Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sonnet sequence

One of my ambitions for a long time has been to write a sonnet sequence.

Terminology here is a bit confused: I'll give my interpretation, but your mileage may vary depending on whom you consult. Broadly, a sonnet sequence is any group of sonnets, linked structurally or thematically, and meant to be read in a particular order. In that sense, the Musketeer sonnets qualify as a sequence, in that they're based on a series of books.

But there are a couple of specific sonnet sequences, or as we might call them, sonnet superforms. (No reference to current events intended). There's the crown, or corona, and the sonnet redoublé.

The crown or corona consists of any number of sonnets. The last line of each sonnet forms the first line of the next, with the final sonnet's last line being the same as the first line of the first sonnet. Thus the crown forms a closed loop. I've actually written a two-sonnet corona, but it wasn't great.

The sonnet redoublé consists of fifteen sonnets. The "key" sonnet is decomposed into its 14 separate lines, each of which then appears in another sonnet. In some cases, each of the "key" lines forms the first line of another sonnet; in others, the "key" line appears in the same position that it occupied in the "key" sonnet. The "key" sonnet may be presented at the beginning or at the end of the sequence.

I'm looking now at writing a sonnet sequence, using the sonnet "I-5" as the key. It's got a lot of good lines. The version I'll use is slightly revised from the original, so I'm reposting it; of course, it may undergo further revision as the sequence develops.

Through clouds of sunlit dust and fields bare
to scouring wind; through dry grass and barren
sheep shorn of summer growth, my dazzled stare
finds every familiar thing turned dead or foreign.
Road, laid like a lash across naked hills
cuts through landscape like a knife through cream,
across closed eyelids like windowsills,
in whip-curved weals, scars of serpentine.
In country well-known as an old nightmare's stable
wheels turn and turn and god-mills grind fine
while mileposts pass in a slow picket line.
Fatigue and the wind dance telephone cables,
constant companions on an endless drive
riding the knife-edge, the white line of life.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

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