November 13th, 2007

new year

Note on writing poetry

I'm not keeping up with the dailyness on insohaimo but I am not too far behind. Meantime I have been learning quite a lot about writing poetry. Mostly from just this minimal bit of practice, but partly because people there keep linking from the myriad websites on traditional poetic forms. So last night I was looking into villanelles and sestinas and whatnot (not for the first time), which are kind of songlike with repeated lines or refrains which is not my inclination, but maybe it will sink in. Instead I am back on thinking sonnets, while I work on the rhyming thing, which is still pretty new to me. Prose poetry, yes, bought the teeshirt, wore it out, but those cowboy rhyming forms, no way Jose.

The thing with those old rhyming forms is that you have to choose enough rhymes to make some reasonable sense. D'oh! For instance, if I write about climbing the paths around the bluffs in the state parks yesterday on our way back from Eau Claire, the word "path" has only a few rhymes like "bath" and "wrath" (I checked the online rhyming dictionary to be sure) and to work those in would sound just really stupid, assuming I want to actually stay on the subject and not follow formal constraints wandering into the surreality. (Like Mr Edison, I have tried a zillion things that don't work.) (But I digress.) Whereas if I use "sand", or "climb", these have seven or eight good likely rhymes that could come up kind of naturally.

What I like about sonnets is that the lines are long enough that you can get there to the end-rhyme in a fairly natural conversational way, without torturing the syntax too badly, particularly if you use nice short words. Because if it's going to sound forced, might as well write free verse instead. The big words, the multisyllabic words, see? come up quite often for me anyway. I was warned about that in seventh grade, and now it turns out to be true enough.