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Mike Snider's Formal Blog at the Sonnetarium

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I’ve never been good at sending poems out, and is it for me a rather large thing to have finally entered a poetry manuscript contest. It puzzles me that I don’t send things out. When I have, I’ve had a fairly good rate of success, and I’m not at all shy about posting them on the web or reading them to strangers in bars. I just don’t like asking someone to please pick me, maybe because as a kid I was lousy at sports .

Or maybe it’s because I don’t like being judged when I don’t already know what the judgement will be. I’m pretty shy about women, too. A woman has to make it very clear she’ll say yes, even if I’m already living with her. I’m probably more than just a little pain in the ass that way.

But now I’ve paid money to enter a contest, and worked my ass off the last few weeks to put the damn thing together, and I actually mailed it today, a day before the deadline. Maybe I’m getting over it; maybe Krys is helping to set me straight.

I’m already getting a set of poems ready for mailing, hopefully this weekend. Wish me luck.


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Via Arts & Letters Daily comes Paul Johnson's review of the letters of A. E. Housman (Wikipedia here, generous selection of poem here). I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

However, in 1896 Housman astonished even those who knew him best by publishing a volume of sixty-three poems, A Shropshire Lad, which achieved success even at the time and assured him immortality. He was not a professional poet, could not write to order or at will, and needed a powerful personal stimulus to versify at all. He said he composed most of the poems in 1895 under ‘continuous excitement’. Thereafter he wrote little, though a further volume was reluctantly published in 1922 and a few more poems after his death. [my emphasis]

Gawd I sympathize, but just who was the last professional poet in the sense of making a living writing original poetry? Tennyson (he lived 7 months after Whitman’s death)? Ginsberg made a living being famous; Frost had to teach (a little); Richard Wilbur's living is from translating French classical theater—and in any case I'm more interested in the notion of writing “to order or at will.”

Right now I’m a little short on the “at will” part, so I’m more serious than ever about writing sonnets from ideas and themes suggested by you, and I’m working on a commission right now—you, too, can have your very own poem for about $2/line.

With your help, maybe I’ll make it both ways. Heh.


At the end of Nicolas Roeg’s wonderful movie Walkabout there’s yet another meat-cutting scene (this time in a kitchen!) in which the now-married lead female character looks up from her cutting board and these lines from Housman are spoken in voice-over:

Into my heart an air that kills

From yon far country blows:

What are those blue remembered hills,

What spires, what farms are those?


That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

And cannot come again.

I always cry. But then I’ve cried at commercials.


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Thursday, October 4, 2007

And it’s 50 today. Paul Goodman wrote occasional sonnets—sonnets for occasions, that is; he wrote a lot of sonnets—and he wrote one for the launch of Sputnik:

October 4, 1957

A new thing with heavenly motion made by us
flies in the sky, it is passing every hour
signalling in our language. What a power
of thought and skill has launched this marvelous
man-made moon! and from this day the gorgeous
abyss lies open, as you spring a door
to enter and visit where no man before
ever came.

It is a mysterious

moment that one crosses a threshold
and “Have I been invited?” is my doubt.
Yes, for our wish and wonder from of old
and how we patiently have puzzled out
the laws of entry warrant we have come
into the great hall as a man comes home.

It’s strange how neither I nor the Space Age are a thing like I thought we would be. I remember, three years after Sputnik, watching Echo I spinning across the sky, part of a satellite program that, according to Wikipedia, “also provided the astronomical reference points required to accurately locate the Russian city of Moscow geographically”, and I remember air-raid drills (in Kentucky!), and I wanted to be a paleontologist.


About 3 years ago I wrote briefly about occasional poetry, quoting the same poem as above along with another of Goodman’s.


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