The Cost of Conformity

Fear not!  I am not going to subject you to another attempt at a sonnet, at least not today.  I will, however, take a few moments to share with you some “Great” Thoughts that have crossed my mind as a result of my foray into meter and rhyme.

I’ve never really fancied myself a poet, so I surprised myself by allowing myself to branch out a little.  It started with some relatively silly haikus, but seeing that people actually read them, I decided to branch out a little.   For the most part I was producing haikus and Fibonacci poems, forms reliant on syllable counts but nothing else in terms of rhyme of meter.  I did some free verse here and there, enjoying the freedom from the rules of prose.  I still can’t say it was stellar work, but it helped me expand my literary repertoire. 

Still, I stayed away from forms that dictated rhyme or meter.  That is until last week when I saw a Wikihow article on how to write a sonnet.  I quickly decided that I wanted to write a sonnet this year.  The Plinky prompt asking what I could not throw away provided some promising inspiration that resulted in What I Can’t Throw Away: A Sonnet.  My reflection on that work led me, as I described last night to Sonnet Take Two.

As I was writing these two poems, I made a conscious choice to stick rigorously to the poetic form as I understood it.  That meand that in sticking to iambic pentameter, I limiting myself to ten syllables as well as sticking to the rhyming pattern.  That rhyming pattern (ABAB) is what tripped me up in the first sonnet.  You see, for the sonnet to work, an idea has to flow through the entire quatrain, but I was having them run through the couplets.  As a result, while I was successfully rhyming the A’s, they formed a two line idea that was interrupted by the B’s which were themselves two halves of a different idea that were interrupted by the second A.  

Once I figured this out, it was easier to work out my ideas in four lines.  Additionally, for the second sonnet, I switched from the Shakespearean pattern to the Petrarchan one (ABBA).  That allowed for at least some couplets to stay together as I had intially composed the idea.

It was still tricky though, mainly because of my insistence on sticking rigidly to the conventions of the sonnet.  There were several places where I ended up discarding lines that I really liked simply because of a deficit or surplus of one syllable.  I discarded ideas because they made perfectly good couplets, but they didn’t flow as part of a quatrain.  I think I could have had a perfectly good poem, one that would have been superior to the finished product if I had followed my instincts.  But it would not have conformed to the rules.  It would not have been a sonnet.

Now, keep in mind that I comformed intentionally, and more rigidly than I normally would have.  It was an exercise to me.  I’m sure you could go back through Shakespeare’s sonnets and find more than one line that does not stricly conform to iambic pentameter. 

So that raises the question.  How strictly should we conform to the rules and conventions around us?  I’m not calling for anarchy or anything like that.  I just questioning the rigid orthodoxy’s through which our vision of the world must be filtered. It’s one thing to discard a line of poetry in an excerise because it has a syllable to many.  It’s another to dismiss a person or an idea as unacceptable simply because it did not come through approved channels.  We live in challenging times.  We can’t afford to dismiss a good idea because it’s not properly formatted or came from someone of a different ideology or party or religion.


About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
This entry was posted in Personal Reflection, Poetry, Sonnet, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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