Its International Women’s Day so I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in when it comes to the sexes.
I’m glad I was born a man. Sure, we get the ugly end of the stick when it comes to our bodies – what, with that awful appendage that looks like a bratwurst attached to a sack of skin that looks like we’ve had excessive weight loss in one very specific part of our body. But at least our bodies don’t hate us. At least they don’t rebel against us with monthly volcano-like eruptions from our genitalia.
Speaking of bodies, women’s bodies are so curvaceous. If comics and cartoons have taught me anything it’s that curvy is good and pointy is bad. Don’t believe me? Watch the opening sequence of Kung Fu Panda. People ogle women’s curves all the time, especially their boobs. Women could walk around all day with their breasts out and people would love it unless, of course, you chuck a baby on one of them and then all of a sudden people get offended. I thought baby making was part of a woman’s genetic code, why then do we crack the sads when people breast feed in public? It’s so confusing.
Then there’s the process of baby making itself. Women can’t escape labels when it comes to sex. If they get raped they asked for it, if they have lots of sex they’re a slut, if they don’t have sex they’re a prude. Bloke’s don’t have to deal with that stuff; if we’re having sex were a legend, if we’re not having sex we lie about it.
That’s just the superficial stuff too. There’s no reference above to the pay gap or the aspects of our society that have naturalised the marginalisation and othering of women.
I’m not saying I’ve got this equality thing down pat; I’m still prone to the odd sexist joke. All I’m saying is I’ve grown up a little. I’m a white, heterosexual male in a society where people of my genetic disposition have long been in power and have spent much of that time ensuring they keep it. I was born into privilege. It’s an invisible system but I’m not blind to it.
We shouldn’t respect women because they were born with a vagina, we should respect them because they’re people.
It’s the same reason we should respect people of other races and cultures. “Love thy neighbour,” and so on. Or, as been said elsewhere:
My year 12s have been studying Gwen Harwood’s sonnets where she bitches and moans about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. I know, I just cheapened the role of the stay at home parent. It’s not my true feelings, I really respect people who have the patience to do it, but it’s a true reflection of the tone in Harwood’s verse – even she admits it in a follow up poem she wrote in 1995.
Anyway, as a part of their task I’ve asked them to write a sonnet that mirrors Harwood’s style in some way or another. I like sonnets, their rigidity can be quite confronting for some but I find it comforting. Poetry is subjective but you can walk away from a sonnet knowing whether you’ve ticked the boxes or not. 14 lines? Tick. 10 syllables per line? Tick. Strict rhyme scheme? Tick. Iambic pentameter? Um… maybe.
Obviously you can still tick all these boxes and produce rubbish (as I’ve probably done on numerous occasions) but a terrible sonnet is still a sonnet. So, here’s the steps:
1. Read, re-read and repeat
Taking the adage, ‘write what you know’, how are you meant to know how to write a sonnet if you’re not familiar with them? Read some. Read a lot.
Once you’ve done this, take some of the lines and structures you like in your favourite sonnets and keep a list of them. T.S. Eliot alluded to plenty of texts (sometimes stealing lines from them wholesale) and he’s regarded as aliteracy genius. Why not do the same? Throw an homage to your favourite poets inside your own verse.
2. Storm your brain
Pick something that you want to write about and make a list of words associated with that topic. Try not to think about it too much; the more spontaneous your planning, the more honest your writing.
Once you’ve got this list together (aim for 10 words, do more if you want but don’t fret if you end up with less) try to come up with rhymes for some of your words. There’s plenty of rhyming dictionaries online if this proves to be a difficult task.
3. Write right now
This is the hard part. What, you thought there was some simple solution? There kinda is. You can always break the poem down into three quatrains (4 lines) and a couplet (2 lines). This can be less stressful as you’re only writing a maximum of 4 lines at a time as opposed to the thought of writing 14 lines in one hit.
My drafts don’t always feature a lot of editing but that’s because I do a lot of syllable counting and reworking lines before I put them on paper.
Anyway, that’s all there is to it. Happy writing!