Tag Archives: sonnet

How will you re-invent the sonnet?

One week left to enroll in my Sonnet Workshop at the Toronto New School of Writing. Click here to view course details on the TNSoW website.

And don’t worry, if you don’t want to write traditional sonnets, we’ll also

conceptualize
fantasize
destabilize
plagiarize
sexualize (un-bowdlerize)
Hooverize
Berriganize
zero-ize
parodize
phoneticize
blasonize (& anti-blasonize)
weave
cleave
deceive
pre-conceive
mis-conceive
beat
cheat
retreat (don’t tase me, Bard!)
boff
doff
scoff
dash off
fend off
bugger off
mace
erase
debase
disgrace
replace
deep space
upper case (or any case)

. . . and if you like, embrace

the sonnet (or what’s left of it)

Duration: 21 February – 27 March 2012 (6 Tuesdays) 6-8 PM
Location: Of Swallows, 283 College Street, Upper Floor Seminar Room

Click here for more information about the course and instructor bio at the TNSoW website.


Camille Martin

The sexy “little song”: Sonnet Workshop by Camille Martin

How did the sonnet get from Petrarch to Bervin?



How will you re-invent the sonnet?

Find out in my six-week workshop/class on the sonnet at the Toronto New School of Writing. I taught this course last year and was blown away by the class discussions and the poetry written by the participants.

Click here to view the course on the TNSoW website. Register early to reserve your place!

Duration: 21 February – 27 March 2012 (6 Tuesdays) 6-8 PM
Location: Of Swallows, 283 College Street, Upper Floor Seminar Room

“The sonnet . . . is not a form at all but a state of mind.” – William Carlos Williams

Throughout its 800-year history, the sonnet has seen periods of vogue and dormancy, but it just keeps bouncing back, and its contemporary allure to poets shows no signs of abating. Just why did the sonnet come into being, and what accounts for its remarkable longevity?

In this Sonnet Workshop, we’ll explore the enduring appeal of the sexy “little song.” Combining a historical overview of the sonnet with creative writing assignments, this course offers you the opportunity to experience the sonnet as a traditional and experimental network of possibilities.

Through a series of Reading/Writing sessions focused around various poetic models, we’ll deepen our appreciation of the sonnet’s evolution as well as generate our own sonnets, continuing the historical momentum of this ever-popular “state of mind.”

Instructor bio:
Camille Martin is the author of Sonnets (2010), Codes of Public Sleep (2007), and Sesame Kiosk (2001). Of Sonnets, Rae Armantrout observes that “in some ways, these poems are almost traditional,” yet “in these taut, fast-paced, self-aware poems, the lyric meets 21st-century paranoia and sparks fly.” Carol Dorf writes that Martin creates “a world where science and myth intersect,” a “world of a mind reflecting on itself, the natural and built environments, time, and language.” And Jordan Scott speaks of “the magnificence in these poems, a poetic magnetic, propelling you to turn the page.”

Martin has performed her work in over twenty-five cities in the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Louisiana State University and an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of New Orleans. She is a seasoned instructor of poetry and workshops in the community and at high schools and universities.


Camille Martin

The Humble Monostich

                                                                mono / stich

        The monostich could inspire a question for poetic Trivial Pursuit: What form (other than prose poetry and vispo) has no line breaks?
        The monostich has none because it consists of a single line. In the essay collection A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line, Kimiko Hahn explores this Lilliputian form, both in its literal manifestation—a poem written and intended as a monostich—and as a “found monostich,” the idea of reading a poem with an appreciation for an individual line as “a startling fragment that [has] its own integrity.”
        For the latter, Hahn gives examples of such lines to be savoured for their poetic cadence from Denise Levertov’s “A Common Ground”:

grown in grit or fine
[. . .]
new green, of coppery
[. . .]
crumpled wax paper, cartons
[. . .]
curved, green-centered, falling

A single line within Levertov’s poem becomes an imagined monostich, suspended in its own time and space.
        Hahn points out that whereas imagery appeals to the visual imagination, cadence involves the ear attuned to the pitch and rhythm of a group of words, and she recounts that in her evolution as a poet she gradually became aware of the qualities of poetic cadence while considering such found monostiches within longer poems.
        Barbara Guest comes to mind as another poet who often sculpts her lines with a stand-alone quality, such as the following from Quilts:

where footsteps tremble on quicksand squiggly
[. . .]
third time white like autumn squash
[. . .]
minnows on muslin

