A Dry Season

Accademia Gallery, Florence

Accademia Gallery, Florence

May 1, 2013

What can I say? It’s been a long, dry season for me as far as poetry is concerned. I’ve been praying about it, but I find that the topics I feel I can write about are either ones I’ve already written about many times or ones that are so deep I don’t know if I can express them adequately.

Oddly enough, through personal physical and emotional healing, I find it harder to immerse myself in emotions. And there’s been nothing truly inspiring lately… only the everyday cycle of work (and I write for work, which makes it hard to write when I’m off work), home, simple times with friends, exercise, sleep.

I am working on a sonnet about getting separated from my tour group in Florence last year, and here’s hoping it takes shape.

Until then, patience and prayers.

Why Sonnets – the beginning of my love of the poetic form

Sonnets are undisputably my favorite medium for poetry. I come back to them again and again, both for writing and for reading. Why do I care about them? Why does a member of Generation Y gravitate to this poetic form that goes back a long, long time in history? Why not free verse or some other form?

It all goes back to 6th grade and a book of prose. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle captured my imagination and faith at that time, and I loved how the author captured both sci-fi and Christianity in one book, science and the arts if you will. In that book is an conversation about sonnets that jumped out at me:

“It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, is it not?”

“Yes.” Calvin nodded.

“And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?”

“No.”

“But within the strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”

“Yes.” Calvin nodded again.

“So,” Mrs. Whatsit said.

“So what?”

“Oh, do not be stupid, boy!” Mrs. Whatsit scolded. “You know perfectly well what I am driving at!”

“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but with freedom within it?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

That idea of order and freedom was what caught my attention. From there, I only had to start reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s, to realize the charm. Sonnets are very easy for me to wrap my mind around. Being 14 lines, they’re the perfect length. Not so long I lose interest; not so short they don’t have something to say. The rhythm and rhyme make for some great opportunities for creativity and make them easier to remember. That also has a tendency to make them more classic.  I’ve never quite gotten into the swing of odes or some of the other forms of poetry, but one quickly gets used to the cadence of sonnets and can enjoy it at the same time as the words and the overall meaning of the poem.

For me, for getting across what I want to say or expressing what I want to express, sonnets have built into them both a spur for inspiration and a rein to keep my thoughts together. When I try to come up with possible rhyming words for the end of a line, sometimes the possible words take me in exciting new directions or insights that are true but that I hadn’t thought of before. And it’s always a challenge to come up with rhymes that do not sound stale or over-used (never ever ever end a line with “God” or “love”). The length of the poem helps keep me from going off on a bunny trail, which is what usually happens when I try to write free verse. Then, I start with one concept in mind and digress to a completely different topic and end up throwing out the poem entirely. With a sonnet, I’m forced to encapsulate only a few related ideas, and the result is a much tighter, often more insightful, poem.

So, sonnets will always be my first love of poetry.

Why SDAelf?

SDAelf to me expresses the perfect, succinct blend of faith and fantasy. That is, after all, what the great majority of my poems are about, and certainly what all of them are informed by.

SDA stands for Seventh-day Adventist, the Christian denomination which I call my home. And truly, though not all of my poems are expressly religious, my faith is the window through which I see the world, and I owe any creative ability to God. Many of my poems have been inspired by Bible stories, while others are simply my way of sharing life experiences under His grace.

The elf part points back to J. R. R. Tolkien’s mythology. I grew up on Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and their works have served as an inspiration to me all my life as to how a Christian can reach excellence in writing. Elves, of course, are the most poetically inclined of Tolkien’s creations (and elf is only three letters). SDAhobbit or SDAdwarf just don’t have the same ring (pun intended). 🙂

So, that is why SDAelf is my poetical identity.

Welcome to SDAelf’s Poetry Blog!

I have been writing poetry since seventh grade, and after spending some time at my alma mater Southern Adventist University hanging out with my former English professors, I felt an urge to do more with my gift of poetry. Yes, I have had poems published in the past, and yes, I have entered at least one poetry contest each year (Writer’s Digest’s annual writing contest), but I have not made any huge effort to publish my work other than posting on my personal blog (www.sdaelf.blogspot.com).

Now, apparently, it’s time to share with a wider audience and hopefully provide inspiration and insight to those who love the written word and sonnets in particular.

This blog is meant strictly for poetry. No prose, unless it is to talk about my favorite poems, what I like about different forms of poetry and verse, or what helps me in writing poetry.

So, if you like good, clean poetry that delves into psychological insights, check it out. I will do my best to post something at least every three days, whether it be a recent poem or one from a while back. Every poem to appear here will be my own work.