Prose has words in grammatical order –
Poems have words in the best order –
Classical poems add structure –
I write the last –
That explains – I suppose –
Why I see my poems as crystals of prose
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
Have I yet mentioned that my Honours B.Sc. in Chemistry thesis dealt with X-ray crystallography, which was usage of X-rays to determine a compound’s chemical make-up (and molecular packing structure) from its crystalline form? I was actually looking at specific bond lengths in a compound, but the means allowed for bond lengths to be determined as chemical structure could not be determined unless atoms’ positions were known relative to each other to show how they were connected, and if so, distances between them could be measured. However, crystals were prominent in my life for the better part of a couple of years because what got me into that thesis was some summer work where I was introduced to it, after a summer of first learning about it during a summer second year inorganic chemistry class where the professor, Dr T Stanley Cameron, was the one who ran the reknowned X-ray crystallography lab at Dalhousie University.
The first two lines of this poem is a well-known saying. The third line is a fair comment to classical poetry forms that are structured, unlike free verse often is not, for example. Up to this time, I tended to think of myself as a classical form poet, even though I was starting to write a lot of “loose verse” poems, as I called them, like this one. I still thought of them as classical poems because they were not free verse, even if showing only some shades of structure like a touch of rhyme or similarly repeating lines here and there, and such. Mix that in with the fact that crystals are molecules packed in a pattern, even if a totally non-symmetrical unit repeated to make the pattern, draw the metaphor of words to molecules and poetic structure being like packing structure of molecules in crystals and voilà!
Ever since I wrote this poem about poetry being crystals of prose, that’s become my standard definition for explaining what written poetry is to someone, and not just my poetry as expressed in the poem. Explaining what poetry alone is to someone, though, is an entirely different and much tougher assignment I’ve yet, and doubt will ever, be able to comprehensively do.
The O-series of poems are one stanza poems composed before I got onto writing haiku and tanka, and short poetry while in action or traveling by select means like plane or ferry. These poems are 3-9 lines long with at least one rhyming couplet, and not of the short forms just mentioned. For the sake of elegance, I just called the collection One.