of seven lines each, I started thinking about things that came in sevens – and how I could work them into the poem.
I had this fabulous list of sevens:
- The seven math order of operations (parentheses, exponents, square roots, division, multiplication, addition, and subtraction)
- The seven species (wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive, and date)
- The seven sayings on the cross, traditionally tied to forgiveness, salvation, relationship, abandonment, distress, triumph, and reunion – from wikipedia.
- The seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride)
- The seven virtues (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience, and humility)
- The seven days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)
- The seven astronomic bodies of Hellenistic astronomy (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon)
- The seven creative periods (light from dark, water from land, vegetation, celestial bodies, sea creatures and birds, animals and humans, and rest)
- The seven colors of the traditional visible light spectrum, or ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet)
I picked seven of these “sets of sevens” to use, and paired one set with each stanza. What I did next may seem a little crazy.
I thought about how to reference, however indirectly, one of each of the seven items in a list in one of each of the lines in a stanza. For example, in the order of operations in math, the first order is ‘parenthesis.’ I turned that into the two words “par enthesis,” meaning “by” (par) “fibrous adhesion” (enthesis) – referring to inosculation. Then I wrote a line about “Eden’s bloody cambium” in the first stanza, referencing the fibrous enthesis/inosculation formed when grafting at the cambium. So the “cambium” ties to “parentheses” through the concept of enthesis/inosculation. The second in the list of seven orders of operation, about “power” or “exponents,” gets a line about “godly might” or godly “power.” The lines aren’t about the math order of operations, but I wrote the stanza, trying to make what I wrote meet the point of the stanza while also doing this behind the scenes logic puzzle to connect to the lists of sevens.
A stanza called “Modus Operandi” (and nearly called “Ordo Operandi,” meaning “order of operations”), is influenced in its writing by a list of the order of mathematical operations. I ultimately named the stanza “Modus Operandi” (or manner/method of operation) because this stanza is about how it’s all done, and that it must be so. Here are the parallels to the math order of operations present in each line of the stanza:
Modus Operandi (Set of seven: Math order of operations)
Parenthesis – par enthesis – cambium and the fibrous graft
Power/Exponent – godly might
Root/Square root – the grafting rootstock
Multiplication – propagation – the hybrid – the symbol for multiplication “x” is the symbol used to identify a hybrid “genus x genus”
Division – scion
Addition – graft chymaera – the symbol for addition “+” is the symbol used to identify a graft chymaera “genus + genus”
Subtraction – pruning and deadwooding, removing- abscission
So, again, the stanza isn’t about the math order of operations, but it was influenced by a puzzle I set myself, which was to write a stanza that had the content I desired, but force myself to somehow influence each line by a specific math order of operation. In a way, it was like writing a haiku or writing a sonnet – I had given myself a set of specific constraints to answer to. I did that for most of the other stanzas. I didn’t make it through all of them that way because 1) it was exhausting to figure that out, and 2) the closer I got to the end of the poem, the more I had written myself into a corner. That is, I didn’t have limitless flexibility at the end to conclude the poem. So where I had a bit more flexibility in earlier stanzas to take an interesting road that this puzzle put me on if it was still going in the right direction, I still knew where it had to end, which made the later stanzas too challenging to also couple against one of the “sets of seven.” Here are the rest of them that were influenced by a set of seven and how they relate:
Chadash (Set of seven: Days of the week)
Monday – The first day of the week – “One. One.” – (With “one. one.” also referencing Exodus 12:2 “this month shall be the beginning of months…”) Also, etymology : Moon day – the tie of “moon” to “month” etymologically – “the beginning of months”
Tuesday – Tyr’s day (etymology) – Tyr the god of single combat – “bound” (sounded like someone or something conquered in combat)
Wednesday – traditional: ‘Wednesday’s child is full of woe’ – “parched” (a woeful state)
Thursday – traditional: Maundy Thursday – stemming from “Mandatum” – meaning Mandate – referencing the Last Supper and “a new commandment I give unto you” – in this line of the stanza in Latin: “mandatum novum…”.
Friday – Frigge’s day (etymology)- Frigge the goddess of love or fertility – seed or “grain”
Saturday – in Scandinavian languages, Saturday is Lordag (etymology), meaning or deriving from bath day – with “lor” referencing “lye” used to make soap – and the word “lies” is in this stanza, sounding like “lye”
Sunday – the word for Sunday in Russian literally means “resurrection” – “savored” sounded like “Savior,” tied to resurrection.
And basically everything I learned about those words probably comes from wikipedia. 🙂
Clingstone (Set of seven: the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues)
Greed/Charity – Indehiscent – a fruit that will not surrender the stone/seed
Lust/Chastity – unyielding skin
Wrath/Kindness – struck/striking
Envy/Patience – the concept of Clingstone – clinging/envy. But no stanza line directly.
Gluttony/Temperance – originally helped me consider the concept of tearing of the flesh of the fruit
Pride/humility – known and new – humbled but not debased
This is where I started to let the process of “the sets of seven puzzle” break down. Going through this process of trying to be influenced by a set of seven related phrases line by line in each stanza influenced my thinking and made me “work for it,” but when it led me to complete a stanza I was as satisfied with as I was of “Clingstone,” I let myself be happy with the stanza, instead of worrying that I hadn’t satisfied all of the seven words in the list. I struggled and struggled with “Clingstone,” and felt like I had a major break through when I completed it. I’m really happy with this stanza.
Shiv’at HaMinim (Set of seven: the seven species)
Barley – phylacteries/the tefillin strap was traditionally the width of a grain of barley, the sign of remembrance of deliverance out of Egypt – “memory, bound”
Wheat – unleavened bread – “tack”
Olive – anointing and the anointed one “Messiah” in Hebrew, “Christ” from the Greek – “boundless gift in grace”
Pomegranate – the hems of priestly garments in ancient Israel were ornamented with a pomegranate motif – “by sweep of hem of priestly robe”
Grape, Fig, Date – “vine and fig, and honey flows” (as translated in the Old Testament, “honey” probably referred to a derivative of dates)
(Again – lots of info mostly from wikipedia)
Here you can see the logic puzzle of “sets of sevens” breaking down further. I intended to have each line of the stanza influenced by a single item on the list of seven items, in this case, the seven species or Shiv’at HaMinim. However, the last line of the stanza represented three of the species in the text, and two other lines of the stanza didn’t represent any of the seven directly. But all seven made it, however obliquely, into the stanza.
Drupelet (Set of seven: the creative periods)
And here is where the tie to the “sets of sevens” stopped. 🙂 I wrote out the seven creative periods, intending to have some behind the scenes logical tie between something about each creative period and each line in the stanza of “Drupelet” – but then the poem/stanza came to me more or less in a blast. What I wrote down for this stanza was pretty close to the final version (at least all of its ideas), and this is one of my favorite stanzas in the poem.
The remaining stanzas did not end up following sets of seven.
Okay, you read this far, so now you deserve to know…
but what does it all mean? 🙂
Jump to any part of the annotation here (including directly to the stanza by stanza descriptions):
- The conceptual outline of the poem, generally
- The basic layout, in reference to the concept of the jubilee.
- The use of the word “selah”
- The sets of sevens
- A stanza by stanza review of some of what it all meansLinks to the stanzas for their individual “behind the scenes”: