>So far I'm finding writing to a set format the equivalent of
>painting by numbers. I drew me up a table of ten columns
>(one per syllable) and fourteen lines - and then tried
>filling in the squares. Not good. Trying to squash the sense
>into a set line length and rhyme ending is excrutiating. I'm
>not even thinking about the beat.
Josephine - I have no idea _how_ you could write a sonnet (and have any
fun at all) by drawing up columns!
I'm not sure how useful this is - but on the odd occasion when I have
written say formal sonnets or other verse, the thing that drives me is
the rhythm - "hearing" it - and the rest is a kind of Chinese puzzle
fascination of finding the right word with the right weight and the right
sound. There's a curious kind of satisfaction in it, and sometimes the
exercise can release surprising things by forcing you to concentrate so
hard on technique. Sometimes I've thought rhyme or other arbitrary
formalisms can work like aleatory (chance) techniques.
Verse can be great - I love these lines from Graves, for instance -
Children are dumb so say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.
That poem - The Cool Web - later has the great rhyme
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.
Rhyme's a kind of music, the pleasures of repetitions in a dynamic line -
which is why dividing the line up into syllables in grids sounds so dire.
Is there any way of thinking of it as a kind of song?
Otherwise, Lyn Hejinian wrote a whole book in Sonnets (Oxota) which are
simply poems in 14 lines of completely different lengths - and in her
case, not always 14 lines. There's no rhyme there... if you're really
stuck, you could always quote Milton. He said of rhyme that it was "no
necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse" and was but
"the invention of a barbarous Age, to set off some wretched matter and
lame Meeter; grac't indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets,
carried away by Custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and
constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse
then else they would have exprest them."
So there you have it.