Monday, January 24, 2011


I love it when young poets write to me about their experiments and creations! Here's a letter from Benjamin C. Krause as regards the BYTE POEM! Note the invite at end of letter for more "byte creations"!
Dear Eileen,

I know I mentioned to you I had created a couple other forms besides quincouplets in my earlier emails, but am not sure if I told you anything about them. Truthfully, my quincouplets blog hasn't been updated since October, and I've recently started a new blog for a different type of form I think you might enjoy checking out.

This form is called a byte, and its origins lie partially in my interest in short forms and partially in my Computer Science background. As you probably know, on a computer, data is represented by 0s and 1s. What you might not know is that a single 0 or 1 is known as a bit. Eight bits make up a byte, from which we get terms like kilobyte (1,000 bytes), megabyte (1 million bytes), etc.

Well, a poetry byte is very similar to a computer byte, except instead of using digits as its bits, it uses syllables. Thus, long story short, a byte is an eight-syllable poem.

There are no restrictions on bytes except that they must be exactly eight syllables. Line breaks, stanza breaks, they can be wherever you want them to be. Special formatting--no problem. It is simultaneously a very open and very restricted form.

It sounds easy almost, but I've found them to be some of the hardest poems to write. I still don't think I have written a great one, just some good ones. I have six of them up on a new blog I started a week or two ago, which I'd like to request that you check out if you have the time.

Prior to beginning writing bytes, I was not one to often play around with formatting, unless I was doing it for the sake of doing so (which usually meant it ended up being bad). But I play with formatting in a few of these poems, and as it so happens, they were the favorites among everyone I showed them to. I doubt it's mere showmanship or gimmick that made them enjoy them more. Instead, perhaps, playing with formatting is an almost necessary method of artistic expression in such a restricted verbal environment.

There is a heavy metal artist I used to hate; I thought he was completely tasteless. Then he got sent to prison for arson, and there the only instrument he had access to was a synthesizer. In my opinion, and in that of many others, he recorded his best music during that time.

It's not the best analogy, but I know there are tons of historic examples of artists facing a lack of resources, whether due to oppression, poverty, imprisonment, or whathaveyou, and coming up with inventive ways to make do with what they have and create great art. Forms like the byte impose similar limitations on the resources within which the poet has to work, thereby (hopefully) unlocking a creative force within them which had previously remained hidden. And no one has to go to jail to unlock it.

This may have been rambling, so I apologize. But at any rate, I think it's a form with a lot of promise. My best is yet to come, and i only hope that one day it picks up enough steam that people will be leaving me in the dust with their byte creations.