The anima methodi is a poetic form, invented by poets Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé and Eric Tinsay Valles. It originated in Singapore. Etymologically, the term translates from Latin as “spirit of the method”. In Jungian psychology, the anima is understood as an anthropomorphic archetype of the unconscious, the seed from which creativity manifests.
Early in its inception, the form was utilized as a creative prompt in The Missing Slate’s Global Poetry Writing Month, upon invitation by Jacob Silkstone. “The form appears demanding in its strictures,” Kon says, “but upon executing it, one should feel how effortlessly the elements come together. As with so much engagement with traditional forms in contemporary poetics — formalist trappings only offer a loose guide — a writer is free to unhinge or adapt a form, depending on how liberally these limitations may be interpreted.”
In response to Pooja Nansi’s Day One prompt for SingPoWriMo 2017 organized by Sing Lit Station, Kon penned a nonce sonnet, titled “What Sneaky Sneaky”, referencing the anima methodi’s structural attributes — this tongue-in-cheek response poem (since recast as an anima methodi) served as a prompt itself, generating some of the earliest versions of the form.
These poems were penned by writers including Al Lim, Ian Chung, Jerome Lim, Jocelyn Suarez, and Low Kian Seh.
The classic anima methodi attends to these structural constraints:
· It contains 16 lines, split between two stanzas of eight lines each. This structure has been quaintly called the twofold binate octave.
· Two words or phrases are repeated anywhere within the first binate octave, and the same mirroring effect (with the same or different pair of texts) is done for the second binate octave.
· There remains continuity across both stanzas, with the last line of the first stanza moving seamlessly – across the stanza break as dovetail – into the first line of the second stanza. The stanza break may locate the poem’s volta, as with the sonnet, for which, according to Phillis Levin, “the volta is the seat of its soul”. This break may also be considered a turning point of the poetic experience.
· The twofold form achieves some manner of dialectical play between both stanzas, along a theme or image or allegory or some other literary trope.
· The poem must feature some meta-sensibility, in underscoring this form as contemplating “the spirit of the method”.
A more distinct discharge of this form is called the methodus animae, translated as “the way of the soul”, for the anima methodi that speaks of the contemplative state of mind.
According to Valles, “In plumbing feelings, this twofold form mirrors Gabriel Marcel’s Primary and Secondary Reflection. First, the poet examines any experience toward which one has mixed feelings. This experience may be said to shatter the calmness of the anima or soul. The poet breaks down the components of the experience methodically. Second, the poet sees beyond fragmented experience in order to gather traces of a true or deep-seated emotion. It is then that the poet is said to be fully alive.”
while studying, you ask
“Is it summer yet?” and I think about how my body is in
the shape of an hourglass, cracked on the way to buy
chicken rice. I guess I should’ve worn a looser jacket
and brought my tumblr because at least I could've gotten detox
right tonight. No tea, yet I still say something contemplative…
and get judged for talking about the differences between an ogre
and a vampire. You’re not a vampire, I swear
(though the new moon is encouraging) it is one day closer to
“Is it summer yet?” and the correct answer: (1) the shape of your body
is perfect (even after claiming starbucks one-for-one everyday
everyday eating and eating the healthy kale croissant buns),
or (2) your trip will be so super fun, especially because you’ll get another
hundred likes while writing something contemplative…
about differences and diversity. And we continue to study at a table
with a maximum occupancy of one. I guess I’ll grab my jacket
and wait for the summer I dream about in the movies.
By Al Lim
The atom, constituent of all matter,
with a heart of mere octillionth kilograms
containing quintillionth coulombs of
positive charge that persist, surrounded
by negativity every millisecond through
millenia, reaches beyond void to form
bonds mere angstroms wide, demanding kilojoules
to break but a single mole of them, yet
broken we are, and what amounts to little
is the bond between us, a splintering
gulf beyond that which time can salve,
losing our inherent flavours, our ups and downs
discretely quantized; some strange charm keeps us
barely on top of things, and at the bottom of it all,
the nucleus of all that matters
is what constitutes us remaining indivisible.
By Low Kian Seh
What are questions I need answering
in rhyme? Who is Pooja Nansi; what
is an anima methodi? Can relativity
be reconciled with indeterminacy? Is
dulce et decorum est pro patria mori?
If you teach someone three times three,
is it three squared, or three plus three
plus three? Who asks what lies
in asking if what’s to the asking lies
just in the asking, and what’s to the answer
lies the closure? Nullae quaestiones,
tantum responsa. Who what why
is mere alliteration. Three times three
is a question of form is nine. The answer
couches not in the asking; only the asking
is right. The rest is asked of rhyme.
By Jerome Lim
True Enough / Fair Enough
“There’s no lack of void.”
~ Samuel Beckett
Today, Meghan is waiting for Before Sunrise to screen.
Jesse has a distinct gait, a swagger despite his beer gut.
The young Ethan Hawke had floppy hair and a goatee.
He couldn’t wait to grow up, like the pay-per-poem poet.
The one by the river, who couldn’t wait for a real epiphany.
Julie Delpy played the young Céline, with so much to say.
About women, and what emancipation could look like.
Meghan watches films about waiting, the trudge, slow burn,
the way time stays itself, enviably, into a lifelong interlude.
This protraction — aporia is aporia — makes the wait pained.
Yet worth the while. Meghan confessed she’d been waiting.
More than half her life, for love’s grand, impossible symmetry.
It was an impasse that rested on the cyclic, then dihedral.
Onscreen, Godot was but the music, Meghan in the wings.
Waiting for each fermata, how the permutations flickered.
Each scene another translation of the same, time and again.
By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé