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Monthly Archives: June 2020

2020 0628 sonnetary confinement

Sonnetary Confinement

Sometimes people with more words than they know what to do with will array some of their words into rhyming matrices of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. Those matrices are called sonnets.

William Shakespeare’s name is on more than a hundred sonnets. In one of his most famous, Sonnet XXIX, the first four lines are

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,

These lines introduce the reader to the narrator, who lacks either monetary or good-luck fortune, and is not highly regarded by his peers. He is unhappy enough to cry to Heaven about it in Line 3.

Line 3 presents problems to the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder sonneteer. The meter is off; there is an extra syllable in there. And there’s a logical contradiction: if Heaven is deaf, why would It be troubled by the narrator’s cries?

Shakespeare isn’t around to defend himself or explain his choices. Simply tking out the word “deaf” would solve both problems:

And TROUBle HEAVen WITH my BOOTless CRIES has perfect scansion, and Heaven can hear the narrator and be troubled. At least, that’s true in 2020. There is some evidence that in Elizabethan times the word “heaven” was pronounced as if it were one syllable. Poems exist that include the contraction “heav’n.”

If we treat it that way, the original Line 3 becomes

And TROUBle DEAF heav’n WITH my BOOTless CRIES,

And the stress on DEAF has a nifty implication of raised volume, as if Heaven is deaf in the sense of “hard of hearing,” and so the narrator has to amp up his wailing to be heard, which is troubling indeed. But even though Heaven hears, there is no response: the narrator says his cries are “bootless,” which (I trust) means Ineffective.

All of which leads me to posit that Shakespeare felt free to escape the Sonnetary Confinement of the strict sonnet form, and compel the reader to feel the narrator’s chaotic pain. For there can be no doubt that Shakespeare broke rules to suit his content. If the right word for the situation didn’t exist, Shakespeare would invent it on the spot. (Even the common and so-useful word “bump” is said to be Shakespeare’s invention.)

Shakespeare wrote entire plays in iambic pentameter. But

be not ye too impresséd, reader mine.
poul anderson, the fantasist, once wrote
a book festooned with such, to prove the point
it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

And speaking of “hang,” Shakespeare entertained not only with story, but also with wretched, vulgar puns. One example of hundreds may be found in Othello with a snide character known as the Clown asking some bad musicians if they are playing with wind instruments. They say they are, and the Clown responds with “Thereby hangs a tail,” meaning that their playing is as bad as flatulence. But the musicians hear not “tail” but “tale” and so are unoffended.

Whoops! The midnight deadline has come. I need to stop writing and hit the hay. “Hit the hay” is idiomatic for “go to bed, there to sleep.” Had I time, I would have expanded on the place Vulgarity has in literature, crafted some random lines to demonstrate that an entire mundane day may be reported in iambic pentameter, and concluded with a strict-form sonnet that nevertheless transcends “confinement” via playfulness and universality. Something for both of us to look forward to, O Reader!

Here our herolady is sojourning through lozenge encapsulation, which either protects her from, or grants her access to, certain quantum energy fields. She will be happy when she is quit of this uncomfortable state of being, but she does not let the discomfort get the best of her. She saves the best of her for us.

2020 0624 nes146

lawes henge

lassitude evoking Feh
answers “Why?!” with Yo No Se
wend your whey with kid so keen
enter dreamworld glistening
exit sliding on the scree
savoring that pedigree

I can’t lose with this one. If someone doesn’t like it I can tell them it’s self-demonstrating, and of COURSE they didn’t like it, since it is a Wasted Effort…

2020 0619 wasted effort

Wasted Effort

We now no longer have Ms. G. O’Keeffe
And so we lack a mattriarchal Chief
S
ince passing Time’s an unrelenting Thief
T
here’s reason to crack open that Cointreau–O
E
piphany may quell the need to know–oR
Deem it best we bid à bientôt

Yesterday my friend Nancy cheered me up in a discussion about heart disease, which has claimed a few members of my family. So after I thanked her I asked what her favorite flower was and said I would draw some. But I drew only one. But I will no doubt draw a few more before Juneteenth, nine days from now, which I gave as my ETA.

2020 0610 hibiscus invented

hibiscus invented
to Nancy Gunther

here is a part of the scene of most scenic hawai’i
interest waxes the first time the beauty is seen
barreling next to the coastline?? a gray suv
innocent plant life’s impervious to bourgeoisie
sacreder is photosynthesis known and unknown
crisis catastrophe chaos–break us they won’t
under the spell of a magical bloom in the shade
step next to bursting bouquets and you’ll be unafraid

Stringing letters together with the English language in mind sometimes creates multiple pathways. Thus r o u n d a b o u t can be variously agglutinated to Ro und Abou T or Round Ab Out or R ou NDA B ou T, etc. And l a v a l a m p may become Lava Lamp or Lav Al Amp or or Laval AMP, and so on. Our thoughts might be otherwise diverted if we’d ever heard the band Yes sing :Roundabout,” or if we’re old enough to remember a lava lamp in a coffeehouse.

Any or all of this, or something else, might modify the flavor of those two strings of words. But if you SEE a Lava Lamp, or you are DRIVING THROUGH a Roundabout, your experience becomes not strings of letters but tangibility.

2020 0607 roundabout

r o u n d a b o u t

reminders like the tick and flea
obsess us with the honeyed b
upend the lava lamp and goo
now set the font in bold urdu
deliver us, o passe-partout