Today's Poetic Asides prompt is to write a "city" poem. NaPoWriMo's prompt is a little more involved: Take a common “concrete” noun, like “dog” or “desk” or “lemon”, and use a search engine or other method to find references to that word, then substitute an abstract noun, like “love” or “sorrow” or “freedom” for that word and base a poem on the results. Per the first prompt, I used “city” as my concrete noun and “loneliness” as the abstract one, and what happened was this slightly strange “found poem” based on a fascinating newspaper article ("A Physicist Solves the City" - Jonah Lehrer, New York Times,Dec. 17, 2010). I’m still paring it down, but here is what is looks like so far:
A Physicist Solves Loneliness
Arguments over the details of crustaceans were a sure sign that it was time to move on, so I began to think seriously about loneliness. I had this hunch that there was something more, that loneliness was shaped by a set of hidden laws. I can take these laws and make precise predictions about the number of violent crimes and the surface area of roads to loneliness in Japan. I bought a thick and expensive almanac featuring the provincial loneliness of China. New York isn’t just more loneliness. It’s a former Dutch fur-trading settlement, the center of the finance industry, and home to the Yankees.
After analyzing the first sets of loneliness data — we began infrastructure and consumption statistics — we concluded that loneliness looks a lot like an elephant. Like an elephant, loneliness becomes more efficient as its gets bigger.
When you look at some of this fast-growing loneliness, it looks like a tumor on the landscape. The concept of loneliness spread for an entirely different reason. Modern loneliness is the real center of sustainability. Creating a more sustainable society will require our big loneliness to get even bigger.
Why, then, do we put up with the indignities of loneliness? If you ask people why they move to loneliness, they always give the same reasons. Loneliness is all about the people, not the infrastructure. All successful loneliness is a little uncomfortable. Loneliness is one of the single most important inventions in human history. Loneliness is an unruly place, largely immune to the desires of politicians and planners.
Loneliness is not as a mass of buildings but rather a vessel of empty spaces. Loneliness isn’t a skyline — it is a dance. Loneliness can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps it so vibrant. There are few planned meetings, just lots of unplanned conversations. It’s just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of loneliness that keeps them alive.