Day Five — Counting

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I count in my head and have for as long as I can remember. When I swim in Long Pond in the summer, I count 20 strokes breathing to the right, then switch, 20 to the left. When I cut carrots for salad I count the chops of the knife — one, two, three, four, five. I memorize the numbers on license plates of cars in front of me. I count the holes I poke in the dirt with my finger, getting ready to plant beans. I count stitches as I knit. I track my runs and walks and bike rides with an app on my phone then write down the distance on my calendar. I count my inhales and exhales when I meditate, when I hold a pose during yoga.

What does this say about me? That I’m a poet who pays attention to the rhythms in my life? One summer several years ago I wrote 14 sonnets, because a sonnet has 14 lines and I wanted to create the symmetry of 14 x 14. Working in the traditional form, I counted beats in the lines. I spent much of the summer tapping with my fingers as I moved through my day repeating lines from the poems in my head, working to get each line to ten syllables of iambic pentameter. I can’t write a poem without some order to the number of lines in each stanza. Really, I can’t. If a poem just won’t take that shape, I take out the stanza breaks and let the poem run on.

What does that say about me? I like order but I also like disorder. Writing a poem orders the world and also enters the disordered perceptions that make up a moment, roaming among the associations that make meaning of a collection of words. Adherence to a form, even if it’s a form I’m imposing rather than a traditional sonnet or sestina or villanelle or triolet, makes me work harder to make the sense make sense.

I think. And now I’ve counted these words and I’m at the number I’ve decided I’m going to write each day for these two weeks. So I’m done.


About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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2 Responses to Day Five — Counting

  1. kathy gunst says:

    Love this Grace!!! 3 words

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