Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weekend Mini-Challenge: The Fib(onacci)

By Dr. René Hoffmann,  via Wikimedia Commons

This weekend, Toads and Toadettes, we will be looking at another short, syllable counting poetry form, suggested to me (hedgewitch) by our connoisseur of short form, Marian Kent. It's called the Fibonnaci, or Fib, and is based on a mathematical progression known as the Fibonnaci sequence.

First introduced to the West in the 13th century, and originating in ancient India, the Fibonacci sequence frequently appears in modern art and composition, (perhaps most famously in Dan Brown's pop best-seller The Da Vinci Code) but for those who are either fuzzy about it, or aren’t familiar with it at all , rather than confuse you with my lack of math comprehension, I'll let wikipedia explain it (or you may skip directly down to the Challenge section below the video clip, where the specifics are laid out):

"In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers or Fibonacci series or Fibonacci sequence are the numbers in the following integer sequence:


By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.

The Fibonacci sequence is named after Leonardo Fibonacci. His 1202 book Liber Abaci introduced the sequence to Western European mathematics, although the sequence had been described earlier in Indian mathematics."

How does this apply to poetry, you ask?  Once again, wikipedia:

"Fib is an experimental Western poetry form,…based on the Fibonacci sequence. The typical fib is a six line, 20 syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8 - with as many syllables per line as the line's corresponding place in the Fibonacci sequence... The only restriction on a Fib is that the syllable count follow the Fibonacci sequence…"

The form was originated by Gregory K. Pincus in 2006, and you can find a clear exposition of it here, at Writer's Digest, along with various examples, and also at Mr. Pincus's blog. On, Georgia Luna Smith Faust discusses building Fibonacci poems by word count as well as syllable count, and there is even an article taking notice of the form from the the New York Times Book Section.

The Fibonacci sequence is also related to the Golden Ratio, a consonance between mathematics and the aesthetic building blocks of art, also expressed in nature. Here's a video that shows the relationships better than I could explain:

The Challenge:  is to write a poem in the Fibonacci form, where the first line contains 1 syllable, the second, 1 syllable (the sum of 0 and 1) the third, 2 syllables (sum of lines 1 and 2) the fourth, 3 syllables (sum of lines 2 and 3) the fifth, 5 syllables (sum of lines 3 and 4) the final line, 8 syllables (sum of lines 4 and 5) ending with a six line, 20 syllable poem all told.

Alternatively, you can follow the same blueprint above using a word count instead of a syllable count, which may give more scope to your poem.

So, your pattern will look like this:

Line 1:   1    (syllable or word)
Line 2:   1    (            "           )
Line 3:   2    (syllables/words)
Line 4:   3    (           "            )
Line 5:   5    (           "            )
Line 6:   8    (           "            )

It's quite possible to continue on in the sequence(13,21,34,55,89, etc) but it tends to get unwieldy rapidly after a certain point.

You can also, as with the nonet, etheree, etc, reverse the sequence after 8 syllables or words:
for a 12 line poem if you so desire, or write several linked Fibs. Feel free to be as creative in the arrangements as you'd like, so long as the form is clearly present.

Free Verse: For those not inspired by the constraints of form, as always there is the free verse option, with the challenge being to write to any of these suggestions:

  • the top photo of the nautilus shell (an example of the sequence in nature)
  • any other example(s) of the Fibonacci sequence/ the golden ratio in art or nature
  • Fibonacci himself
  • the origins of the sequence in ancient India
  • any similar such tie-in with the theme that sparks your fancy

 In the spirit of both the Fibonacci sequence and the 'mini' part of the mini-challenge, please keep your free verse poem to 5, 8, 13 or at most 21 lines, and as always, for both form and free verse, please write a new poem for the challenge. (Also as always, if you use the photo at the top, please include attribution.)

Above all, enjoy the challenge and explore it's little mathematical and historical nooks and crannies, even if for you like me, mathematics can seem a deep and abiding mystery---after all, so is poetry.

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Footnote: Not long after choosing this subject for the mini-challenge in July, many will know I took a hiatus from blogging. After writing this up, I found out that during that time, Tony Maude at dVerse Poet's Pub had done a prompt on Mathematical Forms, in which he covers the Fibonacci. I apologize to those who have already done this form there, and for this challenge coming right on the heels of his--it was a complete random coincidence.


  1. I think there is a mixed up with linky but my share is up ~

    Happy weekend to all ~

  2. Apologies for the late post, and for some reason, my Mr Linky was also totally wrong, but I think I have that fixed now.

    I undertook this form with only a mild curiosity, but I feel I should warn you all, it can become addictive, as you see by my double links. ;_)

  3. Thanks, Joy. I have seen this sequence mentioned several times on other poetry sites but we have never had the opportunity to try our hands at the form on RT.

  4. Joy, thanks for the link up again ~ Will edit my verses too (was in rush this afternoon) ~

  5. Only if you want to Grace-I understand how easy it is to miss that sort of detail and have done it many times myself with various forms. I liked what you did very much.

