SONNET FEATURE
December 2006

SONNET FEATURE


THE CORTLAND REVIEW

E
SSAY
Tony Barnstone
  "A Manifesto on the Contemporary Sonnet: A Personal Aesthetics"
Tony Barnstone considers the sonnet from its formal beginnings to its evolution into the twenty-first century, including some generative techniques for sonnets of your own


S
ONNETS
Tony Barnstone

Willis Barnstone
Lorna Knowles Blake
Kim Bridgford
Billy Collins
Leisha Douglas
Barry Ergang
Ross A. Gay
Soheila Ghaussy This marks an author's first online publication
Miranda Girard This marks an author's first online publication
Myrna Goodman This marks an author's first online publication
Susan Gubernat
Heidi Hart
Jay Leeming This marks an author's first online publication
Anne Marie Macari

Patricia O'Hara
John Poch
Michael Salcman
Patricia Smith
A.E. Stallings

Gerald Stern
Joyce Sutphen
Jeet Thayil
Meredith Trede This marks an author's first online publication

 

"Peace"
Karlyn H. Lewis
 

Editor's Note
 
  Guest Editor – Jennifer Wallace

As we launch this sonnet feature of THE CORTLAND REVIEW, itís clear that weíve got some explaining to do.

First: why sonnets?

While browsing through submissions, we noticed many sonnets or sonnet-like poems. Some were 100% pure Italian or Shakespearean iambic lyric packages. Many were without the iambs, pentameter or rhyme; but, with their turning arguments, they hovered close enough to the target for us to say, "Letís celebrate! Letís see what a sampling of writers today are doing with the form." And so, we collected sonnets from within our own submissions and requested sonnets from other poets, some whoíve never published before, some new to TCR, and some whose names come up at the mention of "sonnet."

Second: a confession. Iím no sonnet expert, but I am a sonnet lover; I appreciate their music, but more their ability to present an entire complex conundrum with a lush intensity. And, as Iíve learned from our contributors, the sonnet has a decidedly flexible range of subject and structure.

Of the twenty-six sonnets in this issue, almost half are rhymed and/or iambic, or nearly so. Only one-third follow either Italian or Shakespearean structures; the remaining three-quarters experiment with one variation or another, including—in Anne Marie Macariís four poems from her long sonnet sequence—the use of couplets instead of traditional stanzas and, in A.E. Stallingsí "The Argument," the addition of two extra lines. And so we wonder what, indeed, makes a sonnet? These sonneteers insist the signature hovers around some constellation of structure, language and conceit . . . a definite music, a tension provided by a sort of hyper-attention to line and end point and a self-consciousness in which, as Billy Collins remarks, "The poet writes some lines then turns around, looks at the lines, blushes, and makes a comment about them." In all cases the poets agree with Jeet Thayilís conclusion: "You start with a line and follow it through. The sonnet writes the sonnet, not you."

Just as there is variety in how poets think about the sonnet, there is also great synchronicity. In this issue youíll see sonnets by Barnstone the father and Barnstone the son (Donít forget to check out Tonyís essay here, "Manifesto on the Contemporary Sonnet," with its principles and counter-principles as well as an extensive analysis of rhythmic options). Two of the three persona sonnets draw their inspiration from WW2. The sonnets exploring big existential ideas are balanced by an equal number that explore our dailiness (the lives of salesmen, movie stars or suburban sprawl). Two poets have written sonnet sequences in which the form ďevolved to give some coherence to the great variety of voices.Ē And, of course, there are love sonnets; many—as in times of old—deal with the bittersweet complexities of passionate relationships.

Enjoy this collection of "little songs." Read them out loud. And if you havenít already, try writing one of your own.

Jennifer Wallace
Guest Editor

 

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