(Not So) Deep Thoughts on Billy Collins and on Writing Sonnets

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I really enjoyed Billy Collins’ poetry book Sailing Alone Around the Room. To me, it felt like stories and there was a casual quality to it that I truly enjoyed. Also, I found many of his poems/stories so relatable that I can’t help but think how awesome it would be to sit at the same table as Billy Collins at, say, a wedding. It seems to me there’d never be a lull in the conversation… though who am I to say? Maybe he’s better on paper than in person! In any event, I loved this book and have added it to my list of books I won’t sell or give away.

Regarding writing a sonnet, I struggled with this form at first. I started and stopped several poems before finally being inspired to write and complete my sonnet about being hung over. That one came to me quite easily the day after my family’s annual Independence Day party. To that end, I think when I’m inspired to write something the writing comes easily despite any particular format, genre, rules or instructions. Once the inspiration for this poem hit me, the words came and sort of slid into the sonnet form. It’s hard to explain, but I imagine you will understand what I’m trying to say here.

I think the sonnet itself has been such a lasting form because it’s fun. For one, it’s short and although that brings with it its own struggles and complications, for the most part I found that the length itself and the rules brought about an interesting and playful challenge. Even though writing the sonnet wasn’t an easy task, it was a fun challenge and I enjoyed it. Also, having rules helped to set parameters for the poem and that was nice in that it allowed my thoughts to be presented in a neat little package. In other words, knowing the rules gave the poem a shape to strive for—much like having a diagram helps a pile of wood eventually look and act like a book case. Knowing I needed to write a sonnet helped my words become one. Without these rules, I’m afraid I might have gone on and on about drinking and being hung over without ever finding a form. In fact, I’m not sure I would have written this poem at all.

After writing a sonnet myself, I can see why so many poets write sonnets and also why so many seem to write them specifically to get their writing gears greased. The sonnet put me in the mood to write more. In a way, it reminded me of the 3AM Epiphany and 4AM Breakthrough books which are full of writing exercises meant to battle writer’s block and inspire writing students to write. As I sit down to write more poetry in the future, I think I’ll try a sonnet from time to time just for fun and for the challenge of it, but also to see if they positively affect me and my writing as they seem to have positively affected so many other writers and poets.

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