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October 07, 2007

Fugit Form Poetry

The Fugit Form

The "fugit" form (or to give it its full name, the Po'Realian Tempus Fugitive form) will first be penned in the year 3012, an obscure poetic structure used solely by the tiny alien civilization known as the Po'real. Noted for their unique biology, the Po'real do not perceive time linearly, circularly, backwards or indeed sideways, as is usual for most sentient species. This has naturally had rather peculiar effects on their poetry, to the extent that particularly fine examples of it are capable of projecting themselves backwards in time.

The first recorded (and, some experts maintain, the last to be penned) piece of Po'real poetry materialised out of the future somewhere around May 2010 and continued to slide backwards in time until it became lodged firmly in October, 2007. Once the radiation around it had subsided to an acceptable level, poets and other lackadaisicals were inspired to decipher its nigh impenetrable structure, to see if it would be possible to replicate the incredible temporal effects it was subject to. Leading physicists were quick to point out that if this were possible, they would already know about it and would be seeing the fruits of their labours before they had written them, to which the poets replied "ya boo sucks".

The form is curiously free - the main stipulation being that the number of syllables used in a line decrease, as the time-frame of the subject matter of each line progresses. Contemporaneous lines can have the same syllable count. So for example, in the short (and scintillatingly ironic) poem:

What follows from yesterday

Today, falling into


We have a relatively simple progression, from yesterday through to tomorrow, with the syllables in each line decreasing from 7 to 6 and then to 3.

For topics which cannot fit into any time scheme (for example, a purely descriptive passage of an abstract concept), poets are required to write the line to any length they desire, scribble it out and then start again with a temporal referent (an implied temporal referent is allowed). Lines referring to infinity are required to be infinitely short, and therefore non-existent.

A fugit form poem must have a number of lines (including title) equal to a prime number - the shortest possible being just two lines long, and the longest recorded weighing in at 232582657-1 (“Things that will happen” by Fan’Po. The piece is so large that, if written down on conventional paper format, it would cover the earth three times over).

These may be split into stanzas, but there must be a prime number of stanzas, each containing a prime number of lines and summing to a prime total (the title is included in the total line count, but not for figuring the number of stanzas.) Possible stanza combinations are:

Title, 11 lines, 5 lines,

Title, 2 lines, 13 lines, 7 lines.

Title, 5 lines, 5 lines

It is traditional for fugit form poetry to be written on rye-bread, but this is considered to be in bad taste by some poets.

The following is an imitation Fugit Form poem, penned by the late scholar Sir Laudley Wifebeater. Known for his intermittent spells of melancholia and mania, Laudley was a devotee of Po’realian poetry, and worked long and hard to emulate the time-jumping properties of its finest examples. He was spectacularly unsuccessful.

The passage of superheroes

A procession of supermen

led the carnival under my

window box of mud and nothing,

sent for the city’s jubilee.

I saw Captain Khan, remembered

His arrival on earth unwilling. He had travelled so far:

He landed angelic in a cornfield, touching the earth with

The stardust afterbirth of planets, Ulysses lost, who had seen the birth of suns.

Across the glass fields of his home, his name went unspoken by mortal tongues,

but when it fell to earth with him we crushed it to just “Khan”.

When the army asked what he wanted, he said “To help”,

so we told him to fix things and left him to it.

The mayor gave a speech that morning, talking

of gratitude and service beyond the call. 

Then they strolled beneath my window:

The day after they were gone.

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