Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

So, another one of my tips for poetry month was to imitate another poet. I did an exercise like this in college once and loved it, except it was with prose. Essentially, I took a paragraph and replaced verb for verb, preposition for preposition, noun for noun, comma for comma. The result was a paragraph in my own words that flowed strangely like Annie Dillard’s. In theory, the same sort of thing should work for poetry. But man, did I wrangle with it tonight. Here’s the section of poem I chose to imitate (don’t worry, it’s in the public domain):

What though the radiance which was once so bright (11)
Be now for ever taken from my sight, (10)
Though nothing can bring back the hour (9)
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; (12)
We will grieve not, rather find (7)
Strength in what remains behind; (7)
In the primal sympathy (7)
Which having been must ever be; (8)
In the soothing thoughts that spring (7)
Out of human suffering; (7)
In the faith that looks through death, (7)
In years that bring the philosophic mind. (10)
(Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, 175-186, by William Wordsworth)

I chose this poem because I used it in a story back in my sordid days as a fan-fiction writer. I also love the cadence. You may wonder what all those numbers are about. Well, at first I thought I could do the same sort of swap-out I’d done with prose several years ago, but that proved to be more of a challenge than I was willing to bear this late at night. So instead of replacing word-type for word-type, I decided to match syllables and rhyming scheme instead. Here’s what I finally wrung out:

Even as a memory though still so clear (11)
Lay now still throbbing and without you here, (10)
For everything converged upon that day (9)
Of shimmering in the snow, of green through the gray; (12)
I did not speak, still I knew (7)
Whispered love was coursing through; (7)
In our final journey then (7)
We broke on through to see the end; (8)
In the melting drifts that crept (7)
Near to both our hearts and slept; (7)
In the tears that washed dirt clean, (7)
Were ties that bound me together with you. (10)

It’s not fantastic, but it’s better than my earlier attempts. Feel free to call me on miscalculated syllables. Math is not my strong point–especially right before bed.

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