Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The blurtmeter

When I posted the Blurts poem a couple of months ago, I mentioned another poem that I had posted on Facebook. The Facebook post was to a poetry competition run by the British Science Festival 2011. Not for the first time, I account publication of that sort as excuse enough for inclusion in this blog. Here comes the poem in question.


(first weeks of an experiment)

Motivation. To count the blurts
jabbed by the jangle of bad memories;
to make them less by x percent;
to unstep the cycle of embarrassment.

Method. A stopwatch on one finger,
with lapcount button in stretch of my thumb.
I set it running when I start the day,
thumb it for every blurt, then write the tally;
and the percent reduction that I seek,
twenty, a moving target week on week,
will be rewarded, on the days it's met,
by an entitlement to chocolate.


20 June 2006: 945 blurts in 7 days
Target for 27 June 2006: 756 blurts in 7 days
27 June 2006: 643 blurts in 7 days


I play at science. How define a blurt?
How can my self-reports be verified?
What if repeated thumb-stretch comes to hurt?
What if the madness stacks up more beside?

What are the benefits? I reckon three:
first, something new each time I look. The art is
to wear the stopwatch unobtrusively
(though guaranteed to break the ice at parties).

Second, think fifty blurts for twelve hours eight.
The jabbing jangle of remembered gaffes
is sidelined by the urge to calculate,
its importuning baffled in the maths.

Let's make the third rhyme ho, throw, go, grow, glow:
to have planned anything and found it so.

The poem was written for the Keats-Shelley Association competition in 2006, the theme of which was 'The experiment'. I found myself treating the competition brief as a kind of miniature research project. The experiment described in the poem is one I had long wanted to try. I continued it, with a succession of lap-counters, over three years, and it generated several further poems. But I intend to stick to my rule with these, and not blog them until they have achieved publication elsewhere. Any editors willing to give them a go?

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