Atomic Essay #29 – bursting the banks

Listening to On Form‘s episode on the sonnet, I was stopped by the idea that poetic form, far from being restrictive as some received wisdom might have it, allows for deeper exploration of feeling and idea than free verse poems might.

Atomic Essay #29 – bursting the banks

Listening to On Form‘s episode on the sonnet, I was stopped by the idea that poetic form, far from being restrictive as some received wisdom might have it, allows for deeper exploration of feeling and idea than free verse poems might. I saw, then, in my mind’s eye a river about to burst its banks. Perhaps formal poetry is like this – it is about the ideas being barely contained by the form, and part of the beauty and strength is in the struggle, is in the breaking of the banks.

For me, a lot of the joy of experiencing creative work is the experience of the creator / performer in that moment at which they’re working right up against their limitations. Chris Cornell, now sadly lost to us, is one of my favourite vocalists for this reason – you can hear the raw effort in his voice; it isn’t enough that he’s already creating beauty and truth – he can do it better. There are impossible heights being grasped for. The beauty and the truth are in the trying, knowing that the limitations are there, and trying to assail them anyway.

If I’m going to get better as a person, I need to find my limitations and try to crack through them. This is uncomfortable. But it is vital work. Recent events and conversations have reminded me yet again of how much work I have to do. And it’s not just about thinking better – I have to act better, too.

I’m trying to do this via reading. I’m reading – very, very slowly – Eve Tuck and K Wayne Yang’s ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’. It is opening my eyes just to how much the river does need to burst its banks. It’s uncomfortable, but discomfort is the sign that I’m doing something right.

I love sonnets because they fight against their form. May I do the same.