Follow-Up on Teaching Sonnets | Wanderings in the Labyrinth

Aug 22, 2013 @ 10:15:42

One thing at a time. :-)

It’s been my experience that students can count syllables, and get 10 syllables into a line, far easier than they can match the iambic pentameter. The iambic pentameter only came for me after about thirty sonnets — so I think it’s less of a priority. We want students to get over three hurdles first: writing fourteen lines, writing a rhyme scheme, and writing ten syllables in a line. The iamb can come later, because it’s a “sounds like this” issue, which gets solved by kids who care about writing more than one or two.

I could have sworn that it was Dershowitz, but it’s now been at least a decade since I read the report, and the name of the lawyer has long since escaped me. It was about the time of the O.J. Simpson trial, as I recall, or before, so it may not be on the Web — given that it was 1994. It was a profile of a prominent lawyer of the era, might have been Harper’s magazine or The Atlantic…

As for your sonnet sequence, I like it. It conveys feelings of doubt and uncertainty, and solitude; but it’s very much rooted in internal feeling and abstract language, rather than in the macrocosmic world of objects and things and processes. I tend to lean more into the world of objects than you, but it may be an advantage in the poetry world these days.

via Follow-Up on Teaching Sonnets | Wanderings in the Labyrinth.


David Emeron
Aug 22, 2013 @ 07:52:34

Thank you for reviewing my sequence. Re the subject matter, such as it was, perhaps I was in a bad mood that day : ) Still, I am not quite sure what you mean from “macroscopic” [macrocosmic–damn my old eyes!] onward.

But… on a more concrete topic, I fear I may have painted myself into a corner having used a set of words for two sonnets each. In each pair, I picked a known–or devised–form. And used the same words reversed (as reversed as possible) to write a reversed form as well (as reversed as possible as the form would allow.) These are:

1 and 2, Italian and reverse
3 and 4, Spenserian and reverse
5 and 6, an original form, and reverse (I dare say someone else must have written in this form, as I cannot imagine anything sonnet-wise not having been explored already–therefore I only humorously refer to it as “Emeronian!”)

In retrospect, I seem to have written each pair as a two-sides-of-the-same-coin, style of thing. I did not set out to do this, but clearly it has happened of its own accord. In any case, unless I break with the pattern, I will be limited to how many such pairs I may include.

David Emeron
Aug 22, 2013 @ 07:52:34

I am at a loss to explain why you eschew iambic pentameter in your form exercise, as you say, “even if the poem makes no sense.” Although “One thing at a time” might be a guess at your answer–which certainly would make a degree of sense. Still the iambic rhythm is most definitely a thing to get ones head around.

I have done a similar thing more times than I can count–though not as an exercise so much as a method. The only difference is that I have my subject matter chosen either before I revisit the rhyming words I chose, or long before I choose them. In this way, I forget for the most part what subject I have chosen when I choose the words. Although, as you might guess, sometimes any foreknowledge will affect my word choice somewhat. Still it is very enjoyable to have already decided what your sonnet is all about and what point you ultimately wish to make and weave the random words into it. It is not so difficult as one might think.

Still, I was recently inspired to write a new sequence of sorts, which at the time of this comment currently sits at six. This is more along the lines of what you describe. I let the story develop out of my subconscious on its own simply letting phrases of iambs and lines of pentameter just pop into existence practically of their own accord. In any event, the result of this you may find here, if you find you have an interest (and/or wish to report it to any theoretical evil overlords with which you may, or may not, have congress ; )

By the way, I have had an inquiry or two regarding Mr. Dershowitz’s sonnets. As such, I have made a number of inquiries into this. And there is nothing I can find. Nothing from google or Wikipedia. Nothing from the portal within Amazon to look for something published. I found nothing on Mr. Dershowitz’s own website. The only hit I found was via Bing which is on your previous sonnet post wherein I commented and we had a bit of a discussion. Perhaps it was a different attorney? I can imagine Mr. Bailey writing a couple of sonnets in a day; and of course Mr. Cochran’s penchant for rhyme is well known, so perhaps he is a possibility as well?

I have written a bit of a post touching on this among other things, although the subject of Mr. Dershowitz was only a minor element. In it I quip that I was unable to find any evidence of Mr. Dershowitz’s Sonnets, and that If I were, for example, a marxist operative who wanted a particular poet to stop writing, I might concoct something of the like in the hope that it might demoralise the fellow : ) I also add that I find it hard to fathom that anyone, marxist or otherwise, would have any concern whatsoever about my four hits per day! At the very least, I should think that any such person on a payroll or stipend would attempt to align himself with someone much more well known. Someone in Hollywood, or a well published author, for example.

But in all seriousness, do you, in fact, have a clue to the actual man in question if in fact it was not Mr. Dershowitz?

David Emeron
Sep 17, 2013 @ 04:41:26

I missed this long written reply! I am sorry. Somehow magically you have written your reply in the bit to which I have already replied, thus confounding wordpress’s already dodgy mechanisms.

I sometimes wonder, on a previous subject, that we expect so little of students. Not you so much, nor I. But…. more or less all of us together. I make this comment because I happened a few decades ago to come into possession of a reading text aimed at nine/ten-year-olds which at this writing, makes it roughly a century and a half old–or would do, if I still had it in my possession. I’m afraid it has disappeared along with a sock or two in all the moves we’ve made over the years, and/or is stuck in an unpacked box somewhere.

At the same time, I had a modern reading text designed for writing students in first or second year of college–nineteen/twenty-year-olds; this would have been used in a standard “college comp” course. I was shocked (and dare say, a bit delighted) that the reading selections as well as the discussion questions and essay prompts were of a virtually identical level.

My state of delight was due to the fact that my penchant for pattern recognition had predicted cold, hard, fact–yet again. I recall I had looked around for something like this to either prove or disprove my, at the time, unsupported notion that education has been on a downward spiral since the mid-late 1800s. To this end, I had a gentleman’s wager of sorts with a professor of mine. (At the time, I was engaged in one of my forays into the humanities–these that happen periodically whenever I despair at the woeful state of my own education) The above volume won me my bet, gave me my proof–beyond all my expectations, and more to the point, the resultant essay earned me an ‘A.’ Among these three vindications, I cannot now say which was the more gratifying, but perhaps that latter, because of my delight that the learned and gentle lady did not see fit to downgrade me–or at least did not yield to any such temptation.

via Follow-Up on Teaching Sonnets | Wanderings in the Labyrinth.

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