john clare poetry


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To the best of my knowledge I invented cloud poems towards the end of the last century. If anybody else has been using this medium I am unaware of their work.
I have always been interested in concrete poetry, and I guess cloud poems are a subset of that genre.
I have been using word cloud analysis in my commodity and forex trading for a while. This is a method of analysing communiques to try and find a subtext in the way the words are used. One tries to find the important words by counting their usage. The resultant analysis is presented usually in an elliptical balloon or cloud with the more frequently used words being given extra prominence.
There are java programs which will do cloud analysis for you, but they produce wholly abstract results. I much prefer to do the analysis myself to control how the end product looks.
I illustrate below exactly how I produce such visual poems...
Not all poems will benefit from this approach, and it is best to write a poem with the method in mind in the first place.
I then look back over the poem and decide what words are the most important, and give them a value. I use values from 1 to 10. I dont count prepositions, or small linking words. Words which are in the poem for other reasons or which dont add significantly to the overall meaning I assign a value of 1, and ignore them for the purposes of the cloud.
When I have my list of words with corresponding numbers I apply a multiplier, usually 4. This gives me a figure which I use as type size, so if a word ranks at number 6 I will use that word in the cloud with a corresponding type size of 24 points.
I then try to design the cloud in such a way as seems to me appropriate, maybe purely abstractly, maybe pictorially.
Here is an example of how I go about creating a cloud poem.

breasts are soft
    she said
i love the way
they sway
and nestle
against each other
chests are hard
    she said
like cuddling to a wall
breasts are best
* * * * *
breasts: 9; soft: 8; she said: 4;
sway: 6; nestle: 7; against: 5;
each other: 3;
chests: 7; are: 2; hard: 7; like: 3;
cuddling: 5; to a: 2; wall: 7: are: 2; best: 6; i love: 4; the: 1; way: 2;

John Clare: cloud poem
The genre is really a subset of poesy concrete, and as such can be treated in two distinct ways. One can use the words in such a way as to create a picture or an impression of the subject matter. Alternatively one can use the words in a purely abstract way so as to create something approaching an action painting in words.
Who said action painting was a dead end?

John Clare: cloud poem