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Alliteration, Ubi Sunt, and Rhyme-Snobbery

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

It has never been a secret that I love to write, though I have only shared my work with a select few people. These people are either bound to me by blood or by such courtesy that they could not easily disown me after reading my cringe-worthy stories during high school! All joking aside, it did come as a surprise to everyone (except my husband) that I had actually written and finished a book. Many people have asked what inspired me to write Sir Parker - you can find the answer to that question here. This post instead answers the question of what literary works and styles inspired me to begin my writing journey in the first place, over fourteen years ago. If you are looking for some beautiful, obscure texts and poetry styles to explore, read on! I wrote my first poems as assignments during early elementary school. My mom and teachers said that I had promise as a writer, but I did not enjoy writing at all. However, when I was thirteen years old, I watched the The Lord of the Rings with my dad for the first time. I was not satisfied with the series' ending, so I began to write a fan fiction story as a sequel that would bring Frodo back from the Undying Lands. Tolkien would roll in his grave if he could read my story now - it was truly unoriginal, and my writing style was childish, at best. However, in order to properly orient my tale within the fictional geography and historical context of Middle Earth, I read Tolkien's actual texts. As a result, I discovered that while I enjoyed the movies (and still do), I love the original books. Consequently, I researched Tolkien's other works, which led me to read The Hobbit and to start The Silmarillion (the latter is still sitting on my bookshelf, but I have grand aspirations of completing it before the second season of Rings of Power is released). Tolkien even infiltrated my education: I was homeschooled for all of grade school, and my wonderful mother purchased a junior-level English course that delved deeply into the text and literary styles found within The Lord of the Rings. It was through this class that I first learned about Old and Middle English poetic styles, such as alliteration and ubi sunt poetry. I also learned that Tolkien was inspired by Norse mythology and Old English literature, so I read translations of texts like Beowulf, Sir Orfeo, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I found myself falling in love with the originality and beauty of these texts, which are some of the earliest known literature in the English language.

The Green Knight issues his challenge in a painting by Juan Wijngaard
"Green Knight's arrival," a painting by Juan Wijngaard, 1981. View original page at

While my significantly-slowed reading speed made completing the junior course a challenge, I enjoyed and appreciated what I had learned and was eager for more of the same. Thus, for senior year my mother gave me English credit for a course called "Learn to Write the Novel Way." The goal of this class was to guide students through the process of writing and editing original novels over the span of the year-long curriculum. Though I completed the course, I only finished the first draft of my novel: it is still buried in a folder on my laptop somewhere. I hope to someday return to it, as it actually had original ideas and a decent plot. However, the writing process quickly became hindered by my overzealous efforts to create languages for my characters, as Tolkien had done. It was at that point that I realized I should leave language to the linguists, and I abandoned the project.

Outside of my novel endeavors, I dabbled in experimental poetry for fun. Ultimately, I realized that my writing style is quite old-fashioned: as much as I appreciate the beauty and meaning behind many modern poems, and will readily acknowledge my inferiority to these poets in terms of skill, I simply cannot write or enjoy poems that do not rhyme! This pet peeve of mine significantly restricts my writing in some ways, yet it also forces me to challenge myself and research new words and ways of combining thoughts.

Mushroom notebook poetry journal
My poetry journal

As mentioned in my introductory post, I took a substantial hiatus from writing during college and the first few years of marriage and parenthood. I am now attempting to get back into the habit of writing regularly: I purchased a cute notebook and have been composing passable poems in it to capture my daily thoughts and emotions. The ones I've written so far have been mostly about my children and watching them grow, though others have been cathartic poems to help me process some difficult feelings that I've been sorting through lately. I'm looking forward to blogging and writing more poetry, and hopefully, as my children begin to sleep more regularly, I can start reading fiction again too!

I hope that this post either introduced you to, or renewed your interest in, some beautiful works of literature that are rarely discussed in society today. What are your favorite fantasy novels and/or poems? I would love to learn something new! Let me know in the comments below!

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