Circles to Conversations—The Contrapuntal prompt

The previous post used Venn diagrams as a writing prompt. The Venn diagram sample poem “Employee Relations 4.0” is one way to think of a contrapuntal in which the two circles each are separate poems that also function as a combined poem. The contrapuntal form (inspired by music) usually consists of two columns that each can stand alone as a poem but in which the two columns can be read horizontally line by line to compose ultimately a third poem. Often a line will be centered that is shared by each of the columns and of course by the overall poem. Think of the shared area of the “Employee Relations 4.0” as that centered line.

I learned about using Venn diagrams as part of a writing process from Danielle Mitchell and likewise the contrapuntal form from her. And I am grateful for her book recommendation of Tyehimba Jess’s Leadbelly. Tyehimba Jess is a master of the contrapuntal form. Read these poems published on the PEN site. Here is Ann Rasmussen’s interview with him about his use of the form in that book and his subsequent award-winning Olio in the journal Frontier Poetry. Check out a few of his poems from Olio published by Wave Books. 

For another example of a contrapuntal poem, check out Tarfia Faizullah’s “Aubade  Ending with the Death of a Mosquito” and her discussion of it. And Jamaal May’s “I Do Have a Seam” is another of my all-time favorites.