Saturday, September 8

Living in Sonnet Form

I just finished reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  For a long while, I’ve felt obligated to read it after hearing how C.S. Lewis acknowledges her influence in his ideas for Narnia.  (And Madeleine L’Engle’s influence is very evident – especially in The Silver Chair with the Lady of the Green Kirtle). 

It took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I was into the action, it was compelling and thought-provoking.  Although it was written for children, I found it very suspenseful and even almost scary as I read about the Man with the Red Eyes and IT all alone late at night. 

In the final chapter, a conversation between Mrs Whatsit and Calvin O’Keefe especially interested me:

“[A sonnet] is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”  
“There are fourteen lines, I believe all in iambic pentameter.  That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?”  
“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?”  
“But within this 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 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.” 

Madeleing L’Engle.  (1962). Chapter Twelve: The Foolish and the Weak.  A Wrinkle in Time

I just really liked this metaphor.  I like the thought that though time restricts how much we can fit into our lives, what we do with that time is completely our choice.  It gives me this great sense of living a poetic, lyrical life.  And when you are reawakened to the complete freedom and potential of the poem, it feels like a million possibilities open to you, and life is richer.  

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