        One of my works-in-progress contains a section of short poems, “R is the Artichoke of Rose.” I skimmed through it looking for monostiches, certain that there’d be a handful, but was surprised to find only one. The majority are between two and six lines. I’d forgotten that most of the ultra-short poems that were originally written as one line have since been revised into lineated poems.
        Why have I avoided the monostich, even in the case of a “flash poem” consisting of two words? I think it is because my ear—and mind—have become attuned to the argument of the sonnet. Although many of the poems in my Sonnets are far from traditional, I can see that the idea of the argument or even simply the development of an idea attracted me to that ancient form. The “if” and “then” structure had its appeal, and if the argument of a sonnet turned out to be illogical or open-ended, then that could become part of the movement of thought, the disruption of the proposition-conclusion folded into the scheme, observing itself in the act of giving the mental slip.
        My lone monostich in “R is the Artichoke of Rose” is a parody of a famous line by Emily Dickinson:

I heard a Leafblower—when I died—

If the monostich has an argument, it’s necessarily more subtle, even if it’s on the scale of subject-predicate, clause-clause, or a pithy dialogue with a predecessor.
        Below are some more true monostiches, memorable not only because their brevity makes them so easy to remember. Here’s one from Craig Dworkin’s aptly-named Motes:

WILTED TULIPS

split little puppet pulpits tilted spilling dew

The delicate tongue-twister of staccato plosives creates a striking image developing the title: the poetic miniature satisfies both ear and eye.
        In John Ashbery’s “37 Haiku,” each unfurls on a single line, and again, these monostiches turn on striking images, as in these two:

Night occurs dimmer each time with the pieces
        of light smaller and squarer

A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing

In the second monostich, the final word, “sewing,” subtly echoes Lautréamont’s famous description of beauty as “the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table.” That statement, which became a sort of anthem for surrealists, speaks of the mysterious charm that ensues from the dialogue among disparate images. Perhaps the chance encounter involves some stitching together of such images, and Ashbery’s allusion nicely suggests the marriage of anchor and sandy grit in the sky, which might be reflected in “tall” or oceanic water.
        Many of Ron Padgett’s monostiches in “To Francis Sauf Que” exemplify his signature humour. I almost bypassed the one below, but it grew on me. (I’m finding that the effectiveness of some of the more successful monostiches increases exponentially with the thoughts they generate.)

Now I love you again because of these roosters.

Padgett’s fragment appears to be lifted from a narrative; the absence of context gives the line a twist of absurdity. But it also seems to offer a goofy explanation for the mysterious force that compels one person to be attracted to another, in this case perhaps in an on-again-off-again relationship: I’m not sure exactly why I love you again (the speaker seems to say), but these roosters are as good a reason as any. The line has the qualities of both a dramatic assertion and an aphorism.
        I don’t think the poem would work as well as a couplet:

Now I love you again
because of these roosters.

The separation of the abstraction (love) from the image (roosters) drains the poem of its humour. It’s funny and poignant precisely because of its seamless, matter-of-fact, droll delivery. The line break is overkill.
        Almost none of the more impressive one-liners survives exclusively on abstraction. In the example by Padgett, “love” is paired with a vivid image, “roosters,” which also serves as a kind of punch line to the enigma of love.
        A few years ago, issues of Peter O’Toole: A Magazine of One-Line Poems began to surface in Toronto, published by Stuart Ross. It’s the only magazine I know of that specialized in the monostich. Here’s one by Clarice Eckford that nicely captures a particular type of tedium:

WAITING FOR THE BUS

knee-deep in cement

And Dani Couture’s ear- and eye-fest:

Freezer unfrozen, slabs relax in the november electric heat.

        And Stuart Ross’s deadpan deflation of vainglory, perhaps describing the imagined triumph of a poet arriving in town for a reading versus the mundane reality:

AND THEY SHALL GREET US WITH ROSES

The cheeseburger broke out of the plastic bag.

        Steve Venright’s contributions hinge on spoonerisms:

With his long reach he pulled out the wrong leech.

        And Joel Dailey offers a sardonic take on adjusting to the end times:

CELL PHONE BITCH SLAP

The end of the world may require some lifestyle changes

        Lastly, one of my own from the magazine:

dead saints dream of the enshrined relics of their flight

        At least some of the monostiches above that have titles could arguably be called distiches. But such an argument might be putting too fine a point on the matter. Why shouldn’t monostiches be entitled to titles?
        Anyway, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m not in the mood to split hairs. So here’s a parting monostich for everyone who’s read to the end:

Happy New Year!


Camille Martin