“To be unaware of one’s form is to live a death.” – Ralph Ellison
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A friend recently pointed out to me that I love to write in couplets. Flipping through the pages of my manuscript, I see that almost half of the poems are in fact written in couplets. Uh oh.
I think I like writing in couplets because it gives the poem a kind of neatness. Also, and this may be cheesy, but I like writing in couplets when the poem is about two people or two elements. One poem of mine in which the couplet form works well is about the first I went skinny dipping. The way I looked above and below water is an important part of the poem and couplets help draw attention to the water’s reflection.
On the other hand, I overuse couplets because I’ve gotten too comfortable. So, here’s a bit of advice to myself: a manuscript full of poems written in couplets is like a wardrobe full of nothing but black cardigans. Sure, black cardigans are classy, but who would want to wear them everyday? With that in mind, I’m going through my poems and rethinking their form.
I’m trying to make better use of white space on the page, experiment with line breaks, and – at the very least – justify the form I’ve chosen. The point is not to eliminate couplets entirely. The point is realize that I’m making a choice when I write a poem in a certain form and I need to decide if that choice is in the poem’s best interest.