Experiments in Form Part 4: Playing with the Sonnet

One of the interesting results of playing with form is that the nature and structure of the form begins to dictate, or at least direct, some of where the poem goes. This makes it a great creative exercise: you may not know what to write, but once you begin, the form starts to help shape the poem. Now, this can be a good thing but it can also mean that you end up writing something that borders on nonsense. The art, I suppose, is in working with the form – allowing it to give fuel to the process without taking over.

A conversation today about the way that French composer and pianist Claude Debussy worked with harmonies, developing something of a precursor to jazz, inspired me to spend some time tonight listening to Debussy, and prompted this new experiment in the Spenserian sonnet form. Working with an almost impressionistic composer, a handful of slightly surreal images and a fixed rhyming scheme and meter was always bound to produce something interesting, even if it failed to be especially good. I’ll let you judge the quality for yourselves.

Spenserian Sonnet No. 2: For Debussy

Look: by the moon’s light silver chords are dancing,
In their soft and steady moonsteps rising,
Fleet feet rising in the night, entrancing,
Drooping silver by the dark horizon,
All the bells and streams of night surprising
Silent ears and all the trees’ ash towers,
Every stardrop of the night comprising
All the promises of night’s soft hours.
And the waiting moon has its own countries
Where the chords drift in its shadow bowers,
Gently oceans washing its rough frontiers;
Soft as every cloud, you listen, singing
To the heavens of the night still ringing.

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