Collapsar: A Poem of Collapsed Sentences

Science Fiction Poetry HandbookI don’t claim to have invented this form of poetry. I don’t know if anyone is writing anything like it, and the truth is, I really don’t care. I’m claiming this form as my own. Though to be fair, I must explain from where I co-opted it.

Suzette Haden Elgin dedicates an entire chapter in The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook on how poets exploit grammar rules. At one point, she discusses how poets since ancient Japan have eliminated words at the end of a line that are similar to the ones at the beginning of the next line. The following is her example and explanation:

I bridled a unicorn
is a mythical beast
is under the mountain

“It collapses ‘I bridled a unicorn’ with ‘a unicorn is a mythical beast’ by deleting one instance of ‘a unicorn’. It collapses ‘a unicorn is a mythical beast’ with ‘a mythical beast is under the mountain’ by deleting one instance of ‘a mythical beast.’”

I’ve co-opted this technique and applied to every line in a form I call “collapsar.” I chose this name for three reasons:

  • The lines of the poem are collapsed into each other
  • In scientific terms, a “collapsar” is short for a collapsed star
  • The previous two reasons “collapse” into one perfect name for a speculative-themed poem

The “collapsar” form is more than just collapsed sentences. Each collapsar begins with a statement, such as “Don’t think there’s nothing to fear.” The following line begins with a verb, such as “ripples,” which connects a segment of the first line to create a new statement: “fear ripples through all composite things.” This process continues line-by-line through the poem. The last line, however, incorporates words from the first line to make a new statement. This new statement should reflect or comment on the theme of the poem.

by Kurt MacPhearson

Don’t think there’s nothing to fear
ripples through all composite things
decay into sepulchral echoes
extrapolate like telescopes
peek into the unknown
lurk in ominous shadows
fall after an uttered curse
tastes of wormwood
swills in polystyrene
outlasts most ancient relics
incite fervor in the heart
encapsules time like flies
observe from a crumbling wall
displays a rusty civil defense symbol
reminds us of a bygone era
acts often as an anodyne
struggles to conquer paranoia
keeps us on our toes
hold fast to party lines
confuse conversation’s context
dictates a particular existence
stems from tiny quarks
explode from split atoms
shudder when we think

Originally appeared in Star*Line 36.2


7 thoughts on “Collapsar: A Poem of Collapsed Sentences

  1. Pingback: Unfolding the Triptych | A Speculative Poetry Blog

  2. Pingback: Collaborating with Collapsars | A Speculative Poetry Blog

    • Thanks! It’s my favorite form, and I think that by writing them, I’ve developed strength in other areas of writing. I was recently told that I needed to focus on this particular form for awhile, and it was perhaps some of the best advice I’d had in some time. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  3. Interesting technique, but your poem forgot to make me feel anything. If it doesn’t make me feel anything, it’s just a word game.


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