PF: Confounded

Linda posted this month’s challenge. She said, “Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics.” She then asked us to write a poem that “includes the idea of percentage/percent in some way.” When I first read this, my thought was What!? This seemed like such a random prompt and a bit foreign to my ELA-inclined brain. As always though, when pushed into exploring new territory, I found the journey rewarding. Thanks, Linda!

Confounded

  1. In my college statistics class
    I learned all about variables:
    dependent, independent,
    confounding.
    The rogue nature of the word,
    confounding,
    fascinated me.
    The way it transformed fact
    into uncertainty.
    Transformed causation
    into correlation.

  2. Last week I saw a bumper sticker
    “Make The Truth Great Again!”
    Did you know that
    60 % of people
    can’t complete
    a 10-minute conversation
    without lying?
    But how do you define a lie?
    And how often do we lie to ourselves?
    Is there a percentage
    to capture that?
    I just said
    “Fine, thanks” in response
    to the last three people
    who casually asked,
    “How are you doing?”

  3. I recently read
    that 80% of Soviet males
    born in 1923
    did not survive World War 2
    and that 99% of all species
    that ever lived on earth
    are estimated
    to have gone
    extinct.
    Such despair,
    encapsulated
    in numbers.

  4. We turn to percentages
    as if to gospel,
    spouting them
    with the fervor of converts.
    As if a number
    can help us
    make sense
    explain
    tidy up and tuck away
    all the messy realities.
    Forgetting the variables
    forgetting the nuance
    forgetting to think.
    Wondering why
    we still feel
    utterly
    confounded.

    ©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, A(nother) Year of Reading. She’ll be sharing a wonderful percentage poem there. To see what the other Inklings have done with this challenge, click on the links below:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

31 thoughts on “PF: Confounded

  1. lindabaie says:

    I watch our Pandemic percentages go up and up, and still we all are acting as if it was 2019, though a huge percentage of people are in hospital and another percentage refuse to be vaccinated. We do try to figure out our lives in this world through numbers. You wrote it so right, Molly! “We remain confounded.” (You’ve made me aware again of our ignorance of those variables.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like how you came around to confounded in your last passage, IV bringing the idea full circle. And wow, those statistics in III are definitely scary, especially about species and extinction–gets you thinking, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      They are scary, but to be honest, Michelle, I didn’t fact check those statistics…Because that’s a layer here –Too often people spout these numbers without checking, without wondering more about their validity–especially if the numbers fit with their world view. I know I’ve been guilty of it and so, I’m doing it here on purpose.

      Like

  3. katswhiskers says:

    Oh my! This round of Inklings challenges is certainly pushing me out of my maths comfort zone (which doesn’t extend past syllables, really) – and I didn’t even have to write to the challenge! I cannot dig too deep into your poem, Molly – because that would require of me to re(member or learn?) maths concepts that I don’t want (or need!) to know!!😹 I am very glad that you looped us all the way around to being… confounded. Precisely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I wrote a poem not long ago with some embedded economics concepts. I sure hope no one checked those too closely! I think you’d find the concept of confounding variables pretty intriguing–I almost posted a link with an explanation, but then decided I’d rather leave readers confounded on another level and figured that anyone really interested could google it. Or not. lol

      Like

  4. Molly, “We turn to percentages as if to gospel” is exactly what was needed to make that last stanza run, to bring the whole poem together. Really great take on the challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. margaretsmn says:

    The way you wove the statistics into this poem is so clever and yes, totally confounding!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Molly, thank you for this reminder of all the variables… and esp. the vulnerability and honesty of the lie of saying one is fine. Great job with a (confounding) prompt! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. maryleehahn says:

    Every stanza, but especially #2.
    “But how do you define a lie?
    And how often do we lie to ourselves?”

    This is SUCH an important poem. Our lives are driven by statistics, but lived by variables.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Janet F. says:

    Molly,
    I live with an econ professor who is a math/numbers guy. And truly a pretty smart and educated person. However, while I KNOW numbers matter, I am less inclined to think about them first in any situation. Sometimes though I force myself to think about what numbers have done for the world. So much, but creativity and vision counts, too. Confounding in a way. I would rather write poetry and read it many days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janet F. says:

      So your poem has forced me to think in many directions this morning. IE there are the odds to think of ie this treatment has a 50/50 chance of success in someone X age. Do you go for it or not? Yet sometimes, there is only a slight % chance of getting ill from something (think Covid and littles) but who wants to be the one whose baby gets really sick. And of course I have comforted myself on airplanes saying my odds of an accident in a car are far greater and I don’t worry myself crazy in the car!!! Confounding is a great title. Your poem, all of the sections make me think. (I admire all of your group who took this challenge and have shown what is possible in writing about percentages! I would have been nervous that I might never come up with something.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • mbhmaine says:

        Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Janet! I was initially daunted by this prompt. I’ve come to realize that prompts that push me out of my comfort zone create interesting journeys, even if they don’t lead to a worthwhile poem. Of course, I might grumble and fret a bit along the way, but I’m always glad I made the trip 🙂

        Like

  9. janicescully says:

    I was struck with the number of soviet males born in 1923 died in WW11. So much man-made suffering in all these numbers. I am looking at the leaves change in my yard, feeling lucky today.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. tee+d says:

    WHOA. This has so many thought-provoking statistics, and yet – you’re right – we quote those things like gospel. Thank you so much for writing a poem that’s making ME remember variables, nuances, and to think.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very nice poems, Molly. I should try the percentage challenge; it would certainly push me. Last night at dinner I couldn’t even figure out my share, and had to rely on my friend the math major.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Linda Mitchell says:

    Oh, my goodness. Molly, this is brilliant. Stunning. You took a word and brought it into the idea of percentage in a way that makes sense to this word-girl. Those gray areas…those times it doesn’t all add up. That’s where the poetry lives (and, I’ll bet the best photos too). I love your take on the prompt. I mean, I LOVE your take on this prompt. Wonderful work.

    Like

  13. I am in awe of how you built an idea into this stunning poem, Molly. So much to contemplate–about how numbers rule our days, our reliance on others for information, even our ability to be honest with ourselves. Well done!

    Like

  14. haitiruth says:

    I love how this is both so straightforward and so profound. This is VERY GOOD. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Like

  15. Denise Krebs says:

    Molly, what a rich poem about such confounding issues. It really causes one to think about so many important ideas. I’m going back now to read it again. Thank you!

    Like

  16. You chose some sobering percentages about which to write, Molly. They all cause me to pause and think. Isn’t that what writing is about? You did a great job with the percentage challeng! Thanks!

    Like

  17. bmagee10 says:

    Holy wow, Molly! Your poem is 110% brilliant. You met this challenge and then some! 🙂

    Like

  18. You mention percentages and I think of my grading in middle school. Rather than letter grades, I would just put a number to students’ engagement or efforts at a writing conference with me and voila we all would give that number such credence. Eventually at the end of the quarter I would have to give a letter grade, but I had such powerful numbers to make my case on subjective matters. Of course, this was in the mid-1990s before the serious craziness of standardized testing.

    Like

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