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Old 05-05-2002, 03:58 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Two more accomplished sonnets to insure that you have a television-free weekend:

Sometime Lovers

These two were lovers, one of those weekend slips
you hear about. They shared a room, undressed:
he liked the way she stroked his swimmer's chest;
she craved the way he praised her breasts and hips.
Oh, years ago, a lapse the young commit.
His sagging pecs distend his starched white shirt;
her thinness barely swells her blouse and skirt.
Each wonders if the other thinks of it.
These days they meet up unexpectedly
in social settings once or twice a year
and share a room as strangers, and share the fear
that if they catch each other's eyes they'll see
the selves they were reflected from afar --
unbearably -- compared with what they are.

--Richard Wakefield


French Braids

While one hand is content to touch, admire
A balanced, careful weave--preserve for viewing
The beauty and the boundaries of desire--
The other hand is busy at undoing.
The quiet hand counsels restraint; afraid
To wreck the composition of composure,
It's wary of destruction just for fun.
The other wants to slip between each braid,
To tease apart the strands, let run, spill over,
Release, unbind, what was so neatly done.
Your urgent kiss decides which hand is played.
A gentle pull brings argument to closure.
Surprised, my hands attempt to catch your hair:
It falls the way the rain lets go the air.

--Robert Crawford
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Old 05-05-2002, 06:19 AM
Dick Davis Dick Davis is offline
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Two very accomplished love sonnets (apart from Deborah’s rather disillusioned take on the whole experience, I was wondering where the love sonnets were, considering that love is the subject matter the sonnet started out with). Richard Wakefield’s sonnet is pretty disillusioned too though. It’s a beautifully put together poem, with no sense of strain at all, and with both meter and rhyme clicking very neatly into the exact right places (that’s wholly a compliment in my book). The repetition of "shared a room" / "share a room" is particularly felicitous I think – the first sharing being carnal, the second anything but, and the transition from the one to the other being what the poem is about. In terms of what’s being said, the volta really comes after line 4, which is a strange place for it to come, but it’s reinforced at line 8, and this slight tweaking of the form doesn’t bother me. If I have any problem with the poem at all it is that I’m not wholly convinced by its psychology. I’d guess Richard is closer in age to his youthful lovers than to their middle aged selves (forgive me Richard if I’m quite wrong, or even if I’m right). Having reached the wilder shores of middle age (and physical ho-humness) myself, some time ago, I think the more likely psychological state in this situation would be a kind of complicity involving a rueful but quite lowkey amusd regret, and a feeling of nostalgic kindness for one’s youthful selves (plus a slight feeling of "What was all that about"?) For this reason the rhyme word "fear" (line 11) is the one moment in the poem where I demurred a bit. But it’s more a psychological demurral rather than a technical one: technically the poem seems just about flawless to me. Bravo!
French Braids is a riskier poem – it deals with a more exalted state of mind, and that’s always hard to get down convincingly, and also a more conflicted, contradictory state of mind (Richard’s poem of course deals with contradiction too, but serially as it were: Robert’s has the contradictions as simultaneous). I think in general though Robert has negotiated his way through the subject matter extremely well – one does feel the raptness, contradictoriness and bemused intensity of the speaker’s mental state. I think the last four lines a little less successful than the rest of the poem. I’m not sure I really like the shift in the meaning of "hand" in line ll ("hand is played" means we are dealing with a hand of cards – some might think this shift into metaphor, after dealing with literal hands so far, a really good touch, but it slightly blurs things for me). Also "urgent" (in the same line) seems too close to cliché (though I’d be hard put to come up with a better word). The last line of the poem seems to me not quite to bring the image off – though again I can see that some would find its evanescence, the way the image escapes from us, particularly apt. I’m quibbling though, because it is a lovely poem, clearly conveying a complicated state of mind, which is I take it not only about French braids, but about one of the real dilemmas of love (whether to contemplate and appreciate the perfection one’s been lucky enough to encounter, to let it be itself in fact; or to try to involve oneself with it and possess it, and so change it).
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Old 05-05-2002, 09:46 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Actually, Dick, Richard will be fifty in two months, closer by far to his middle-aged lovers. But he runs seven to nine miles per day, leaps up the Cascades like a young goat. I hate him. One of the reasons I so love both these poems is that I think they have what Wilbur calls "killer-diller" endings. In fact, Crawford's last line much reminds me of Wilbur's "As a whip maps the countries of the air." It is less Zen, but more familiar, more touching, than the Master's line. Rather than setting our teeth on edge, it lets us go.
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Old 05-05-2002, 10:48 AM
Robt_Ward Robt_Ward is offline
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Yep,

It's nice to see some love sonnets, and I love both of these.

I got one nit on the Cranford that really bugs me, although I admit it's a personal problem and the world seems opposed to me on this:

The other wants to slip between each braid,
To tease apart the strands...