  6. I've used this form for a long time (well, my interest in math makes such discoveries inevitable). I do not have an example near me as some are n storage and so many lost... so I post a small video of my song "Lost in Your Troubled Dreams" just for a record meant for friends and family really to learn the camera. I left the face dancing in and added a line of 8 toward the ending.

  7. oh Hedgewitch, you know i love the fibonacci and i can't believe we haven't done it here at RT yet. really now!
    having a very busy weekend but i should be able to bang out at least one of these in the next day or so. i have yet to respond to Margaret's prompt either, but i have in mind to do both.

  8. I haven't written in this form for a very long time. It seemed to suit my strange mood beginning yesterday and lingering to today. I was even tempted to write a second fib about synchronicity, but thought I may be weathering the mood too much. So I let it be just the one.

  9. Sam, I like your FIB poem as well as your cool video, perfect for this challenge ~

  10. Great, HW, you're feeding my addiction. :). Seriously, I've been driving around and sound out 1,1,2,3,5 - the next drivers must think I'm singing or something. Now to come up with something new (I've posted several fib's the last couple weeks, since Tony Maude put the iron to dVerse.) ~ M

  11. Hey Joy - thanks for the super interesting challenge and for the wonderful samples of your own that you posted. This is a very odd form for me - just not the type of thing I normally do--but I much enjoyed. Also sorry for my weird commenting--I really am not at my most clear headed--first freeish day in a long while and not at my best but happy. Thanks again for your inspiration and to all you wonderful toads too. k.

  12. Thank you Joy and Marian! I am so behind, I think I might try the syllable count on Monday! I had fun doing a free verse style. I going to comment on and then go back and play some catch up! I hope everyone is doing well~ :D

  13. After reading some of your posts I did a fast Fibonacci choice tree inspired by my reading for the idea and I posted it to my dreamikins blog as a second and current form post.

  14. cripes, i've written a bunch of these tonight but here's one... maybe i'll post the others tomorrow. hah!

  15. Laughing at all the newly addicted. All part of my fiendish plan. ;_)

    @Marian--so glad you mentioned this--I'm really enjoying working with it.
    @K--I loved the way yours seemed like a web itself, with --taking the spider's POV--lots of tasty bits caught in it. Glad you are feeling the happy.

    @grapeling--Sure, can stop anytime you want to...

    Thanks, everyone for your participation. I've enjoyed reading your work very much.

  16. This was fun. I seem to work well around midnight. I've always been a night person, like my father, and the words seem to come in the quiet dark.
    Of course I had fun with it, too.
    I hope you'll excuse my use of your doppelganger.

  17. This appealed to me and hedgewitch is so right - this form is addictive!

  18. For you, I have written form. I am slowly recovering. :-P

  19. gave it a shot. hopefully i nailed it :)

  20. Marian, just so you know, I'm reading all your poems and still gasp and applaud each time. I wish you could hear me. I'm sorry to not share my thoughts with you each time, but your poetry never wavers in excellence. Not in my opinion anyway.

  21. Thank you, Joy, for sharing such a lovely poetry form. I learned something new! I found it challenging and rewrote my poem several times last night. Came back to it with fresh eyes this morning and it's finally linked. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  22. Ah... but this "form" has a wicked little twist - sarcasm and/or white lies are alway fun - I'm sure Fireblossom will recover swiftly ;)

    Thanks for this introduction of a new poem form (for me) I whipped it out and am now off to finish buying school supplies. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute. I'm sure only the "ugly" lunch boxes are left...

  23. thank you, sister-poet :)
    these are so much fun! happy to see Rene here, too. xoxox

  24. Marian, you too, huh? Hedgewitch, you cast a spell if even Fireblossom is caught in form.

  25. Love the prompt! I cheated a bit and did word count into nine lines. :)

  26. This was a fun prompt - I've never done a Fibonacci before though I have done an Etheree, which is similar.


  27. @Susie--I'm not sure exactly what you did, but you got a very good poem out of it and that's what really 'counts' :_)

    @grapeling--I always feel lucky when Fireblossom turns her hand to one of my form challenges--especially one where you have to count syllables and where some might say it was even sort of like a hai...hai-you-know-what. And I thank both you and Marian for making me feel so much less fibonacci-dependent.

    @Kay--I'm still laughing from your comment at my place.

    Everyone, just a thank you for all the enjoyment I've gotten from your entries. Your participation is what makes the Garden the exceptional little pond it is, where we each can hang out on our own personal lilypad and share the flies....or something. ;_)Thanks again!

  28. Thank you for this prompt, Hedgewitch. I'll be back to read and refresh with Toads late this evening.

  29. Thanks for the prompt.Love Fibonacci...

  30. I'm obviously past the weekend in posting this but I hope that's OK. I was inspired to give it a try. Thanks Hedge!


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