Saturday, September 03, 2005

 
One thing about the debate between K. Silem Mohammed and Michael Snyder regarding what is or is not a sonnet--they both seem pretty fixated on a nominal notion of form--14 lines, rhyme & meter--but these qualities are only part of what a sonnet is, and I think of them as outward manifestations, rather than the soul--manifestations organic with the form, and expressive of what makes it what it is (the way our hands, w/ thumbs and so much capable dexterity, are manifestations of our intelligence, or sneakers are of our feet). So, in this formulation, I'd say the soul of the sonnet is the proportion it manages--that is, it offers enough, but only enough, space, for a solid proposition to be developed, and then a turn, and then a conclusion; and even then only if you are practiced at such gymnastics.

In Olson's term (though I don't think extending all his terms to the argument would work), I'd say the form offers a great ENERGY. Rhyme and meter allow for more precision, let you hit your marks more gracefully and flamboyantly but we are no longer Renaissance makers--it seems obvious to the point of tears that an appropriately-rhymed & metered 14 liner is far less a sonnet than a poem which has none of those three qualities yet maintains an appropriate proportion (imagistic, emotional, syntactical are the qualities I tend to think of as primary), tension, and elegance (though you can use the word neatness, or even 'justification', as in giving the feel of a well-built architectural unit).

Often they are aren't named sonnets--sonnets are pretty good at representing 'one unit' of thought (this is where I get to describing a little more fully what I consider the 'soul' of the sonnet to be)--which is to say (you can hear Derrida in this definition, as well as Lao Tze) a feeling/perception, its negation/expansion, and their resolution, such resolution often presented as logical though, in the final analysis it isn't, is more a matter of architecture. By architecture I mean in the way a sea-bird's need for solid ground to land on after a long flight is a matter of architecture, so our minds, turning through one complete thought-unit (and thought has a wave-function to get a little technical, I'm measuring, in that regard, from peak to peak say, or trough to peak, however you want to have it), finds a need to wrap up that leg of travel and rest.

So I'd say that Kasey's taunt-example "Fourteen" both wouldn't exist w/out the idea of sonnet and is very far from one--is more of an anti-sonnet (not really a poem at all, decadent in the classical sense of the word), meant to taunt those who would consider the soul of a sonnet measurable by counting lines. Meant to, except I don't think KSM meant that, because his approach is overly material and, also, considers a sonnet nothing more than a product of its mechanical parts, just like MS. So while he extends that function, by inference, more catholically than Mike, they both, really, are operating from the same impoverished definition of what a sonnet is.

Both are sensitive readers, and this seems to my eye more an expressive lack on their parts than a perceptual one, if you know what I mean. Putting how one feels about poems into words is a dicey business, and received definitions often make the job easier. So caveat (though I hope this is obvious from the post itself): I write this with respect for both of them.

Caveat two is, I have not gone back and read all the posts on the subject they have made (though I did skim), so this may in fact be a reaction to a dominant facet of their discussion only; that is, they may have touched on more than the sheer mechanics here and there, I don't remember. If so, take this as more of a 'this is how I think of the sonnet' moment, a 'why I think the sonnet is still important' moment. That is, the sonnet is still important unless you are revolutionary enough to want to overturn certain thought structures which are basic to at least the world I know, back 600 years. Which I can understand, though I wouldn't advocate.

Comments:
why on earth not be rid of thought structures that have repeatedly proven themselves wrong and that lead to war. the sonnet is dead as its old ways no longer express the new.
sonnets work as concrete gestures to night


cheers
 
There were wars before there were sonnets.
 
that is beside the point. why argue something that has no meaning. its the whole acceptance thing you go on about too. really. acceptance? think of emily d and antonin a. now there is acceptance and surrender. so we differ, the arguement about sonnets is better stated as cookies and bonnets. cheers.
12 +2 + a rh... team!
tee-hee!
 
Well, I'm sorry to have pissed you off. I just don't think sonnets "work as concrete gestures to night"

Who's emily d and antonin a.?
 
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