Yet another quick sonnet

I don’t know why I’m posting these really. Certainly not because I claim any merit for them. Still, as with NaPoWriMo, the exercise of writing to a time limit is quite interesting, I think. The need to get something written makes you work with material that, rightly or not, you would normally have rejected out of hand. And the poems have a habit of wriggling away from you in the process of being written.

Writing poetry is always a kind of negotiation – between what you intended to write about, what you can get to work as poetry, and what emerges in the process of writing. Speed-writing just exaggerates that process and leaves it undigested on the page.

It doesn’t help that I’m out of practice. I’m sure if wrote a quick sonnet every day for a fortnight they’d start getting a bit slicker. This one took me 25 minutes. I made a point of doing it in (almost entirely) proper IP this time.

Somewhere a man is lying on a bank
of grass, watching the swallows overhead.
All he can see is blue; the green and dank
entangled grass and thistles round his head
cannot impinge upon his dreams of flight.
He thinks of nothing, but simply follows
the swoop and flicker, finds himself as light
and dancing as the flightpaths of the swallows.

It tempts, that casual riding of the air,
it seems to hint at better ways of being;
we want to know that simple empty grace.
But still, remember if you stop and stare;
to see just one thing is to be unseeing.
We need to feel the thistles at our face.

Another quick sonnet

Down to 12 minutes, this time.

They sing of eels;
the fishmongers trill their local songs
and try to drown the spiels
of sellers of deceptive pongs.
The three-card trickers
hope to draw the punters from
the stall that sells the polyester knickers;
and little acned Tom
with his knock-off Louis Vuitton
hopes to get the cash
of those who know it is a con
but are willing to be fakely flash.
All of human life is here, and loud.
You should be proud.

Quick (ish) sonnet

This was my go at Rob’s quick sonnet challenge. In the event it took me about 26 minutes, which isn’t very good considering that the the classic challenge is 15 minutes.

The hiss of pebbles on a shingled beach,
the stranded bladderwrack, the grey
sea-holly, hard against the spray,
the oystercatchers calling each to each.

Where men are afterthoughts,
where cows have never grazed or hedges grown,
where gardens are driftwood and stone,
where ploughs would blunt against the quartz.

It is not cosy here.
It does not feel secure;
we feel some inkling of the ancient fear
in the waves on the shore.
In the grating of stones underfoot we can hear
an opening door.

I quite like the ploughs line and the final image, but the rest is pretty generic.

You’ll notice that it’s metrically a bit peculiar. I did at one point have the first eight lines in IP, but the sestet really wanted to be shorter lines and I just thought wotthehell. And once I’d stopped being metrically regular I went back to the octet and pruned out some bits.

On the occasions when I do sit down to try and write metrical poetry, I increasingly find myself drawn to shorter lines – trimeter, tetrameter – and to changing line lengths. Ballad meter and suchlike (of course even that doesn’t explain the outbreak of anapests at the end). The discursiveness and unmusicality of sustained IP just doesn’t appeal to me at the moment.

Not that IP is inevitably discursive or unmusical but, fairly or not, that’s how I feel about it at the moment.

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