The Sonnetarium

Me: What should I write a sonnet about?
R: Pirates.
Me: Goddamn I hate sonnets!
R: So what else is going on?

Since yesterday, I have been asking everyone I encounter what I should write my goddamn sonnet about, which mainly meant that I was asking my husband repeatedly what I should write a sonnet about. He suggested monsters (a la H.P. Lovecraft), and some other subjects that if he were a poet would probably be well-represented in his own repertoire, but that unfortunately don’t quite meld with my scope of knowledge or interest.

Unfortunately, the stress of waiting to hear what’s happening with our condo offer is making the whole concentration thing a little bit difficult. And if you have any creative inklings whatsoever, it doesn’t matter what your art of choice is, you know that the production of said art requires a certain level of focus, if not extreme and intense levels, to be at all presentable.

The thing is, I used to like sonnets. I thought that they were fun with all of their restrictions and ways to play with words that might rhyme if you squint hard enough. But this professor that I have seems to think that slant rhyme is kind of a cop-out. So I pulled out the rhyming dictionary, finally acquired some sort of vague idea about subject matter, and began to jot down some words that rhymed and also went along with my hazy notions. This is my process. I have no idea what to write in a rhymed and metered poem until I have the words that might make the structure work. The funny part is that I don’t think I actually used one single word from that list that I wrote down at the beginning. Once I got my punchline in my head (I enjoy the Shakespearean sonnet form because it does have that rhymed couplet at the end that acts as a kind of punchline), I was able to assemble a fourteen line amalgamation of words that resembled a sonnet. At least enough to be able to show to my classmates for a proper workshop smack down tomorrow.

Over time, yes, I have grown to despise the sonnet. And my professor even said that once you know that you can do something, whether it’s a successful epigram, double dactyl, poem-play, etc., what’s the point of doing it over and over again? I’ve done the sonnet thing for every single workshop I’ve ever taken. I’m done with the sonnet thing. I’ve accepted the fact that my writing doesn’t fit very well in form. That I might be able to write in form, but I know that my formal poems are not among my best works (and I strongly believe that other critics would agree with me on that). Form makes me uncomfortable and edgy. It stresses me out almost as much as waiting to find out if we’re going to be moving to a street with an X in its name or if the buyer we’re bidding against will top our very best offer instead. I know that some people find this aspect of form exciting, and the discomfort and restriction is the appeal. Me? I usually end up feeling like it’s just a waste of time.

I guess we’ll see tomorrow if my classmates agree.


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