Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sonnet review 2014


Cartoon from this week's New Yorker.
I was cleaning out files at my web hosting site and decided to review my old sonnets. I wrote them as therapy, over the course of three years. I talk about that in this video monologue from 2012, "The Dark Lady Sonnets."

I admit in the monologue that most of the sonnets are not very good. What I don't mention is that some of them are pretty sexually explicit and I'm kind of embarrassed about them now. Granted I was in a weird love-lorn distraught state of mind when I wrote them and so felt the need to express all the emotions generated by my unrequited love, but this one about kung-fu porn is so over-the-top I have to laugh - and to be honest I was trying to be funny. But it's pretty dirty.

And Amoureuse, which I think is pretty good, even now, is nevertheless pretty blatant. I think most people get exactly what I'm talking about, even this part, which is my favorite:
The luscious swollen token of no-doubt -
His approval manifest unspoken.
Although I was only following Shakepeare's lead in broaching the topic of penile hydraulics. And I did try to protect the casual visitor to the site - except for the first ten sonnets I wrote, all were placed on an internal page of the site - the only way you could read the sonnet was to deliberately click a link labeled "sonnet." So if you got a shock, it was your own fault.

But I have posted naughty ones right on this page, below - consider yourself warned.

I find that on reviewing the sonnets, some of which I haven't read since the week I wrote them, they are not as bad as I remember. Looking back after several years, what really surprises me is that I seem to have a knack for ending the sonnets pretty well.

The last two lines of a Shakespearean-style sonnet are called the couplet, or volta and should have a certain zing. According to Wiki:
In Shakespeare's sonnets, however, the volta usually comes in the couplet, and usually summarizes the theme of the poem or introduces a fresh new look at the theme.
I make a big deal of the final couplet of Shakespeare's Sonnet 147 in the aforementioned Dark Lady monologue:
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought the bright;
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
Now that's a zingy volta.

In Secret Sonnet #7 I alluded to Poe's The Raven - and borrowed "only this and nothing more." While most of the poem is just OK, I think the ending is quite effective:
Upon a mid-day dreary at my trade
I ponder if it's you that I adore
Or some unworldly shadow that I made - 
A mere shade. Only this and nothing more.
Despair comes blacker than a raven's wing
And only fantasy can make me well
With bliss the true deluded mind can bring
To save me from a serpent-tortured hell.
Cloud Cuckoo Land where we, impassioned, love 
On petals blessed by rosy-fingered Dawn;
No croaking fiend in feathers black above;
In Cuckoo Land my love will turn you on.
Pallas frowns - her wrath falls fierce and mighty
On such sorry fools of Aphrodite.
Pallas is a reference to the bust of Pallas Athene mentioned in The Raven. I think the volta is a nice finish to a sonnet where I'm basically mocking myself for indulging in fantasies of a love that's not gonna happen. Athene was the Greek goddess of wisdom, whereas Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love - a good metaphor for the head/heart dichotomy. This sonnet also includes a shout-out to Lennon's "Oh Yoko" - "my love will turn you on."

***

This next one doesn't work very well at all - except for the final couplet. The conceit here is that the beloved's soul is separate from the rest of him, and that's what I really love. And then I laugh at myself in the last two lines - this is another head/heart dichotomy poem. Of course I'm conflating the religious soul with the artistic soul, but it works OK.
Dear beloved soul whom I know so well,
I mourn for you locked in a stone cold frame.
To be parted from you is holy hell
And I proclaim I adore you sans shame.
How is it possible that you are trapped
Inside a cruel and petty little man?
Who needs a shaking, whose face should be slapped
For refusing ever to understand
That devotion is scarce to be found
In the lives of most on this damned planet
More precious than platinum by the pound,
Should be welcomed by sweetness not granite.
But rave no more - Reason take the controls.
An atheist does not believe in souls. 
***

Wow, this one is embarrassingly naughty - but I really like the volta:
Oh lay me down my sweet and darling man.
It's my sonnet, I'll make you what I will,
So "sweet" and "darling" I'll use since I can,
Transforming good of what, in truth, is ill.
And so bewitched - oh gently cover me
With your nakedness. Occupy the space
That quivers for you so covetously
With your solidity, then kiss my face
Now radiant in love and ecstasy.
Caress me with exquisite fingertips;
Fiercely, my champion stallion, thrust me
Into derangement with your lightning hips.
Oh your masculine praises I will sing
'Til neighbors pound the ceiling, my darling.
I think that's a very zingy volta. Too zingy for a sonnet, it's more like a Broadway show tune - but considering the lines that come before, I can hardly complain about the want of gravitas - "thrust me into derangement" - oh lordy.

And once again the sonnet acknowledges the beloved doesn't return my feelings but I'll fantasize anyway. I should also note that this was written two years before the Occupy Wall Street movement.

***

This one was based on an actual dream I had.
We were last night in Dreamland, you and me,
In a mansion or a hotel? A crowd
Of people everywhere, fantastically
Arrayed. You must realize that I am proud
And you were cruel to me. Until the day
That you apologize I am unbowed.
I look for shelter on the premises,
Escape by climbing the spiral staircase -
Which leads straight to my mortal nemesis.
You smile like a god of divine grace.
O curs├ęd dream that bares my naked wish!
I cry awake in heartbroken anguish.
 
In the dream I did see the beloved at a party at a rather grand country estate - almost like a castle. And I ran away from him, because I was mad at him for hurting me. I'm all - look how proud and in control I am. Only to meet him, impossibly, at the top of the spiral staircase, wearing a big gotcha grin. My damn libido was clearly saying, "sorry, you can't escape your true desire that easily." I especially like the "naked wish" which obviously has a double meaning.