August 25, 2012 § 3 Comments
– Mary Ellen Solt
It has not been possible since the Renaissance to write a convincing sonnet on the moon. Looking at the moon photographs in The New York Times, it occurred to me that since the scientist’s symbols for marking off areas on the moon’s surface were presented five to a line and the lines could be added up to fourteen, a visual sonnet could be made of them. The poem is intended as a spoof of an outmoded form of poetry and as a statement of the problem of the concrete poet’s search of valid new forms.
I disagree that the sonnet is an “outmoded form of poetry” or that there is a subject on which a modern poet cannot write convincingly, but I admire Solt’s inspiration. The soundless lunar landscape becomes the poet’s blank page. In the absence of words, we get an outline of what could be, an optimism that spreads from the purity of white space. Similarly, the moon in the 1960s represented boundless possibility — galactic travel, space colonies, postcards from the Sea of Tranquility. From a clean white surface the perfect sonnet and the perfect society could emerge.
Compare to Christian Morgenstern’s fish poem. Both are silent, wordless creations that contain beauty in their simplicity. Also note how Solt’s lunar markings look like alien orthography.
April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E’s knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H’s grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L’s head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away.
– Howard Nemerov
Unlike bpNichol’s alphabet, this one goes full-circle. A’s innocuous start turns into O and P’s O.P.P. and X Y Z’s geometry of fibs before the latter letter reflects back on A’s innocence. Though more street than Sesame, the alliteration sprinkled throughout (M’s mustard, F’s cawff) lends a playful touch.
March 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson
With language as dense as the creature’s sea green sleep, “The Kraken” avoids mention of the physical attributes of its titular subject. Tennyson forces the imagination to fill in the horror as the reader waits for the answer to reveal itself on shore.