Very briefly, what this is: I am writing a sonnet every day and posting them here—as is, and with minimal editing! For more details about the challenge, click on “How It Works”
The last phase of this sonnet project has been over for three months now, so this is completely out of sequence. However, I realized that I had inadvertently skipped over a day last December, even though I had the sonnet written. So, here it is, a little late.
He did not like the little boots. His back
Arched, lifted paw retracting, eyes cast down,
Shivering as if tormented on a rack.
Outside, a frozen sea-fog washed the town.
He hopped and shook, and, following behind
I picked up each detested boot he shed
‘Til joy ebbed even from rich nostrils’ finds
Now shivering from the bitter ground instead
We hurried back. In windows on each side
The lights of Christmas trees were coming on.
Warm Saturday of blankets, wrapped to hide
From sleep-soft minds, the grey remains of dawn.
And waiting, once the kettle boiled for tea,
A spacious day for writing poetry.
26 November 2016
Twenty sonnets in twenty days! I actually had a more ambitious number in mind when I started—but I feel pleased with the accomplishment. It has absolutely been a joyous experience. If you want to read some rambling about why I love sonnets, and how I write them, keep reading under the cut. Continue reading
Today is the last sonnet for this project. Thank you to everyone who has been reading them. I might write a short post in the next couple of days, just to debrief what I’ve learned from this experience.
Each morning, cyclists with fat winter tires
Spin down from Tundra Ridge; re-climb, past dark
With arduous labour, masked, as cold requires
In breath-encrusted scarves and snoods. The bark
Of lonely dogs shut in or chained outside.
With one eye looking out for snow-mobiles,
As I trudge in their lane, my view turns wide.
And though, this deep in autumn, no ship spills
Its lamplight over flat Frobisher Bay,
I see an airplane lifting off below
And outward, neighbourhoods’ sodium-lit rays:
Astro Hill, Happy Valley, the Plateau
And not much further, round this ridge I’d see
The glittering curved shore where Apex would be.
I wrote this sonnet after working for two weeks on an ice-breaking ship. It’s like a lot of life, I guess: while I’m aboard, I miss everything about land: cooking in my own kitchen, going for long walks, not having to line up to use the internet. Not to mention that I’m one of the people who gets sea-sick! But as soon as I’m ashore I miss the close community of the ship, and whenever I’m offered the chance to go out again, I jump on it.
I still reach up when I go through a door.
The hook to keep it open isn’t there.
No danger of it swinging. No one cares.
No pitch and yaw beneath these earthbound floors.
Happily my maladaptation isn’t more.
One friend set foot on land and got a scare,
So sick she feared a pregnancy.
The subtler things that change when you reach shore:
The strangers like a horde of stowaways
Upon your street; the emails and the texts.
Far from the cradling hull where you once found,
Out of the loose disorder of your days,
Each changing watch would show which task came next,
And you were carried somewhere, safe and sound.
10 August 2016
I’m angry, and the dog is anxious now.
In bed last night, each place he tried to lie
I snarled and kicked him off. A day when I
Need church—caffeine—to nap—get warm—to bow
To body’s wants. To read something. Find how
To make it stop, if possible. To cry.
Admit for now there’s nothing left to try.
Sometimes you have to breathe, stop trying to plough
Straight through. Despite the week, with travel plans
Still hung in weather’s sharp uncertainty.
At last the dog stops his hysteria
Of licking furniture, and where he ran,
Lies quiet on the couch, though wary, a
Lid cracked, curled where we are content to be.
27 November 2016
Housekeeping note: we are nearly the end of this sonnet project. When I started, I wasn’t sure what number I was aiming for, but now it seems to me that twenty sonnets in twenty days would be a satisfying achievement. I’ll continue posting what I have written, and post the last one on the 7 December.
And now today’s sonnet:
To flatten down a person to a form,
Quash doubts—whether the sitter will be free,
Cheque or job offer come—decisively
You tick the box or don’t. Life must conform.
Yet paper too shall pass through rigor’s flame
Effortful agony and compromise
Filed to an agile edge to analyze
Intricate scales; what’s different made the same.
Refine their names to rows. Subdue and rule
The margin notes in different hands. Deftly
Draw out a thread of numbers’ lineal grace
‘Til filtered through its grille, you see
Great movements cross the territory’s face.
From height, the math is always beautiful.
25 November 2016
On sofas in the small house where we were,
One guest of honour nursing a small child
All weary, having taught all day, compiled
More answers for these final spectators.
It rankles when the young man’s question is,
When did you first want to do theatre?
—while my head’s full of questions which I’m sure
Bristle with canny writer’s craft—and this,
The most banal! But sat and heard, amazed:
Some crossed broad continents in ancient cars.
Fought with their teachers. Loved deep. Patiently,
Out of the swampy ground of failure, raised
A lasting thing. We cannot tell how we
Do art, without first telling who we are.
24 November 2016
Another poem from the vault—another poem about insomnia. Why is this a theme? I think it’s because I usually sit down to write as soon as I get up in the morning, and so when I’m thinking about subjects to write about, what comes most easily to mind is the last eight hours I spent lying in bed.
The surf of leaves surged through the screens. The heat-
drunk insects toppled past my sill and lay,
While night-long winds bore the sun’s warmth away,
‘Til I was shivering under my sheet
As I stretched first, then curled around my feet
And, quiet, instead of giving my thought play
Over neglected tasks and wasted days,
Pieced out a fantasy, however fleet
Of someone’s arm across my flank. Its weight.
Just that. Particulars dissolved unformed,
Nor stopped the pillow’s endless overturn;
Yet, holding, let me drown out, obdurate,
What silence had to teach and I to learn,
And sleep a little. For the arm was warm.
8 August 2016
Last night I chose for happiness and read
Of fierce Napoleon past one o’clock.
Impoverished officers of noble stock
Marrying for wealth. Cocooned atop my bed
A minus thirty sleeping bag, my head
Swimming in love. Scant hours on the clock
‘Til rising. Rose. Suffered the crackling shock
Of blue sparks from my light-switch. Showered. Fed
Myself on buckwheat, coffee, vitamins.
Now sit in the dark living room a while
Watching time’s margin until work grow thin
Dream of shy lovers yearning for a mark
Of mere esteem. Postpone the time ’til I’ll
Go out under the wider, colder dark.
22 November 2016
Now comes the stage of planning Christmas; the
Elaborate chess: flights, family units, beds,
Currents both homeward and escape. Snarled threads
Which can’t be straightened. Until we
Surrender our grand visions, grudgingly
Fall in, still hurt, with what the schedule said.
If Christmas lives somewhere outside our heads,
Its moment, when it comes, will be
Grey slushy highway, overheated car
Pies in the back; cramped legs; someone asleep.
We shimmy out of coats, and talk of things
We haven’t talked about in months. We are
Wrung by this season; and the peace it brings
Is accidental, warm, exhausted, deep.
21 November 2016