“Any Hack Can Crank Out a Hundred Sonnets” by Stephen Kessler

Stephen Kessler


Any hack can crank out a hundred sonnets
if he has to; all you have to do
is set up your metronome and start typing,
taking dictation from the day’s small gifts,
whatever presents itself in the street
or dredges itself up from memory
or dreams itself out of your transcribing hand.
It’s an insidious form, because it’s almost
easy, leading you by the wrist through rules
and rhythms as old as the English language
translated down the ages in idioms
transformed by time and driven by dying breaths.
It gives you a false sense of what you meant
when the closing couplet clinches your argument.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet


Stephen Kessler: “When I started writing poems in earnest, as a teenager, I had no use for free verse, but the formal structures and rhythms of English poetry—especially that of Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats—provided the models for my own earliest efforts. In time I became more ‘contemporary’ in my approach to form, opening up to more unpredictable lyric structures, but my ear had been trained to hear rhythm and rhyme in a way that continues to serve me more than 40 years later. These sonnets were written during what could be called a cool-off lap after translating about 70 sonnets by Borges for his complete sonnets, to be published in 2010 by Penguin. While they are not formal sonnets in the strictest sense, I think they are close enough to give an illusion of sonnetude.” (web)

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