Joker: The Story So Far


 When I was five I learnt to write,
at eight I learnt to code.
My stories had no plan in sight,
one endless episode.
At thirteen, workshops each fortnight,
To writers club I rode
where Audrey set me on the road
to elegy and ode.
 
For many years the words were flowing.
Ideas I had in spades,
until one day we just stopped going.
Again, the flame of logic glowing
I studied maths, I dreamt of knowing
I coded for fun, and for various trades,
And then went to CERN, for hadron cascades
and code to stop databases overflowing.
 
So, since I love group theory, 
with all my heart of geek,
and operations binary,
I knew just where to seek
I’d left my right identity
in writer’s group, not Lie.
and after two years in write-clique
I’ll click the option “Thing a Week”
 
Unpolished prose, and first essay,
All diamonds in the rough.
But even when I’ve nought to say,
Each week I’ll post my stuff.  
I said I’d start on Joker day
It’s time to call my bluff.
I’ll do it all the JoCo way
until I’ve had enough.
 

So here it is… the first piece of writing in the pack. The idea of writing something every week and publishing it on the web came from Jonathan Coulton‘s ‘Thing A Week‘ project, for which he recorded an awesome song every week. I needed to get back into writing, and I figured that if he can create an entire song every week, then surely, if I don’t attempt to sing, I can write something every week. Even with a day job. I don’t expect to be as successful as he is, I just expect to write fifty-something somethings, and maybe self-publish a book at the end of it. I haven’t decided what I’ll call my own project for now, so I’m stealing JoCo’s name for the idea too.

 
The idea of using a card a week came from the calendar devised in one of my favourite books, ‘The Solitaire Mystery’ by Jostein Gaarder. In this book, February 29 is the day of the joker, so I decided that’s where I’d start. This means I have free reign over what I write, and I’ve written an introduction. A greeting card, if you like. It’s a bonus post… normally I will post on Sundays, and I haven’t decided whether that means the next post will be in two days or nine.

A few technical details. The poem is written in four octets. An octet is a stanza of eight lines. It’s also the French (and sometimes, English) word for an eight-bit byte. The rhyme scheme for each octet is therefore based on the eight-bit ASCII of the first letter in the stanza. 

Confused? Well, the first stanza begins with W, which is 01010111 in binary. So the rhyme scheme for that octet is ABABABBB. Along the same lines, octet two holds the ASCII value for F, which is 01000110, hence the ABAAABBA rhyme scheme. It was difficult to find a good rhythm to fit the rhyme schemes, and I don’t think I really succeeded. It can be read in a way which makes the rhymes sound natural, but some of it takes a few readings to get right. I’d have liked to make the four letters spell something, but I didn’t have time. You can see I’ve started as I expect to continue… publishing hurriedly-produced first drafts.

Another interesting point is that each stanza mentions one of the suits of a deck of standard Anglo-American playing cards.
 
The third octet has several puns understandable only to those who have studied group theory. I am not going to explain them. Group theorists, this is what it feels like to use your knowledge in everyday life, and be envied by normal people for it. Savour it.

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  1. #1 by Grace Bridges on March 2, 2008 - 5:11 pm

    Hey, pretty good. I even got most of the jokes, I think, except for the ones I didn’t notice.
    I’ve tagged your site in my bookmarks as “Angela’s Weekly Thing” – how’s that for a title?

    Like

  2. #2 by Duncan on March 4, 2008 - 4:07 am

    Angela,
    The rubrics are brilliant. Try and make the verse rhyme on perfect rhymes, better still on monosyllabic rhymes, then it sounds less doggerelly. The poems s could still be about something more passionate. Expand now you;ve told us the rules. Congratulations by the way.I always considered group theory a dodgy way of doing logic. Read Peter Geach in “Logic Matters”. Best wishes Duncan

    Like

  3. #3 by angelabrett on March 6, 2008 - 7:51 am

    Hey Grace, I guess “Angela’s Weekly Thing” is a good title… it’s fine for a link… for the actual name of the project, I’m going to think about it some more. 🙂

    Duncan, I thought I already had exact rhymes (though ‘clique’ depends on your accent, and the stress isn’t on the right syllables in the third stanza.) Do you see some assonance somewhere? Or is that not what you meant? I’ll work up to something more passionate later… I’m just warming up. The idea I have for week will most likely disappoint you in that area though.

    Like

  4. #4 by Mary Carr on March 20, 2008 - 7:46 am

    Hair shampoo os better!!!

    Like

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