By Morris Dean
What's your surname mean, Dr. Congeries?
It means "collection"—of thoughts in thinking,
Say, or of words or phrases in writing.
Collections require order for clarity,
Order can be served by parentheses
But a limit's prescribed by memory.
Quite a jumble, Doctor—what about memory?
It limits how many things a congeries
Can contain. By using parentheses,
A subcollection (of thoughts in thinking)
Can be set aside to aid clarity.
This can be expressed, of course, in writing.
But, Doctor, parentheses in writing
Can sorely tax a reader's memory
And lead to the opposite of clarity!
Their liberal use to order congeries
Does pose a problem. Writers whose thinking
Naturally proceeds in parentheses
Need to use fewer or no parentheses
By slowing down, "unpacking" their writing,
And not displaying their actual thinking
As it unfolds.
Because of memory,
To dodge the jumbly kind of congeries?
And thus communicate with clarity.
For that's what a writer needs, is clarity.
Of course. Most readers find parentheses
Unhelpful for managing congeries,
And even find most of their use in writing
An unpleasant strain on their memory.
So, you're saying that...What is your thinking?
I'm saying that parenthetical thinking,
To be shared with others with clarity,
Must express in no more items than memory
Can deal with at once. Fewer parentheses
To articulate one's thoughts in writing
Should lead to less tightly packed congeries.
Slower thinking! Fewer parentheses!
So much more clarity in your writing!
Please, Dr. Congeries!
Copyright © 2013 by Morris Dean
Note: For an explanation of the sestina verse form and links to other examples, see "Nerdy arithmetic in sestina" (January 23).