A Manual or a Sonnet?
Long ago I read that the acid test of a poet was to write a sonnet. The straitjacket of meter and cadence of its composition drew out the worst and best of whomever had already tried their hand in battle with assonant rhymes. I confess that with my irreverent seventeen years it seemed that those hendecasyllables, grouped in two quartets and two triplets, were only for those who had not been able to prove themselves in the freedom of modern poetry. Displays of novelty that I flaunted until I read Francisco de Quevodo, and the theory of rejecting the combination of â€ścuidadoâ€ť and â€śenamoradoâ€ť blew me away.
Well, I have to tell you that, like a sonnet, there is nothing harder to write than a technical manual. I know, youâ€™ll laugh, and say that anyone can manage to produce a leaflet for a medication or explain how to use a washing machine. Try it and see if you can, experiment and youâ€™ll see how difficult it is to create an instruction booklet that isnâ€™t full of the same boring and graceless prose of so many others. Youâ€™ll realize, then, how hard it is to avoid sounding dully didactic or petulantly professorial, to avoid boring your readers to death.
I am telling you this because I just finished a manual about WordPress with the title, â€śA Blog to Speak to the World.â€ť When reviewing the more than four hundred pages I composed, I wondered how I found–in this unstable Cuba–the time, the peace and the skill to finish this book. Some friends tell me Iâ€™ve been sidetracked into a minor genre… and that makes me laugh. I fact–I reveal to them–I have just composed my own delicate sonnet, with twenty chapters that are like fourteen lines and some technical advice instead of declarations of love. My book, in one of lifeâ€™s coincidences, will be presented in Madrid this coming May 21, the birthday of the poet with the round pince-nez and the aquiline nose. The same insolent who wrote, â€śmy flame can swim frigid water and will flaunt so cruel a law,â€ť as if instead of eternal romance he was relating the act of managing a blog from a country drowning in censorship.