And We’re Back: Simplifying, Streamlining, and Sonnets

It’s been a long few weeks since I last posted, thanks to the round of viral crud that went around my house and the slog through the festival of pollen that is North Texas right now that preceded and followed.  It hit everyone, just about at the same time.  Seriously, even the possum that hangs around my patio seemed to be sniffling a bit….

Cedar Pollen

The culprit, or at least one of them….

Anyway, I received a good piece of advice during this time, when I didn’t seem to be able to focus on much of anything: focus on writing.  Though the giver of this advice meant that I should focus on the fiction I’ve been neglecting, I had to ask myself how I’m spending focus on the letters to elected folks.

I’d crafted–really crafted–some of these letters.  And given that I live in a red area of a red state, I’m crafting them for an audience who most likely won’t listen.  And given that the responses I’ve received haven’t always had much of anything to do with what I’d written about, I needed to switch tactics.

Postcards.  Printable postcards.  I can only fit so much onto them.  I have to keep the message simple and clear.  There’s a challenge to this, though, since my impulse is to provide all the reasons why I’m requesting the elected official support or oppose whatever measure or nominee the letter addresses.

So I’m trying to look at these postcards in the same way in which I look at formal poetry–sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, and the like.  Part of the challenge of writing in these forms is that one can’t expound at length on the poem’s subject.  And it’s easy to fail at linking together the parts of poem to make a coherent whole.  The challenge becomes both an intellectual and an aesthetic exercise: the logic of the poem must hang together, and the language of the poem must support that logic.  It’s easy to fail at writing poems that do both.

But when formal poems do work, they work on many levels.


  1. Cuttlefish says

    Interestingly enough, working with additional constraints (like formal form & meter) can actually make it easier to be creative. Some of the infinite possibilities are already ruled out, so you are working with a much simpler set of choices.

    And sestinas suck, aesthetically. All constraint, no life.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Like villanelles! Too much work for too little payoff (some very few outstanding examples to the contrary). Constrained writing can still be fun–should be!

    I invented my own constrained form mostly as a way to have something fun to recite aloud: the Sepielle. Roughly 50 examples or so, and some by my commenters not labeled. Be warned, though; as per your penultimate paragraph (or for that matter, Alexander Pope’s essay on criticism), it is still a verse form in search of exactly what subject matter is best handled by this particular voice.