In Other Worlds
This will be the first in a series of explanatory posts about my poetry. I'm really excited to share because although I already have a categorization system in place, I've never really explained it. I start off by introducing a piece of broadest scope: The Cycle.
The Cycle is not an opus in itself, but a "super-opus" of sorts. It collects all the sonnets I have written in response to Shakespeare's sonnets. I do this by starting each sonnet with a line from one of Shakespeare's own. My vision is to write at least one sonnet for each of Shakespeare's 154, an undertaking which I estimate will take me years, maybe even a decade (so far I'm up to 54...just 100 more!)
As of now, The Cycle has 7 opuses and 60 sonnets. Two of those opuses are "tetralogies": Four sonnets written for one of Shakespeare's. The rest are collections of one-for-one with regards to Shakespeare's poetry, and are organized around different themes. I will introduce each of these in opus order (which is not necessarily chronological).
- Summer Tetralogy (op. 15). 4 sonnets derived from Shakespeare's famed sonnet 18, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Written around the fall of 2009. These were actually some of the first sonnets I ever wrote, in a time when iambic tetrameter was my mainstay rather than iambic pentameter. At the time I thought they were the finest works I had ever written. Time has moderated my views a bit; I see a kind of inexperienced roughness in my lines, but the earnest emotion is evident. Summer's Tryst (no. 4) is my favorite out of the bunch for its simplicity.
- Faith Tetralogy (op. 16): 4 sonnets from Shakespeare's 2nd best-known sonnet, Sonnet 29. Written around fall 2010. I think this was one of my first works about God. This was written when I started to write sonnets in earnest. Thematically it starts off from where the Summer Tetralogy ends (not such a happy ending), but it gradually turns from human affection to Christ-centered devotion. Faith from Salvation (no. 4) is my favorite in this bunch; I've given readings of this one before.
- The Kindle Sonnets (op. 20) correspond with Shakespeare's sonnets 1-17, and were written in a span of time from September 2010 to August 2011. The theme here is love, most of it romantic, but I touch on some other forms (love of nature or family). I called this collection the Kindle Sonnets because I wrote them on my Amazon Kindle (the old school one with e-ink) as annotations to an e-book of Shakespeare's sonnets. Stylistically I would count this as my experiments in iambic pentameter: feeling it out and testing what it could do.
- Like Only a Few Days (op. 21) cover sonnets 19-33, or 14 sonnets representing the 14 years of labor that Jacob put in for his two wives in the Bible. They are dedicated to my future wife. I think that so far this collection holds my finest sonnets. I am particularly fond of Sonnet 22, "Love Language" (no. 4); it remains my favorite of all the sonnets I have ever written.
- Aaron's Beard covers sonnets 33-42, and deals with the theme of friendship. The title comes from Psalm 133. These poems are inspired by specific people, which I felt was rather difficult. Nevertheless, I felt exploring the different relationships I had with different people was worthwhile to me. Sonnet 39, which I wrote for Joseph Choi (no. 6), is my favorite in this set.
- Beauty Beyond the Broken (op. 24) covers sonnets 43-53, and deals with themes of loss, grief, and separation. These may be my most vulnerable sonnets, as I wrote them in a vulnerable time to cope in a time when serving in ministry was difficult and friends losing their faith even more so. Sonnets 45 ("The Existence that Preceded Essence," no. 3) and 52 ("Grief at the Dinner Table," no 10) are probably the best from this collection.
- One Body (op. 25) is the collection I am currently working on, starting from sonnet 56. I plan to explore aspects of Christian fellowship: Serving, ministry, brotherhood/sisterhood in Christ. It's a bit difficult, and I've stalled a bit on this collection to work on other projects, but I'm liking what's been coming out of it so far.
From these sonnets, I feel that I have learned and grown a lot. From a poet's standpoint, I am completely comfortable with the form; I know the ins and outs of what it is and what it is meant to convey. Because of my familiarity with the form, I am able to use the form as a framework to guide my meditations on what I write about. I tend to write starting not with ideas or concepts, but simply from words that sound good together and whose meaning I agree with, and then finding the truth in them. It helps me discover new areas and aspects about them that I myself would not have thought of. In this way, the form guides my writing, not myself.
With about 100 more sonnets to go, I can't wait to see where these sonnets take me!