Friday, November 06, 2009

More Shakespeare

Paul Hoover, Sonnet 56, Les Figues 2009

Have Shakespeare's sonnets ever been more engaged with? Jen Bervin, K. Silem Mohammad, Harryette Mullen, and now Paul Hoover. He takes up one of the homely sonnets--and rewrites/revisions in all the hip ways, from N+7 to digression, villanelle to ghazal, haibun to haiku, flarf to homophonic--translation that is. Great idea. And some of the versions offered up here are quite good.

Here is the original
Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay'd,
To-morrow sharpen'd in his former might:
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer's welcome thrice more wish'd,
more rare.
And here are a few of my favorite of the 56 (of course!) treatments. From the "Homophonic Translation," "Sweet glove, imbued by gorse, bleed it knotted/Twine sedge good hunter tea than batter tight". Or "flarf," "Love, force it and it disappears/Courtney Love is a force of nature," or here from the beginning of the "Peronal/Ad" "Scholarly SWM, 59, with discreet tattoo and private means seeks companionship with younger woman, 30-40, leading to long-term relationship. Enjoy reading, speed walking, romantic strolls..." and finally, here is the end of the N+7
As call it winter melon, which being full of carfare,
Makes supweed's wellcurb, thrice more wished,
more rare
This latter one wasn't a favorite. Perhaps it lacks the surprise because by now the constraint has become a cliche too... But I should say no more because discovery in this collection is half the fun. This volume adds handsomely to the growing body of responses to Shakespeare's sonnets. But it does beg the question: who of us is crafting work that will illicit such attention in even a decade? Oh, I know, I know, it's a nasty question, yet it hovers in the fun of these texts (not only Hoover's). Some of which are thrillingly composed.


gary barwin said...

And in other late breaking sonnet news, Greg Betts has a new book out this fall of plunderphonic versions of Shakespeare sonnets. It's *The Others Raisd* and is published by Pedlar Press.

Are sonnets the new vowels? the new Yesterday?

Lemon Hound said...

Yes, I read about that this week as well, and am looking forward. I don't think it's sonnets, so much as Shakespeare's sonnets, which have some significance.

I was reading a sonnet from John Clare this week and was blown away by how contemporary it was as well--more contemporary than some sonnets being penned as we speak.

gary barwin said...

It does seem, however, that there are more sonnets lately than hitherto. What comes to mind? Um....there's Jailbreak: 99 Canadian Sonnets. (Ed. Zachariah Wells, Biblioasis, 2008) and Camille Martin has a new book of sonnets, called, *Sonnets* (

I think really that it is that there is an interest in exploring past forms both as conceptual givens, as constraints, as a kind of received structure to mine (kind of flarf structure rather than content), as a subset of language convention or use (a micro-culture within the language.) It calls to mind the discussion of versions of Creeley's "I know a man" over at Steven Fama's blog. I see some versions of sonnets as relating to the same kind of impulse.

And the captcha for this comment is brainco, and who could argue with that!



Steven Fama said...

Another (the first?): Stephen Ratcliffe, [where late the sweet] BIRDS SANG (1989).

In Jacket 36, Andy Frazee has an excellent essay on Ratcliffe and Bervin's respective sonnet-adaptions.

Lemon Hound said...

Thanks Steven.

Gary, certainly there is a surge in exploring constraints of all kinds. External structure is perhaps more necessary now than ever--free fall at every turn, we want some kind of containment, no?

VanessaP said...

as we mew along in the throes of the command: enjoy, enjoy

Chris said...

The second, not that more than a few people ever read it.

Steven Fama said...

Thanks, Chris, for the link to your blog post discussing and then linking to your poems-from-Shakspeare's-sonnets.

Your blog post description of the poems is a touch imprecise, I think. It states that you erased all words but one from the sonnets. I thus expected to find one-word poems, something like the minimalist work of Aram Saroyan.

However, there are plenty of words in each of your poems. It looks like what you did was take out all words except one from each line of each sonnet . Yes?

Also, what was the random method you used? A pre-determined system? Roll of the dice? How did the words that do remain in each poem get chosen?

Lemon Hound said...

Steven, you're right it is a touch imprecise. Also, Chris, I'm not sure how you can say Bervin's project isn't rigorous! My goodness, it's a thing of beauty and by far my favorite of the engagements.

Having said that your constellations are beautiful and would very much like to hear them read.

Chris said...

Yes, Steven, thanks (again) for catching my error; I've updated the post.

By "rigorous" I meant something like "procedural" rather than "intuitive", which wasn't meant as a slam against the beauty or thought behind Bervin's (or Ratcliffe's) work. I think each of our three erasure projects have different missions; mine is the most, uh, rigid and unrelenting, perhaps.

I've only read aloud from them once, and wasn't terribly happy with the results (although I mostly read them to create a space of thinness between two denser sections of a reading, which worked all right). Perhaps I should take a recording of someone reading the sonnets and "white out" the missing words. But that seems too literal.