By luck, or good fortune, she comes of age,
And come she does with fitness.
In steps of seven, three to a stage,
We’ve held our breath in witness.
So… with an awkward start; but a rallied march,
She promised nothing simple:
“Come” she said “I’ll soften starch,
Things look better with a crimple!”
And so, we marched into the fray,
For that’s what families do!
Ill prepared and in dismay
We held to what we knew…
As hard as it might be, be there when it matters,
For when love is a cushion, it rarely ever shatters.
To the reader: Parenting is not a construction activity. Children don’t arrive in kit form to be assembled in pieces. If not built, then sculpted? The child, as a sculpting medium, comes in a soft or rigid state. Those formed of malleable clay are easily worked into shape; their edges are smooth and their curves well rounded. Those chipped out of marble are delicately stubborn and easily broken; they require careful attention to detail and are difficult to repair if shattered… use the mallet skilfully.
To the poet: Poetry is biography; born of experience it should reflect life’s highs and lows. Sentimentality is a literary tool that replaces reality with an overlay of sweet substitutes. It washes away the richness of extremes, blunts sharp edges and glosses over fissures. The sentimentalist arranges nice narrative and pretty prose to avoid the difficult dilemma. In this coming of age sonnet I’ve avoided the brutality of bluntness but left no room for misinterpretation… this was no easy journey.
In the photo booth, she laughs at odd contortions,
Stretches her familiar disposition.
Her elastic features, pulled into new proportions,
At the edge of recognition.
In the photo booth, she winks a new expression,
Explores a new contortion,
Her playful eyes leave a deep impression,
There’s courage in her caution.
In the photo booth, she nods another mischief,
Smiles at its extortions,
Her amusement is her image,
Not one but many portions.
In every image captured there’s never one the same,
A diamond has its facets … many to its name.
Tim Grace, 9 March 2010
To the reader: Image is the luminous quality in the projection of self. In this context, a teenager’s experimentation with style is a passionate pursuit; an obsession giving polish to personal branding. Contorted facial experiments deliver some strange results that beyond amusement reveal a lot about character. The familiar face pulled into a curious form is interesting to read for its deeper emotional meaning… who is she when not herself?
To the poet: In form this is a sonnet, but forced rhyming arrangements pull uncomfortably at its structure. Around the rhyming features of ‘contortion’ there are repeated references; stretched awkwardly across the body of the poem. Although the poem is weak on technical perfection, there are times when an imperfect structure can assist in the successful construction of a fractured theme.
He too can speak in thees and thous,
As he vents his anger’s rage,
The English language thus allows,
For the poet to engage.
In a tirade of words contorted,
He canst tarry in literal combat.
Upon his words assorted,
He doth stake his claim to that!
Thine, at this point, mightst be confused
As to the merit of this prattle.
Simply put the poet has refused,
To take his smallest guns to battle.
He taketh to the challenge a cavalry of terms
Exhumed from antiquity …. and riddled with worms!
To the reader: In many respects this sonnet is a nonsense verse built upon an exploration of subjunctive word play. At some point in development the boundaries of prattle and battle met; and from here the poem gained its underlying theme. The enraged sonneteer has at disposal a cavalry of terms well designed for the expression of righteous indignation; albeit pretentious. The pompous victory speech is just a verb away from mockery.
To the poet: Use of the subjunctive verb, as archaic as it might be, is an essential poetic tool. When managed well, the subjunctive phrase enables a bending of grammatical rules in favor of poetic licence. Shakespeare, the sonneteer, employed the subjunctive twist to help him better conform to, and play with, the five-footed stressed rules of iambic pentameters. Inventing quasi (somewhat plausible) subjunctive verbs and phrases is a skill well learnt but judiciously applied.
The ambling gent in casual mode
Swings as he progresses,
His movement bares no heavy load
It’s pleasure he expresses.
The skipping child to her mother’s gait
Will dance to a missing beat,
In later years she’ll see as bait
Her syncopated feet.
The couple with a strolling pram
Take comfort in its rocking,
The child aboard sleeps like a lamb
When Mother Goose comes knocking.
. There’s a punctuated rhythm to a passing crowd,
. People making patterns – composing out aloud.
To the reader: The rhythm of life pulses through the human race expressing our moods and demeanours. The confident gait belongs to those with status, the boastful strut marks the braggart, and the carefree skip of a child renders all else a function of bipedal progression. When watching a crowd, it’s the collection of gaits, struts and skips that give it character, and mark it as different to a marching parade; having the hallmark of precisely choreographed passage.
To the poet: In the absence of a strict iambic-pentameter, the initial four lines of this poem capture what is probably my natural rhythm of a longer first line (eight syllables) followed by a shorter phrase (of seven syllables in this case) to conclude the two-line sentence. The mechanics of poetry are vitally important but contrived construction ensures collapse. Every poem should have its own pulse; and for the readers’ sake help to transform the words from a written to oral state.
In the end we meet finality
Where there is no more to come,
It represents totality
The comprehensive sum.
In summ’ry there’s an ending
To a captured set of thoughts,
There’s a possible extending
Depending on reports.
To conclude requires judgement
Giving closure to a theme,
Brings meaning to a segment,
That may unrelated seem.
. In a climax there’s achievement, a moment of reward,
. A peak of high endeavour, a point of much applaud.
To the reader: In the vast scheme of things our minuscule stop-start segmentation of time must seem a little trite and unnecessary. Periodic pauses, earth hours, pit-stops, forty-winks and memorable moments form a staccato of stuttering events. The End and it’s relationship with finality is not fixed; all endings are not terminal. We use endings to pause the run of play, to catch our breath, before resuming with new vigor and direction.
To the poet: Shakespeare was endlessly concerned with overcoming the injustice of time and reconciling this with a life short lived. His first three groups of sonnets consider options for achieving perpetuity; not eternal life, but eternal meaning is his desired destiny. Putting ‘The End’ in context is a poet’s lot; why am I doing this? In ‘The End’ is there any defense against the futility of a battle with Time?
When opposing views are in dispute
on the basis of belief.
When lines of thought are resolute
and take no light relief.
Who’s to grow the compromise,
on a patch of common ground?
Who’s to build an enterprise,
so both be honour bound;
to set aside their differences,
and work to common cause,
emphasise the linkages
that life itself explores?
. In the earthly world, the natural world, opposites attract,
. But when it comes to make believe, the same is not a fact.
To the reader: The hardest part about living a belief is that reality often confronts the assumptions of those who believe. Acceptance of dual realities requires the insertion of an uncertainty clause into any belief system. This insertion doesn’t necessarily come easy or sit comfortably with believers who have invested heavily in the creation of a particular world view. If compromise and adaptation are the keys to survival, what’s the attraction of an inflexible belief?
To the poet: The simple symmetry of the first two couplets makes an easy entry into this sonnet. The next eight lines ponder the traits of who might offer a solution to the fragility of belief. The use of ‘who’ suggests a singular being; a wise sage. Regardless of the entity’s wisdom, the final couplet contrasts the difference between a natural and synthetic solution. The lines in the last couplet are long (fourteen syllables each) but they have a rhythmical emphasis that rounds off the sonnet with a neat conclusion.