How to Write a Sonnet

I got the itch last night to purge. I get this itch once every few months, but last night, it was absolutely uncontrollable. After we put the little one to bed, I tackled the walk-in closet. The fact that we are fortunate to have a walk-in closet is not lost on me. At some point, I decided that, because we had the extra space, we should use it. Correction — that I should use it.

My husband has eight long-sleeve shirts, three short-sleeve shirts, seven t-shirts, three pairs of jeans, and one pair of khakis. He also has one dress suit. He wears what he has, and he always looks effortlessly good. I, on the other hand, am a girl. I like clothes. A lot. I like to wear shorter dresses as tunics with jeans and flats in the spring and summer, and layer them with boots and sweaters in the fall and winter. This has resulted in an embarrassing accumulation of layering items and shoes. My husband has never once complained about the obvious imbalance going on in our closet. In fact, he even offered his shelf for my shoes. This should have clued me in that I simply had too much.

I finally got real with myself last night, which resulted in four bulging garbage bags full of clothes to donate. I had held onto some of the things for at least five years, waiting for the day when they would magically look good on me. Some things are clearly never meant to be. It was time to break up with the excess and set some serious boundaries.

I have come to realize that setting boundaries is wise in more areas of life than closet purging. When I set clear limits for myself, paradoxically, I feel free and unencumbered. When I remember the rules I have for myself, they don’t feel legalistic — they feel safe. Madeleine L’Engle, in A Wrinkle in Time, articulates it perfectly in an exchange between Mrs Whatsit, the alien, and Calvin, the human:

“[The sonnet] is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”


“There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?”

“Yes.” Calvin nodded.

“And each line has to end with a precise rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?…You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”


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