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Language discipline - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Language discipline
Tweaked that sonnet (below) in a couple of points of punctuation, and fixed some metric problems. Also went for clarity in the closing lines. Thanks to lots of people for the suggestions... when it comes to poetry, I'm definitely still apprenticing!

I'm trying to dare myself to do a sestina. It sounds like a really difficult form.

Yes, I started doing this--at least this time--because of jealousy that we can't really do an imitative challenge, but the truth is, I go on a formal poetry kick every few years, and it was coming up to that time. It's not that I don't like other kinds of poetry for reading. I do. I like a lot of different kinds of poetry. The reason I go on a formal poetry kick every now and then--rhyme, meter, strict rules, the whole nine yards--is that it's like doing verbal calisthenics. You have to find ways to make the language work within the parameters, and that means really needing to manipulate it much harder than it's manipulated in prose or free verse, and learning to do it gives you tools that can then be applied outside of it. I doubt I'll ever be really good at it, but that's part of the reason to do it as well. Prose is too much of a comfort zone. Being comfortable is often not a good thing.

If I were in charge of creative writing education, I think I'd require a few formal poems each year from students. I'd stress that they were exercises, the same as doing laps in gym class if you want to play football--self-expression is great, but the point is to learn to use the language in ways to which you're not accustomed yet.

And I really should put my money where my keyboard is and write a sestina.
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harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: January 4th, 2006 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, formal poetry is incredibly cool, although I don't know nearly enough about it. I really love sonnets, though, and if I could write at all, I would attempt them. Have you read Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers? Harriet writes a sonnet during that book that expresses her longing to return to Oxford and pure scholarship, and it's a lovely passage to read.
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: January 5th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Every time I see a comment from you it makes me happy, because I love Harriet and all the LPW books *that much*.)

I definitely agree with Fern's point about stretching your language muscles with formal writing forms. It's a different thing, but writing short does the same thing for me. Before I started my current job I usually wrote stories that were 1000+ words, though it was mostly enormous features for classes. Here, I wrote one 800-word essay a while ago but the bulk of what I do is around 200 words, and in every issue I write a bunch of 20-30 word product reviews. Not that you can tell from things like this comment (heh), but it's taught me to write more carefully whenever I DO get to run wild in the bountiful land of, say, 350 words. I'm much more specific with each word these days, and more interested in finding a graceful way to say in one sentence what I would have said in three.
From: myxginxblossoms Date: January 4th, 2006 07:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Sestinas are great fun; while they seem really hard, after a while, the words just sort of start to flow. I wrote one last year telling the story of a man and a woman's last trip to the seashore together before World War II destroyed their relationship--on reflection, it was rather overly-melodramatic, but it was great to write.

...In other words, write a sestina. Now. Or at least in the near future, because they are good exercises. Comparing formal poetry to calisthenics is very apt, though I definitely like poetry better!
gryffin23 From: gryffin23 Date: January 4th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sestinas aren't nearly as difficult as they're cracked up to be. I once wrote a good one using the words, rose, Renoir, gold, ring, Buddha and fingers. It's just a matter of figuring out what you want to say with the words you have and you of all people can definitely write a good sestina.
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: January 4th, 2006 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been playing around with formal poetry too, although much more slowly than you - how do you do that so fast - it takes me months to feel happy with something. Anyway, if you want a warm up for a sestina, you might want to try a kyrielle (http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/9282/kyrielle.html) - I've been enjoying this form a lot lately. It's still structured, but I think a little easier to manage when you're starting up again. It's also quite lyrical and just enjoyable.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: January 4th, 2006 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you come across Stephen Fry's new book on writing formal poetry, "The Ode Less travelled"? It's chiefly aimed at poeple who know less about it than you evidently do, but it's a very witty book all the same (and I loved his Kitchen Vianelle: 'How rare it is when things go right/ and don't go wrong, as well they might...")

Writing formal poetry is great fun as well as challenging, I find, even if (like me) you're never exactly going to set the poetic heather on fire.
starbrow From: starbrow Date: January 4th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love sestinas. They are my favorite type of poem to write, ever. They have a way of tying you to a theme and not letting you go until you've explored it.
hymnia From: hymnia Date: January 5th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I feel exactly the same way about formal poetry! I made up my mind a few years ago that I had to attempt a sestina, and I did actually manage it, though it took me many hours over the course of about 6 weeks to get it down. I think perhaps I shall post it later tonight, if I can find the computer file of it. Think I've got it saved on a CD somewhere.
hymnia From: hymnia Date: January 5th, 2006 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)
And I really should put my money where my keyboard is and write a sestina.

Yes, you should. :)
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Given some of the stuff I've heard on the radio, I'm not sure "intelligibly" is an absolute requirement of the form...
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: January 6th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sestida? IS thatthe oen where each lien ahs six iambes? or each verse has six lines? *stratches brain*
Hmmm..this is animmitative enough challenge. Adn I thin kthe same kidn of brain excercise goes fortryingto immitate the sytle ofa famosu writr for something. Or limiting yoru prose t oafew elements or so man ywords or only this-and-that tense.
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