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Talking with Beth Kephart, the writer of our feature profile of Gregory Djanikian, College senior Eric Xu said that the two poetry workshops he has taken with Djanikian have “drastically improved my understanding of and capacity for poetry.” As an example of how Djanikian helped him to improve his craft, Xu sent along two versions of a poem called, “Around the Time of Entropy.”

“When I asked Greg about the poem,” Kephart writes, “he said he had suggested, to Eric, that Eric had this great character, Boltzmann, and that the poem seemed to want Eric to explore more deeply where Boltzmann might take him.”

Here are some stanzas from the original version:

and I imagine that September day in 1906

when they found him hanging from an old oak

just outside Trieste, his breathless body

a vessel of light spilling,

soaking into the ground

one photon at a time

how it must have felt to understand

the softness of wet earth, the touch and burn

of a shrinking candle, alcohol licking an open wound,

the howling of dogs by the docks,

Schrödinger’s cat (to be or not to be?)…

 

And as revised:

and I imagine that September day in 1906

when they found him hanging from an old oak

just outside Trieste, his body

a vessel of light spilling,

soaking into the ground

one photon at a time.

“Is dying entropic?” I ask.

“Eric, Eric…” he shakes his head,

“Do you see that over there?”

He’s waving his arms now

so I ask him if he’s dreaming

and he says, “What’s the difference?”

“Well,” I say, “can you see entropy?”

Boltzmann smiles at me and says

“It’s all about entropy, Eric,”

which doesn’t seem to make much sense

but you see, everything makes sense

if you think about it long enough—

and becomes stranger, too, like the howling of dogs

by the docks, Schrödinger’s cat (to be or not to be?)…

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