My Big Fat Failed 2016 Resolution – Writing a Couplet a Day.
Let’s agree that everything, absolutely everything, has gone wrong with 2016 so far.
It’s time, perhaps, that I ‘fessed up to something.
I broke a New Year Resolution quite early in the year. Some time at the very end of December 2015, I resolved, with hubristic Boswellian fervour, to write a heroic couplet for every day of 2016. It will be an interesting challenge – I thought to myself. I will learn something about what it takes not only to turn a couplet but to build couplets into paragraphs. I will vary my caesura placings. I will be selective with my enjambment.
Some time in February, I was forced to abandon my project, because it resulted in… abomination.
I will not present the “fruits” of my endeavours in evidence of my failure, because such blog readers as I have seem like decent people. There are certain things that decent people should not be exposed to, and my abortive couplet diary for the year of our lord 2016 was one of them. I can’t begin to describe its wretchedness and nor should I. Its sheer Vogonic awfulness was a sight (not) to behold.
If I wanted to go easy on myself (which I really shouldn’t), I might claim in self exculpation, that my couplet diary never really got over the death of David Bowie. David Bowie could not fit into rhymed iambics. Or, more accurately, he could not fit into my rhymed iambics.
I had thought initially that the individual closed couplets would be relatively easy, and the work of tying them into paragraphs would be hard. In fact, the work of creating a single closed couplet was generally beyond me. The effort of treating something authoritative and self contained with ten stressed syllables proved, for the most part, beyond me. And the stuff that I started to write suffered from too much rather than too little enjambment. In trying to look too far ahead join couplets together, I neglected to ensure the integrity of the individual couplets.
The etiology of the couplet, as traced by William Bowman Piper, should have taught me this lesson in advance. Immature mid seventeenth-century couplets are replete with enjambment and such poems become somewhat ragged and confused, with the reader unsure when or why or how they’re ever going to end. Instead of challenging Pope, I was challenging Cleveland. Actually, I was losing to Cleveland.
When I laid down my pen (metaphorically speaking – I mean of course when I deleted the file), I learned a fresh and chastening respect for the artistry of eighteenth-century verse. These people were builders, people who knew to build things of lasting value out of regular shaped bricks – while I was barely able to mix the cement.
I’ve failed at a great many things in the course of my culpably too short and too long life. This failure of mine to write a couplet a day in 2016 has at least been one of more instructive failures – a failure I will now pledge to repeat in 2017 in fulfillment of Samuel Beckett’s magnificent dictum – “Try again – Fail again – Fail better.”