cinquain · Fandango's One Word Challenge (FOWC) · poetry

Cinquain on the Pencil

pencil

image link and also a link to, “The Surprising History of the Pencil” at brainpickings, by Maria Popova

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge is pencil .

My younger son is both a math whiz (he got it from his dad) and an artist who loves his pencils.  I never thought I’d write a poem about a pencil, but it felt right.  Today’s offering is in the form of a cinquain , which is a short, usually unrhymed poem consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines. It was developed by the Imagist poet, Adelaide Crapsey.

pencil

wood and graphite

writing four centuries

satisfied math geeks and artists

stylus

From enchanted learning:

The “lead” pencil (which contains no lead) was invented in 1564 when a huge graphite (black carbon) mine was discovered in Borrowdale, Cumbria, England. The pure graphite was sawn into sheets and then cut into square rods. The graphite rods were inserted into hand-carved wooden holders, forming pencils. They were called lead pencils by mistake – at the time, the newly-discovered graphite was called black lead or “plumbago,” from the Latin word for lead ore – it looked and acted like lead, and it was not known at the time that graphite consisted of carbon and not lead. The English had a monopoly on the production of pencils since no other pure graphite mines were known and no one had yet found a way to make graphite sticks.

The Germans manufactured graphite sticks (made from powdered graphite), but they were impractical. In 1795, the Nicholas Jacques Conte (a French officer in Napoleon’s army) patented the modern method of kiln-firing powdered graphite with clay to make graphite rods fro pencils. By varying the ratio of graphite to clay, the hardness of the graphite can also vary.

Before themid-1500s, “pencils” consisted of a thin rod composed of soft lead, and were used mostly by artists. The word pencil comes from the Latin word “penicillus,” which means “little tail” – the name of the tiny brush that ancient Romans used as a writing instrument. Graphite (named for the Greek word meaning “to write”) was chemically analyzed in 1779 (by K.W. Scheele) and named in 1789 (by A.G. Werner).

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