Description: So, this piece is a slightly awkward sonnet. It's is actually the fifth poem I wrote (the order of writing at the beginning is not exactly the order of posting, since I only discovered this site after having written the first three or four poems, I wrote them in the order : my mind has lost..., A waste, a barren land ..., To Patrick ..., Though you loved him..., Pearls, Satisfactions, ... and then they're posted as they were written).
I think it is a sonnet, because it has 14 lines, and a "turn" between lines 8 and 9. It's not a classical English sonnet (ā la Shakespeare, as I tried to do in "My mind..." and "Though you loved him") because the argument doesn't fall into the classical 4 / 4 / 4 /2 pattern: instead of a final couplet, I have a final tercet, which is in fact composed of a couplet, followed by a final line.
Also, it's in loose iambic hexameter. When I wrote this, I was still quite metrically unaware (since then, I've ordered books on metrics, and if any one want's a suggestion, I definitely recommend reading Timothy Steele's "All the fun is in the way you say a thing" which is as good didactically as his poems are good poetically). I did know that iambic pentameter was the most common verse form in English, but I didn't know that hexameter was rare, and had the reputation of being a bit sluggish, and was basically never used in sonnets, as Dale pointed out (Kudos to him for also being able to point out, in his comments, the apparent single example of a sonnet in hexameter, which is also mentioned in this context by Steele). In fact, when I wrote this, I was trying for pentameter, but my lines kept coming out with an extra foot, and I liked them, so I naively decided to just go for it. I think that the slower rhythm of the hexameter suited my relaxed mood of that morning, when the first draft (much reworked afterwards), was written.
The initial ambition for this poem, was to write a happy poem, one that was not the consequence of a negative feeling. Very quickly I realized that what was giving me the most pleasure in the writing was simply the idea of capturing a moment, of writing simply for the pleasure of capturing a happy moment, without anything to work through by the writing, and thus it became a poem about writing a poem on capturing the fleeting foam of the moment (that last line, which I'm proud of, took me a long long time to get right -- it really wanted to be seven feet long, and the virtue of form is that when I finally got it down to six feet, it was better than all of the seven foot variants I had played around with before).
As for irrelevant factual detail, the narrative of the poem, though formally reworked afterwards, really does follow quite accurately what went through my head that morning. I was drinking tea with books of poetry around me and drinking up the bright autumn sunshine. I do have, right beside my bed, a Korean laquered cabinet, with inlaid nacre phenixes on it, and it did snag my gaze and lead to the oyster metaphor. The subsequent reworking only served to make the description more accurate, more concise, and, perhaps, a little bit more shareable.
Pearls without Pain -------------------------------------------
This lazy Sunday morning, drinking tea in bed,
A Bach cantata pulsing in my rising chest
Tender and warm as the oven-fresh loaf of golden bread
At which I nibble, a cat at rest in my feathered nest.
From in my peaceful feline lair, the window shows
The still green leaves that wave in crisp clear autumn sun;
My mind meanders through half thought out lines and meadows
Of books of poetry, cluttered among the sheets undone.
A sudden shimmer in the cabinet beside me
Snags my gaze. I am an oyster: inlaid nacre,
Sleek and cool, and the salty waters of life surround me.
No pebble lurks to worry me into being a maker;
No gnawing grain of sand from which to spawn a poem.
Yet in my net is caught this moment's fleeting foam.
First of all, I'm going to come right out and say I'm no scholar on meter, sonnets, or prose. My first and ONLY attempt at a sonnet with my creative writing class I took in my senior year of high school..and it's in my works somewhere for your eternal smash'n'bash critiquing. I enjoy poetry as a single physical work that expresses ones creative mind. That being said, the line that stood out the most to me was this:
"A sudden shimmer in the cabinet beside me
Snags my gaze. I am an oyster: inlaid nacre..."
I am an oyster. You give such rich detail and description that this sonnet is practically oozing it out of my screen and onto my desk, staining the wood. And then, suddenly, as if to deliberately jar my meager and uneducated mind you tell me that you are an oyster. Brilliant.
