#446: I went without a drink, days: sixty-five

Welcome to day eight of sonnet mania and the effort on my part, during this most hallowed of months, National Poetry Writing Month, to write a new sonnet every day for thirty days.

Before we dive in, a few introductory notes. Here’s another convention of the traditional sonnet that some readers may not be familiar with but nevertheless might have noticed. It’s not just a sonnet convention, but a poetic convention generally speaking, for almost any poetry written before the 20th century, without any exception that I can think of off the top of my head. Even the most radical of 19th century poets, Dickinson and Whitman, pretty much religiously observed this convention in their otherwise unconventional poetry. I’m talking about the convention of capitalizing the first letter of every word that appears first in a line, even if that word comes in the middle of a sentence, what we call an “enjambed” line. It’s a convention that sadly adds to the difficulty that students have already with reading poetry out loud with any kind of fluency; that’s hard enough, but it’s even more challenging when the reader is tempted to interpret a full stop at the end of the line–a mistake if there’s no end punctuation, a mistake reinforced by a capital letter in the middle of a sentence! I think a lot of contemporary sonneteers have jettisoned this convention, but we still see it often, and I’m using it in mine.

So why is it done?! Especially if it presents an additional challenge or barrier, why do it? Don’t ask me! Especially if you want the correct answer. I don’t claim to know much, but at least I can make a guess. When it was THE convention, it was just simply the rule; it’s what you did, in the same way that it’s almost impossible to find free verse earlier than the 20th century. Every single poet was a rhyming fool–just because it must have been seen as a key and indispensable aspect of poetry writing. If it didn’t rhyme, it wasn’t poetry. There were exceptions: Shakespeare’s plays are written in verse, for the most part, and, while his characters were often rhyming, just as often they were speaking in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. But now that there are no more rules, why do we still do it? I see it as an aesthetic choice, both, because it just looks kind of cool, but more importantly as an homage, a respectful nod to tradition, a love-capital-letter to our past masters of the craft. So there.

Fudge alerts: does the word “five” rhyme with the word “five”? Of course it does. And this poem comes with another dangling appendage, a kind of post-script in a 15th line.

Subject note: I keep writing about this topic. I guess you could say it’s one of my obsessions–as I return to it over and over. It’s an ongoing project, this being human. Here’s a boozy poem.


I went without a drink, days: sixty-five
And that’s not even my personal best.
Two years ago, one hundred and five,
Until at some point, I’m sure you’ve guessed
The habitual ritual returned. 
Impressive, that long dry January,
And what, you ask, do I think I have learned?
Alcohol had become ordinary;
But it was also in my control, right,
If I was able to go so long without.
My parents drank, they never missed a night;
Part of their legacy to me, no doubt. 
I can quit as long as I think I should
But I cannot (or don’t want) to stop for good. 

I’ll drink to that.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

2 thoughts on “#446: I went without a drink, days: sixty-five

  1. habitual ritual! Love the way this moves back and forth between a halting pace and easy smooth musical. Sorta like drinking, I suppose. Have a great teetotaling camping trip. Can’t believe you’re so creatively involved in sonneteering that you have a backlog to rely on. I’m struggling a bit on Easter morning.

    Cheers and thanks again for getting me scribbling in the mornings, my new (oh I can wish) habitual ritual.

    Don ________________________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: