A completely genuine word of encouragement occurred after a writing workshop by another writer. He said, “what you are trying to do isn’t easy. But I can’t relate, because I have never been able to write what I want to write in the structure that a sonnet imposes.”
He summed up in many ways the very reason why I write sonnets. I find being forced into a structure of ten syllables a line and fourteen lines empowering and reassuring. Sonnets require me to think clearly. I enjoy rhyming poetry, both reading it and the challenge of writing it. For me, it feels like my writing becomes simultaneously both more accessible and genuine through a sonnet’s structure.
I find writing sonnets a process of discovery. It requires that I not fear the rhyme. I explore ideas first and look to uncover rhyme and structure later. I strive to write poetry that is pleasing to read aloud and has what I call good mouth feel. I believe strongly poetry should be read aloud, whether alone or better yet, with someone else to share the experience. I have found, if I am patient and let the sonnet go in unexpected ways, even let the rhyme have the upper hand once in a while, my subconscious steers my writing in productive and interesting ways.
Here is an example where the rhyme guided, rather than obstructed the writing. It draws on imagery from one of my favorite poems in the Tao. It was inspired by the bravery of a friend.
Cry my brave warrior; peace tears like rain.
Let them fall freely; nourish your heart’s threads.
Each able to share the source of its pain.
Awash in the wisdom of roads you have tread.
Sob my brave fighter, each rasp a sad song.
Don’t hold it in. Give it back to the soil.
Each gasp a lyric of when you were wronged,
The blood tragic score of all of your toil.
Give me your tears and I’ll settle my dust,
Soften my glare, blunt what was pointed.
Each shines my soul and rids it of rust.
With every one shed our friendship anointed.
Bless me or curse me, whatever shall be.
Cry in my arms and set our hearts free.
by T. A. Fry