Ever since a visit this summer to the week-long event called The Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, sponsored by Seattle Pacific’s Image Magazine, I have become more and more intrigued by rhyme and meter in writing poetry. The poetry I’ve written here on my blog or published elsewhere is all blank verse or free verse. (I’m still a little unsure of the difference between those two…).
Hearing the voice of the inimitable poet/priest Malcolm Guite read and recite classics like George Herbert, Coleridge, Milton, Shakespeare is what drew me in. The beauty of the language, its cadence and rhythm was very pleasing to the ear and made them easy to recall later on.
Malcolm’s seminar was a rich time of learning about how to “see things” via the visible world that in turn reveal God’s invisible Kingdom, the real world. And he used a lot of lovely poetry to illustrate his point.
Prior to my attendance at the Glen I had struck up a friendship with Betty K. Aberlin, aka “Lady Aberlin” on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I wrote a bit about that connection on Instagram:
“When we saw the Mr. Rogers movie, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” recently, I noticed that one person in particular was missing from the present-day interviews–Betty Kay Aberlin–aka ‘Lady Aberlin.’ (Maybe you noticed, too?) I knew she couldn’t be t h a t old to have passed away so I took a stab and Googled her name. Lo and behold Betty Aberlin is alive and well living on the East Coast somewhere, painting and writing poetry. She’s also on Twitter, where I connected with her–and she replied to my tweets.
In the process of our Twitter convo, she mentioned a book of poetry she’d co-written, so to speak, with George MacDonald–(Scottish author/poet, 1805-1924, definitely dead) by pairing MacDonald’s “Diary of an Old Soul” sonnets with her own White Page Poems. MacDonald’s diary was written with one sonnet for each day of the year. I discovered when it was published that George originally wanted ‘white pages’ across from each of his poems so readers could write their own sonnets in response. Betty Aberlin did just that, hence Diary of an Old Soul, The White Page Poems came to be.
Aberlin was born Jewish and is now a Christian; her faith is woven clearly in these poems. One sonnet in particular that stood out to me is from July 10th:
“O, may we neverendingly live, grow
Through and beyond the errors of our days,
That even these old branches, pruned and bent,
May bud into new greenings, sweet and slow.
After hard rains, crushed blossoms heaven-scent
The air with forgiveness, and with this praise-
Hope balanced we walk tightrope in thy ways.” -bka
These daily readings are feeding my soul and spirit–poetry and inspiration both, as well as providing a launching pad for my own sonnet-ary attempts. You might want to look for the book yourself.”
Armed with the inspiration of George MacDonald and soaking in the likes of Wordsworth and Herbert, as well as sonneteer Malcolm Guite himself, I have taken a stab at some rhyming verse.
They are not sonnets, per se–a sonnet is usually 14 lines. But I copied old George and wrote 7 lines with 10 beats each with alternating end rhymes. (That’s your free lesson for today.)
Here’s what I wrote about the world I can see (raspberries in my garden) that reveal God’s kingdom:
Raspberry jewels, fruited gems of His realm
Rich, deep red embeds earthly emerald vines.
I ponder that other Kingdom laced with stones
Foundation gleaming like these garnets from
Heaven itself, plucked, eaten, freely mine.
They drape the edges of my garden home
Echoing borders of that celestial clime.
Most of what I write about comes from my time outside, the view from my deck, what I see on a walk, what’s growing in my yard. Here are three more verses in rhyme and meter picturing, albeit feebly, the real world–God’s invisible Kingdom. Here are 3 more verses inspired by George MacDonald, my own “white page” poems:
One of my resolutions this year was to intentionally spend time writing better poetry; this attempt at rhyme and meter has definitely stretched me. I originally thought the form would be a challenge because there are specific boundaries to how a sonnet is written–I’ve yet to write 14 lines–that’s next!
Writing within the confines of a form is actually very freeing and forces me to be more creative. How can I find a word that communicates what I mean but has the correct number of syllables? And one that rhymes?
Actually, my exercises with pen and paper (and computer) remind me of the beauty of boundaries. Psalm 16 says that “the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.” If I may stretch the connection here between God’s word and writing sonnets, this poetic form is a picture of God’s daily encouragement to us, “This is where your own ‘kingdom’ ends–don’t try to inhabit more than I’ve given you. There are edges of your life for a reason. Live where I put you and pour into where you are right now.”
At least that’s what I hear.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing my “prayers as poems and my poems as prayers,” an encouragement from my week at The Glen. Perhaps you would like to do the same?
If you are interested, I would encourage you to find a copy of Diary of an Old Soul with Aberlin’s White Page Poems and soak in the beauty and inspiration of their words.