Tomorrow, August 9th, 2016, I will be 53 years old.
I don’t like birthdays, and this one bothers me more than most, because Philip Dick was 53 when he died. That may not mean much to anyone else, but it does to me. I can’t explain exactly why.
In any event, I have decided that I need to get back to writing, and I need to get back to basics, and for me that means poetry. I am a firm believer that the writing of poetry in a formal style is the single best tool for learning the craft of writing. In particular mastering the sonnet to the point where their construction becomes automatic.
I use a rather loose form of the English sonnet–three quatrains followed by a couplet, approaching but not always attaining iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG. I permit myself partial rhymes, which are in some cases merely a similarity of final syllable.
I am challenging myself to write 31 sonnets in 31 days. Not 31 great sonnets, mind you. Consistency is more important than quality in exercises of this sort. But 31 collections of fourteen lines which I will be posting here over the next 31 days, beginning tomorrow.
I would adjure all writers of prose (of which there are a number among my readers) to at least consider doing likewise. If you are not comfortable with formal verse (and, sadly, it is an art that has fallen out of use in these times) then by all means keep them private. But the act of writing them will, I assure you, aid you in your prose.
The English language has a natural structure which is both deep and obscure. The bewildering array of phonemes, accents, tones, and stresses that make up conversational English serve to obscure the heartbeat of the language.
Paring down thoughts to fit rhyming couplets in pentameter is the best way I know of bringing that heartbeat out into the open. The formal structure forces one to listen to how words collide with each other to make music.