Midnight Umbrella

Set Syllables

Five. Seven. Five. That was the start. Condensing a tableau of palimpsest into seventeen syllables, Set Syllables is an exercise in brevity, in restraint of language.

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Scrawled on Scraps

Scrawled on Scraps

If you’ve made it this far, you might have noticed that much of my other design work is colorful, friendly…and ofttimes a bit verbose. Set Syllables was the first foray into a more subdued, deliberate style of writing and form making. I’ve always found writing to come more naturally than design, so over the years these 17-syllable poems have piled up in the marginalia of notes and on ephemeral scraps of paper.   

Haiku is a form of poetry that is self-limiting; it requires taking a scene, concept, or feeling and wringing out all superfluous information, leaving only the most emotive skeleton. While classic haiku involves deliberate seasonal metaphors and other literary parameters, to be honest I’m relying solely on the contemporary 17-syllable convention of form as a limitation to spur meaningful brevity.

Five. Seven. Five.

Five. Seven. Five.

Each of the project’s initial poems feature 17 concrete, and deliberately placed syllables. While some of the imagery wrought by the word choices may be overt, others simply attempt to convey a palimpsest of feeling, an ephemeral sight or sound. Like looking at a landscape through a cloudy lens.

There’s something slightly contemplative about the scenes; something wistful, or reflective, or fleeting. They’re a grey-skied day; an slow exhale; a slice of frozen time steeped in wabi-sabi tinged imperfection.     

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Breaking Form

Breaking Form

After bringing a few dozen finished poems from scrap to screen, I wanted to infuse the project with some updated forms. Utilizing additional typefaces, color palettes, custom letterforms, illustration and other detailing let the words sit askew from their previously formulaic layout. It was a nice break from form, and a nice way for the project to stretch its legs. Additionally, having the poem’s letterforms textured, decayed and slightly askew felt like a nice subtle reinforcement to the actual written content.  


 

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New Forms

New Forms

Since Set Syllables had expanded into a deeper range of visual forms, maybe it was time to push the written boundaries as well. In reality, despite my best intentions I didn’t fall perfectly in line with the 17-syllable restriction with each an every poem. Whoops. 

So what the heck then? Set Syllables now has the permission to be an umbrella for most written and visual endeavors being I’m working on.

 

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