Two years ago I decided to challenge myself during NaNoWriMo by writing a novel in a genre outside my norm. It’s the last real piece of fiction I wrote (and also the one I really, really should edit), and it’s my proudest. I don’t know that it’s my best, but I’m happy with what happened when I left my comfort zone. Last week I decided to give myself another such challenge: write a poem.

It doesn’t sound like such a challenge, but if you’d ever seen any of my attempts at poetry, you’d understand. I thought back to the last poem I was assigned to write in high school. We were asked to compose a Shakespearean sonnet, using the same number of syllables as everyone’s favorite Doctor Who character writer.

Thank God she didn’t require us to write that thing in iambic pentameter, I thought, recalling the pride of my classmates when they’d turned in their perfectly flowing sonnets. If someone told me I had to compose a sonnet in iambic pentameter or lose an arm, I think I’d pray they took the left.


As for my poem? I’m 90% certain mine had the right number of syllables.

If you don’t know what iambic pentameter is, it’s a rhythm frequently used in poetry, and Will was a big fan. It’s all based on the stress put on syllables. An iamb is the combination of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Add in the pentameter part and it’s a set of 5 such combinations. Here’s a really well known line of Will’s (From Sonnet 18):

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

But you pronounce it…

shall I comPARE thee TO  a SUMmers DAY?

Get it?

Good for you, because I barely do. Which makes my little challenge to myself quite frustrating. Please, no one take my arm. My problem is that I eventually start pronouncing everything oddly, and I eventually can’t remember how words are supposed to sound.

am I doING it RIGHT? ohKAY, how ABout NOW? yeah? NO?  i THINK i’m… NO, wait. BOOK worm PENguin TARtar SAUCE. words. DAMN you 9th grade ENGlish.

And now, my friends,shall i attempt thee you know why I haven’t posted this week. I think I broke my brain. I also remembered why 9th grade English was harder for me than any English course I took in college. We all have something we never quite got in school. Aside from half of what they tried to teach me about grammar, this was it for me. I think I’m going to keep trying anyway. If one line comes out well, then it’ll be an achievement. Where’s the fun in challenging myself if it’s not a challenge?

Wish me luck , my friends. And don’t worry. I’m not crazy enough to threaten myself with bodily injury.