You can't "slip between" a singular: you'd "slip between the braids"...

Forgive me my grammatical anality, Mr. Crawford, a poignant and touching poem. And the same to you, Sir Wakefield.

(robt)
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Old 05-06-2002, 01:10 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
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These two sonnets are indeed a treat as is Dick's informative discourse on them, adding greatly to my appreciation of the craft of sonnet writing.

Richard's poem rings so true, and so smoothly and Bob's ending is very fine.

Thanks to both authors.

Jim
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Old 05-06-2002, 06:50 AM
Len Krisak Len Krisak is offline
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Good commentary all around,
and very good sonnets.

As to the "between" issue, I recall
some rhetoric handbook somewhere
(nothing as fancy as Follett or Fowler)
offering this little puzzler: what do you
say when you want to indicate that in
a housing development, there is a driveway
between (?) any (every?) two houses, and there
are lots of houses?

"Among" certainly won't work. And while
we're at it, if " McDonald's " is the correct
spelling for the company, and you want to
show possession (Bob's, Ford's, etc.) where
(if anywhere) does the extra (?) apostrophe go?
(This last question is for folks with way
too much time on their hands.)
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Old 05-06-2002, 07:47 AM
Robt_Ward Robt_Ward is offline
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Len,

"There is a driveway between every pair of adjacent houses"?

"All adjacent houses are separated by driveways"?

"Each pair of adjacent hosues is separated by a driveway"?

Why get married to the construction? As to McDonald's, consider this: most of the time we'd be tempted to use the possessive with a corporation, it would be to say "I love the burgers McDonald's makes". If it was automobiles, we'd say "I love Chevrolet Corvettes", not "I love Chevrolet's Corvettes"

Therefore, "I love McDonald's burgers" is grammatically correct and not really a possessive at all. If you absolutely have to have a possessive, sidestep as follows:

"I really admire the McDonald's Corporation's policy of anaesthetizing their cows before slaughtering them."

Do I have too much time on my hands?

(robt)
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Old 05-06-2002, 07:22 PM
Catherine Tufariello Catherine Tufariello is offline
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Two deft, expertly made sonnets, both of which I enjoyed.

“French Braids” seems to me to be, at some level, about sonnet-making as well as love–-though it, like Alicia’s bat sonnet, can be appreciated and enjoyed without reference to that level. Maybe it's just me, but on the second or third reading I found myself thinking of the sonnet's rhyme scheme as its own kind of intricate braid. The nonce-rhymed, unconventionally placed octave in the middle of the poem plays off against the familiar Shakespearean opening quatrain and closing couplet. The speaker's “gentle pull” both undoes the braid and, like the rhyme word “closure,” draws the poem and its central metaphor together. And the final couplet is a sort of tie on the braid of rhymes, at once expected and surprising as it introduces a new metaphor.

I think this lovely poem exemplifies why the sonnet, one of the stricter fixed forms, lends itself so well to romantic and erotic themes. The form itself seems at the same time to hold back erotic energy or tension and to discharge it, let it go, as the rain “lets go the air” in the memorable final image.

Robert's poem also reminded me (on a less lofty note) of a Miss Manners column I read years ago. A middle-aged woman wrote to ask for advice about her long hair, which she didn’t want to cut but was having trouble putting up. Miss Manners reassured her that a certain slipshod quality was part of the charm of a bun, and added something like, “When your husband begins to look forward to the nightly ritual of your slowly taking down your hair, for his eyes alone, daytime fashions will seem less important to you both.” You’ve gotta love Miss Manners (Auden did, or so I hear).
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Old 05-08-2002, 07:11 AM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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I love both these sonnets, the Wakefield one for its combination of sadness and wry humor, and "French Braids" for the way language does what the hands do, and finally what the hair does. As for the grammatically impossible "between each braid," what that does is show how language has to be used inventively to do a little more than it can: here it confuses singular and plural, just as "hair" does--a singular noun composed of countless other singulars, as it's commonly used. Each braid, also, is a triple singular, and the hand does have to work "between" those strands. "Within each braid" would have been grammatically accurate, but it would have lost the lovely confusion of the original for the sake of verbal logic, which is too much to pay. Sometimes logic doesn't work and verbal intuition does better.
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Old 05-09-2002, 03:56 PM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Subtle comment from Dick Davis on the difficulty of depicting a more exalted state. I like Crawford's zesty "French Braids" fairly well, though the lines are too frequently end-stopped for my taste. But I find Wakefield's somber sonnet altogether more persuasive. I also have a small nit in the penultimate line: a comma after "were" would clarify the grammar. Nit aside, I find this poem, in its very different way, to be every bit as moving as Mike Juster's. Bravo!

A.S.
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