Friday, January 5, 2018

Poetry Friday: Boxing with A Curtal Sonnet


I'm not in a box, but a basket.
However, I am cute so I can do whatever I want.---Rebecca's cat, Neils


Sonnets are known as a "box form" because of their precise rules and tight appearance on the page.  Some poets, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, cried out inside those boxes, and made some of the most anguished, glorious sonnets I've read.

Hopkins, in particular, was known for counting hard stresses (punches?) rather than regular rhythms, and for compacting the Petrarchan fourteen-lined sonnet into a 3/4 sized poem, of 10 1/2 lines.  For what better way to squeeze out more anguish than with less room to cry?

I've tried one in his honor today.  (Thank you, Kelly, for the challenge.)



Hopkins foxed sonnets to 3/4 spare
    wire-whipped stresses til they wailed
      half-tocked feral hymns from sprung clocks

 Elbowing joy as birdsong from air,
     priested, pressed hard, he failed
       at 44, a life, curtailed and boxed

 Yet, cold-call his poems, and he swells,
     as slugger’s bandied cauliflower ear; rung,
       you clangor, near strangled, on far-hailed
 Words; carrion cry unlocked, he wells
                                      blood to tongue.


                                 ---Sara Lewis Holmes
                                    (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters are writing sonnets today, too, some curtal, and some not.
Find them here:

Liz
Tricia
Kelly
Laura
Tanita
Andi


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Reading to the Core.

17 comments:

  1. This "wire-whipped stresses" is so apt! It's not like whipping up fluffy eggs, it's whipping something to point of pain and discomfort -- but it works. For him, it always worked. Not quite as well for me, but I think this "carrion cry" (what a splendid turn of phrase!) was a worthy challenge to start us off in a year where we're going to fight for our words.

    Hail, and well met, sister. ♥

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    1. Just to be clear: Carrion Cry is all GMH. It's the most anguished poem of his I've read. I think my favorite is God's Grandeur, though, for its horror at what we've done to the earth, but also, its faith that freshness still lives, "deep down things."

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  2. Wow, Sarah....that is quite a poem. I agree that the wire-whipped is quite an image. I also like priested....and wonder if this man committed suicide? I'm off to explore more. I'm not sure I could completely wrap my head around this form. But, it does look like fun to attempt. Thanks so much for sharing.....and fighting for the words as Tanita says.

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    1. Not suicide, but typhoid. Awful, though.

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  3. This is a lovely homage to Hopkins. I like the way you've formatted it into stanzas. I also like the alliteration and assonance of the lines.

    My favorite line is a bit of tongue twister - "half-tocked feral hymns from sprung clocks."

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    1. Copied the stanza formatting from GMH. I thought it helped make things clearer---in my own mind, as I wrote and on the page, as you read it.

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  4. Those feral hymns! Reading this poem felt like wallowing in some natural sauna of great beauty--but with sharp blades hidden under every surface! I don't know how you did it, but, wow--wonderful language!

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    1. Heh. Yeah, it's sharp. I didn't quite mean to come to blows with this sonnet, but it came out swinging.

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  5. Your sonnet is haunting, and captures Hopkins's anguish. I'd never heard of a curtal sonnet, and I've enjoyed reading the poetry sister's posts today. You ladies are amazing!

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    1. Thank you. And thanks again for being a marvelous hostess. I can't wait to read "Can I Touch Your Hair?" after your review of it.

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  6. Whoa. Gordian knot, GMH style. It's about him, it is him, it's his form and style...and it's 100% SLH.

    (On a different note, Wolf Hour is making its way through my classroom of readers, riding on strong word-of-mouth recommendations! So fun!!)

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    1. Oh! That is incredibly gratifying, Mary Lee. Thanks for telling me! (And I'm happy to do a Skype visit later this year if enough of those readers want to ask me questions.)

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  7. This is SO POWERFUL!! I love this to pieces, and I also really love the way you talk about the form....

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    1. Well, in reading up on sonnets, I was struck by that comment about the form being "box-like" and somehow that got me into boxing, heh heh. I really love the way poetry takes you places you don't expect.

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  8. Wow! What a powerful sonnet tribute to a poet.

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