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Fractions of poetry

If haiku is popular because it lets you say so much in so few words, crafting verse mathematically looks set to become even more so.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 00:46 IST

If haiku is popular because it lets you say so much in so few words, crafting verse mathematically looks set to become even more so. At least that’s what thousands of wannabe poets apparently believe as they create a virtual Mexican wave of verse that’s currently sweeping the web. This growing army of wordsmiths is responding to the challenge of writing six-line poems based on the Fibonacci sequence. Every number in this extraordinary sequence is the sum of the two preceding numbers, and runs: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so on.

Fibonacci sequences appear in many biological settings, from the branching patterns of leaves in grasses and flowers, the arrangement of pines on a pinecone and seeds on a raspberry, to the spiral patterns in horns and shells. Composers like Mozart are known to have used Fibonacci numbers when composing music. So the dare for these ‘new age’ poets is apparently to use a non-rhyming style based on the sequence in the syllable count of their work, with at least six lines to each poem.

The difficulty increases with each line, as it must have the same number of syllables to match the next Fibonacci number, making it as absorbing (or frustrating) as the Rubik’s cube or the Sudoku.