Does a rose hold its own beauty sacred,
Therefore hide itself from view?
What, for goodness sake, was said,
To reason this as true?
That in a garden bed of colour
There’s need to paint the petals,
Tone them down and make them duller,
Through reason – this unsettles.
Surely there’s no natural order,
That inhibits how it grows,
The rambling rose should have no border,
To limit how it glows.
. When from nature we attempt to mimic,
. Take care the rules are not just gimmick.
To the reader: Beauty is an attractive gift and nature’s best designs are worthy of genuine admiration. There’s a natural inclination to respond to, and appreciate, appealing combinations of color, line and form. It seems perverse that we should attempt to hide or disguise a natural gift. It’s only when a gift is treated like a possession that it becomes an object of desire; and thus exposed to the ugliness of lust. The beauty of a rose is ours to share not own.
To the poet: The three stanzas in this sonnet work separately but amount to a neatly formed exposition of thought. The beginning stanza poses a question and to provide some context outlines the issue with reference to a colorful garden. The second stanza reinforces the issue by expanding on the problem. The final stanza makes a statement in preparation of the final couplet which neatly concludes the sonnet… a simple but effective sequence and line of thought.
When to a lie a child commits,
He surrenders to its course.
Piece by piece, uneasy fits,
Held side by side by force.
With fragile scripted narrative,
His thread and weft are broken.
Thinly spun, a gossamer weave,
His web is deftly spoken,
Upon belief his tale depends,
And so he grips by tooth and nail.
But, alas, the more the boy defends
The less does truth prevail.
. When from fantasy a tale is fetched,
. By necessity it is also stretched.
To the reader: Concealment of truth, as in a lie, creates an uncomfortable personal bind. As self-serving creatures we learn to deceive and distract; to confuse reality with the telling of plausible but misleading explanations. A child’s naive attempts at telling a lie lack subtlety and lead to all manner of tangled contortions. The depth of belief and conviction in a lie marks its destructive capability. Commitment to a lie unleashes its power to grip tightly and strangle the teller.
To the poet: The child in this sonnet is nameless and universal, although his sex is clearly male. While I often try to create a genderless persona this isn’t always practical or useful. Being male, my own reference point is masculine; and so through social construction my default articles of definition tend to be seen through a frame of he and him.
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.