A Lesson in HYPERBOLE
Whether you’ve stumbled upon this section of my website by accident, or if you zapped one of the QR codes in my latest publication, WELCOME!
We’ve all heard the opening line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s most beguiling love poem, Sonnet 43. We’ve quoted it, parodied it, seen it in textbooks and on coffee mugs, and have probably heard it at a dozen weddings or more. It sings of true love—a heart bursting with emotional truths—and maybe a tad bit of unhealthy obsession, too.
Browning’s playful extremes, aching with desperation, resonate with anyone who has ever fallen irrevocably in love with someone–a love so deep the idea of death do us part doesn’t even seem like it could bring those feelings closure.
As a writer, it would be a practical exercise to mimic this poem. Why? The poem’s overuse of hyperbolic statements makes it a wonderful lesson in going to the extreme. Writing a poem in general is like pouring a glass of wine into a thimble and doubting the sip will embody all the wine’s fruity notes…and yet, it does. One tiny drop of wine on the tongue can deliver its overall explosive flavor to your taste buds—that’s why wine tasting is just that—a sip. (If you’re a teen, disregard my implied metaphor and think, wow, that stick of gum still tastes like mint even after I’ve been chewing on it for an hour. I bet my breath will stay fresh forever!)
Poems hold everything a reader needs to know to fully understand the poet’s intentions in just a few verses or stanzas, like a sip of wine (or a stick of gum–just go with it).
Emulating Sonnet 43 in your own original poem will give you an opportunity to mess around with hyperboles—a play on words easily overlooked as a poetic device because of their overuse in everyday life as common language. A hyperbole is an absurd exaggeration meant to prove a point. Your creative challenge will be to veer from the theme of love that Browning expounded upon, and dive into another emotion wrapped around a different context.
Here are some possible prompts to create your own hyperbolic poem:
Your passion for writing
Your anguish over a political topic
Your hope in a dream coming true someday
Your sorrow over the loss of something valuable
Your determination in reaching a goal
Your grief in losing someone you love
Your inner strength and focus on self-care
Your rage over a situation in which you were wronged
Your joy in accomplishing a project
Your respect for someone you admire
Your responsibility towards someone you care about
Your fears towards something you cannot control
Now, go forth, you imaginative artist, and write some hardcore, over-the-top poetry, and feel free to overuse the pesky exclamation point all you want!!! I can’t wait for you to share your poetry with me!
~ Brooke E. Wayne