Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Poetic Form: constraint and invention

Years ago, as part of a creative writing class, I composed a series of sonnets, conforming exactly to the set form. This was done over a number of weeks. At the end of the exercise I was intrigued to find the same stubborn themes surfacing repeatedly. This was a kind of side-effect of following the technical exercise, yet this 'side-effect' eclipsed in importance the exercise itself. The form of the sonnet was something foreign, indifferent to my concerns, but precisely on that account returned me to those concerns.


Poetic forms like the sonnet or ballad are things fashioned anonymously by others, used by others, constituted and handed down with no particular thumbprint on them. An yet, in tackling them, in thinking or feeling with them, my particular thumbprint becomes visible. Not a thumbprint that I fully knew beforehand.

Form and its contraints act as a force of both irritation and attraction for thought and affect. Only through this irritation-attraction is something disclosed in its clarity. And the content of this disclosure is not something that one could have anticipated in advance.

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