Ok I will buy that up till now the only sonnet I have read written in alexandrines is the first sonnet in Astrophel and Stella, its not something you see in English Poetry very often. I guess I just have to remember it is ok to break the rules as long as you know you are doing it.
Ok I know there is more than one way to write a sonnet there are more than a few forms and the artist has the right to play around and invent things but when I think of a sonnet I think tradition and form like this one by: William Wordsworth Now he does not have perfect iambic pentameter he does a few variations with the meter but to me you have gone overboard in the one you have done.
SCORN not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown'd, Mindless of its just honours; with this key Shakespeare unlock'd his heart; the melody Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound; With it Camöens sooth'd an exile's grief; The Sonnet glitter'd a gay myrtle leaf The Sonnet glitter'd a gay myrtle leaf Amid the cypress with which Dante crown'd His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp, It cheer'd mild Spenser, call'd from Faery-land To struggle through dark ways; and when a damp Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew Soul-animating strainsalas, too few!
This line is six feet and its not even your longest line This lA/zy SUn/dAy mORn/ing, dRINK/ing tEa/ in bed,
I believe this one is:
Tender/ and warm /as the/ oven/-fresh loaf /of gold/en bread
now its a great poem but to me part of the challenge to writing a sonnet is giving some nod to the difficulty in maintaining meter and line length
But then maybe its just that I am a little old fashioned when it comes to sonnets, as I have said in the past I don't mind some small deviation a short foot or an extra syllable the occasional trochaic foot
Now I could go on and try to analyze your meter because as you said English meter is stressed based and some feet are comprised of three syllables which means you could have five foot lines with more than ten syllables but then the object is iambic which allows only two syllables per foot so taking this into account most poets who are going for a traditional sonnet will limit themselves to ten syllables a line.
Ok sorry for the tirade I do love your poem though and truthfully it would be a shame to confine or cut parts of it so I would leave it as is; I just would not claim it to be a sonnet. Dale
ut you just told me it does .. I was going to say, look what they've done with the sonnet, a more popular tricky form, over the centuries! I don't know what to say about Pearls Without Pain (except good things that you already know). I see what I like about it - it's another poem about being a poet. That is, you're perfectly relaxed but you still have to make some verse when you notice the pearlshell figure! The figure is a mighty one, because as well as being an image of you and the cat relaxing like non-irritated mother-of-pearl, it also refers to the poem, and to poems in general as a pearl resulting from some kind of irritation (even if it's just the need to write down a sudden metaphor!) and makes me have a whole discussion with myself about that general topic. Little poems I guess always depend on a single figure; well, at first it looks like you almost put two mutually inappropriate firgures together (cats in bed and pearlshell) but after reading the complete pearlshell figure, then the feline bit suddenly slides into place as a contrasting element of composition with the same shape, sort of. If you didn't realize you were being so clever, then this is a poem to keep looking at because it came out with such integral structure. Probably you DID know what you were doing and anyway I reckon this is a finished & successful poem!
Answer: probably these technical verseforms intimidate or disgust many passionate or iconoclastic minded poets who haven't decided to get into just those tecniques? There's many a kid with a bicycle who has little ambition for three-day rallies! But kids are the main cyclists anyway. Serious students of verse are just working for them - except it's hard to notice how that happens when folk aren't actually queuing round the block to get at one's stuff eh? I remember studying A.Pope at school and spitting every time anyone mentioned him for years; but then I read a lot of his stuff and learned a lot about making verse .... and the prat still looks like an elitist asslicker to me! Reading poetry is a worse discipline than writing it I guess ... Pearls Without Pain is a fine sonnet because of they way you have let the metre vary so that text and music run satisfyingly together. That is successful & maybe you ought to study how you did it, because the villanelle is giving you trouble in exactly that aspect of handling a fixed verseform. I guess the villanelle doesn't let you vary any metre? B