Don’t try to write like Shakespeare

Text: Solveig Hansen, 2017

NaPoWriMo (National/Global Poetry Writing Month) is here again. Challenge: Write one poem a day in April. I wonder what daily prompts Maureen Thorson, the creator of this annual project, will throw at us this year. Cinquain, ottava rima, tanka, pantun, tritina. I have tried them all, but none of them made me sweat like the sonnet we were asked to write last year.

There I sat, trying to come up with 14 good lines, each with 10 syllables, and a rhyme pattern of a-b-a-b c-d-c-d e-f-e-f g-g — those are the rules for a sonnet. Today’s sonnets should have a contemporary tone and natural rhymes, I read on the Internet. “Don’t try to write like Shakespeare.”

My 1/3 finished sonnet was called Reassembly: I look at my mirror image and she looks coldly back. With one swift look at me, she calls my bluff and sees that I’m not living my life to my fullest potential. I scream, she screams, and the mirror breaks. “Scattered fragments of myself all over.” I cannot “piece them together as they used to be.” I have to find my real purpose in life to be able to “glue me back to life.” I’m not the only one inspired by Dylan Thomas’ Do not go gentle into that good night. My sonnet was supposed to end with this reference to Thomas: “No, Dylan T, I will not rave and rage / but gentle go through life towards old age.”

Clichés, I know. “Don’t try to write like Shakespeare.” Indeed.

See also: One month in a poet’s shoes, about my NaPoWriMo experiences


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