Today we have the erudite Caroline Gill on the Folding Mirror form’s place within palindrome poetry.
Thanks to Caroline for giving her time to set out a great case for the survival and continuation of the form.
Robert Lee Brewer posted a fascinating feature about Palindrome Poetry on his Poetic Asides blog (18 Nov. 2010). It seems, therefore, a good time to begin to define the difference between the Palindrome Poem (a type that has been around for a long time, although it took a while for this poetry to be labelled as palindromic, in any definitive sense of the word) and its newer cousin, Folding Mirror Poetry (FMP), devised by Dr Marc Latham. It is worth pointing out before we proceed that there have been various forms created, based around the palindromic idea. A favourite recent one is the Palindromedary Sonnet, developed by Wendy Webb, which has two halves but no central folding line.
There are essential differences between Palindrome poems and FMP, but there are also overlapping elements. I suspect that Dr Marc Latham is moving towards his own definitive explanation; but meanwhile, I offer a few thoughts of my own:
The Folding Mirror form has, as I understand, a central ‘folding’ line as its key feature. This sometimes equates with the horizon (in both an actual and metaphorical sense in some poems); and unlike the Palindrome poem as defined by Brewer, the FM poem is not restricted to a single ‘bridge’ word at the hinge point.
The words above and below the central folding line in FM poems will often mirror their counterparts to one degree or another. I find it helpful to speak in picture-language, and to consider a pool, when I think about this poetic concept. Sometimes, when the water is perfectly still, the image and its reflection are (to all intents and purposes) a perfect mirror image. Sometimes, when the water is very disturbed, the image and its reflection bear little resemblance to one another. Sometimes, when there is a slight ripple, there is a definite, though incomplete, resemblance between the image and its reflection. There are also times when the surface of a pool is so dense (perhaps due to ice, oil pollution or algae etc.) that although there is some kind of matter – or void – below the surface, it may appear to bear no resemblance to what lies above.
Therefore in FMP, the words below and above the line will not always mirror their counterparts specifically, because some reflections are more subtle than others. There are also occasions when the poem concerns a subject with two halves, but with totally different halves e.g. a horizon middle line could be used to separate a top half about an empty sky and a lower half about e.g. lions in the jungle below. A FM poem about a tooth and its root would be about the tooth that was visible and the (unidentical) root that was not, but was ever present all the same. Ditto the seen and unseen halves of an iceberg.
Sometimes a FM poem involves diagonal opposites.
Sometimes words repeat themselves exactly in FMP – like images in a clear pool. Please note that the type face in FMP is usually – but not always – the same way up on both sides of the central folding line, due to practicalities of presentation and ease of reading.
Sometimes words in one half of FMP are mirrored by their opposites, producing e.g. a Dalmatian effect on one side – black on white – and an inverted or domino effect – white on black – on the other.
Sometimes the central folding line (which may not always be horizontal) will separate (for example) the part of the FM poem about sheep from the part about goats, in a poem in which these creatures are linked through symbolic meaning. Sometimes, however, the central folding line will separate (for example) the part of the FM poem about sheep from the part about cows, for the simple reason that (in this instance) the two species graze in adjacent fields, divided by a hedge or wall.
There are many variations of FMP, as I understand, and as I hope I am beginning to demonstrate.
Palindrome poetry features ‘the same words … in each half of the poem’ (Robert Lee Brewer – link below). FMP does not necessarily do this, as has been demonstrated from the points above. FMP is based on a broader structural concept; and while a FM poem may include the same words on both sides of the line, it equally may not, relying instead (or in addition) on some of the scenarios I mention above.
Sometimes FMP is more about the mirroring of concepts or ideas or about the presentation of opposites than about the mirroring of actual words, but a strong central folding line is always essential to the structural success of FMP.
For more on Palindromic Poetry, please follow the link to Robert Lee Brewer’s site.