How First You Loved Me For A Written Line

 

All you have to do is write one true sentence.   The truest sentence you know.

Earnest Hemingway

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay saw the tides of public sentiment regarding her writing wax and wane during her lifetime.  She straddled the era of classical poetry and the emergence of new voices, a new poetic language.  The writing of Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, just to name a few, was evolving the accepted poetic style that would bring free verse to the forefront of American literature.

To the literary critics who stabbed and slashed at Edna’s prose in search of some kind of retributive analysis; I say phooey. I have no interest in literary critique as character assassination. I think the critics of her day suffered from the same character flaw strong independent women face today; criticism that hides behind misogyny. I prefer to invest my time as unabashed fan of Millay who brings a sense of humor and humanity to her poetry. Millay’s writing is filled with true sentences which stick with me long after the cover is closed.

Sometimes When I Am Wearied Suddenly

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sometimes when I am wearied suddenly
Of all the things that are the outward you,
And my gaze wanders ere your tale is through
To webs of my own weaving, or I see
Abstractedly your hands about your knee
And wonder why I love you as I do,
Then I recall, “Yet Sorrow thus he drew;
“Then I consider, “Pride thus painted he.”
Oh, friend, forget not, when you fain would note
In me a beauty that was never mine,
How first you knew me in a book I wrote,
How first you loved me for a written line:
So are we bound till broken is the throat
Of Song, and Art no more leads out the Nine.

©2017 Original material copyright T. A. Fry.  Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.

 

Why Write Sonnets?

 

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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.

Peace Tears

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

Where Should I Start?

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If you had told me when I turned 50, that I would find myself writing a blog about sonnets, I would have been incredulous.   I am not a literary scholar or published author.  I am a regular guy, who had up until that point in his life, only a modest interest in poetry as a reader and even less interest in writing poetry.  As a writer, to this day, I am an inaccurate speller, lousy at punctuation and stubbornly ignorant of the rules of grammar.   So what business have I in writing what could be considered by many one of the most structured of poetic forms- the sonnet?  Good question..

There is both a long and short answer to that question and they are the same – I don’t know.  In this blog I hope to share my genuine enjoyment for what feels like a somewhat unwelcome guest of modern poetry journals – the formality of rhyming poetry and in particular – sonnets.

My foray into writing sonnets began after several months as a fledgling writer, working on a poem that was rudderless and frustrating.   I finally figured out the poem was actually two poems, unmercifully mashed together.  One of them, after I stripped it out and gave it it’s own proper space, had a rough construction that looked something like I remembered from high school advanced English as a sonnet.  Being curious,  I Googled “Sonnet Structure” and soon realized it wasn’t even close to being a sonnet.  However, that simple act of exploration got me suddenly reading sonnets.   And once I started reading sonnets, I realized they are everywhere in our shared experience of literature and artistic expression.

Over a month later, an unexpected inspiration occurred.  One Thursday morning, I awoke early and started writing, like I often do in the mornings, and suddenly to my surprise emerged from my typing fingertips a sonnet.   It sprang from my subconscious, nearly fully formed in the first draft.   It contained truths I wouldn’t understand for many months and to this day, surprises me with its genuine imagery of hope.

This was the beginning of my obsession with writing sonnets.   Three years later it is still going strong…..

Oh Darkest Night

Oh Darkest Night, tell us your mystery.
Come like a thief to steal restless minds.
Take only the parts of life’s sordid history,
Which free our regrets from their deepest confines.
Oh love be a locksmith, open our hearts.
We’ll guard what is found as rare mortal treasure.
Love’s masterful thievery will form a new start.
Forgive our past trials as no final measure.
Out of this blackness we’ll create a new day.
A boundless void we’ll fill with pure light.
Dreams!  Savage Hope! Sweet Naiveté!
Restore the magic of love to our sight.
Hold back the sunrise.  Stay by my side.
Nothing before us and eyes open wide.

by T. A. Fry