Christensen on Hollander’s qabbalistic poetics

Many of [John] Hollander’s unique lyric structures are based on prime numbers and their factorials. Among others, Hollander’s partiality for prime numbers is evident in spy-master Cupcake’s “eleven-phase transposition grid,” in Reflections on Espionage, and in the thirteen-syllable line throughout Powers of Thirteen. Moreover, two of the major sequences, Spectral Emanations and Powers of Thirteen are built on factorials of prime numbers (7 and 13 respectively). … At three moments in this half-century of publication, Hollander has marked out the scope of his achievement with Selected Poems (1972, 1978, and 1993), with only thirteen poems common to all three editions.*
*Thirteen is a number significant to Hollander, who discovered, in the course of writing Powers of Thirteen, that the initial letters of his name, first and last, add up to thirteen. The thirteen poems are “For Both of You”; “The Great Bear”; “Movie-Going”; “Digging It Out”; “Off Marblehead”; “The Ninth of July”; “Sunday Evenings”: “From the Ramble”; “The Night Mirror”; “Under Cancer”; “Granny Smith”; “Adam’s Task”; and “The Head of the Bed.”
—Philip H. Christensen, “John Hollander’s Selected Poems (1972, 1978, and 1993) and the Necessity of ‘Preparing a Perpetual Calendar,’” in Hélène Aji & Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec (eds.), Selected Poems: From Modernism to Now (2012; my emphasis).

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