Monday, January 30, 2006


I wrote a sonnet and posted it on one of the workshops - and here is the gist of the response - at least the gist as I read:

- This is different from much of your writing I've seen (and that's good), a refreshing change of pace.

- I feel like this is one of the best poems I have read from you. I like it for its endearing and indifferent qualities.

- I just want to say that I, too, like this very much. It's fresh, original, and has substance.

These comments have left me disturbed. What is it? Is it that rhyming poetry, with consistent meter, is so much part of our history that readers just LIKE it more than free verse? Or maybe those who commented were those who like sonnets. It wasn't a large cross-section from that workshop. Maybe the rest didn't comment because they, like me, don't really like sonnets. The poem itself was a play on the word product and made up of a bunch of different synonyms for product.

Or is it that my free verse isn't as interesting as I thought it was. I've always strongly believed my rhyming and metered work is inferior to my free verse, so if my metered work gets such a response, my goodness, what does that say about my free verse? I would never, for example, submit one of my sonnets for publication. Who publishes sonnets anymore? And personally, I've never ever read a sonnet that I enjoyed more than some of the wonderful free verse I've read and reread over the ages.

In fact, I don't really enjoy sonnets at all. They are baubles, toys, playthings for a poet when she has nothing better to write, interesting 'extra work' in response to a challenge or workshop. I read books full of sonnets and don't really like any of them - they just don't resonate for me. Too contrived. Sonnets are 'scales' on a piano. They are 'training rides' when preparing for a big race. They are the vegetable we have to eat before the cake.

In that light, it is sad that my sonnet is liked - by anyone - more than my 'real' poetry.



Blogger SarahJ said...

i enjoy your free verse, and am also not terribly fond of sonnets, making exception for shakespeare and a few others. I haven't read the one you refer to.
write what you like to write.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Haven't read the sonnet in question, but the term "better" has to be taken in context. Most people say "the best" when they mean "my favorite." The person in question may just prefer rhyme and meter. There's nothing wrong with that.

I disagree with how you characterized sonnets, though, particularly in regard to some by e e cummings (many of which superficially don't look like sonnets.)

That said, I think it can be good to use a form as a starting point, but if the poem can't fit within its constraints, then modify or break away from the form. I started a villanelle, couldn't fit it within the constraints, amd modified the villanelle form to suit my needs. You can see it under the quasi-villanelle posting on my blog at www.myspace.bobahop

I'm finding myself less and less interested in evaluations of my work. I enjoy appreciations, but if something doesn't resonate with somebody else, it doesn't necessarily reflect on either the poem or the reader. I've received such varying degress of response for so many poems from so many readers that I just focus on the effort to keep writing. For me, being prolific is a way to keep from obsessing about these issues.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Jude Goodwin said...

Hey bob and sarah - thanks for dropping your comments here - nice to find voices in the 'wilderness' -

Bob, I finally got my William Stafford books in the mail and am really enjoying them! Thanks for the tip -

regarding evaluation of poems - definitely the importance in this comes and goes for me. But I do post to workshops and I do read every comment carefully - now and then someone will pinpoint something I've been struggling with and that makes the whole exercise worth it. Unfortunately, the best workshoppers come and go. Workshops change, people move on. The need for a workshop comes and goes. The need to write comes and goes, money, love, a break in the clouds -

So i continue to sit, pen in hand, anticipating the next surprise


11:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home