Thursday, April 13, 2006

Poetry Discussion Group Anyone?

Jesse and I were talking about traditional poetry after liturgy yesterday evening, and he suggested we start a poetry discussion group and that I assign him some readings. Whether or not we do start a poetry discussion group (which would certainly be fun!), I can certainly suggest a few good traditional poems to read. I suggested to Jesse that we start with some of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?
Sonnet XXIX: When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes
Sonnet LXXIII: That Time of Year thou mayst in me Behold
Sonnet CXVI: Let me not to the Marriage of True Minds
Sonnet CXXX: My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing like the Sun

Things to look for:
  • shift in focus from octave (first eight lines) to sestet (last six lines)
  • common themes and conventions and/or subversion/inversion of common themes and conventions
  • ideal sonnet structure (14 lines, iambic pentameter, etc.) and meaningful departures from that structure
It might also be profitable to compare these with some second-rate sonnets of the time (links anyone?) and/or to other first-rate ones like these, by Edmund Spenser:

Amoretti LXXV: One Day I Wrote her Name
Amoretti XXII: This Holy Season

Or, if we want also to consider some sonnets that are somewhat more appropriate to the season, may I also suggest the following, by George Herbert:

Love (I)
Love (II)

As well as, of course, these, from John Donne's Holy Sonnets:

Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person'd God
Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud

9 comments:

The Pleasant Peasant said...

you picked good sonnets! I studied those shakespeare sonnets during my highschool english career - "death, be not proud" as well. this will test how much I remember.

hunchback scholar said...

I'm on it, chief.

thomasw said...

sounds too much like what I do at work...

thomasw said...

...but I do love the material.

Paul said...

Hey, if you need any contemporary second-rate to BAD sonnets, just let me know and I will supply you with some.

Anything to help!

churchmouse said...

okay, so....Is it me, or does anyone else feel baffled by the combination of the word "poetry" with the word "discussion"?

isn't it in some ways an oxymoron?

Poetry speaks for itself! That's the point of poetry! Poetry is for being read and savoured and by all means repeated aloud in group contexts. But disCUSSED? What are all your thoughts on this?
I'm still a little bitter about having to write a critical analysis of a beautiful poem for English 103.

But, really, I'm just pouting because I can't be there.

Have fun guys.

Simply Victoria said...

no, churchmouse, I must concur with you here. To me, it's a bit like dissecting a butterfly in order to more fully analyse its beauty.
Just read it.(although I do love to pontificate about my favourite poets, such as william carlos william, denise levertov, e.e.cummings, shel silverstein, billy collins, rilke, etc., so count me in!)

MatDonna said...

I'm just plain too lazy for dissecting poetry any more! After nearly ten years as Poetry Editor at the Handmaiden, I decided enough with the poetry already, and resigned to spend more time working on my own fiction. At least this discussion is about GOOD traditional poetry, which no-one knows how to write any more-- I hardly ever accepted any rhymed poetry for the Handmaiden because what was submitted was usually such doggerel. There was a much better chance of getting publishable free verse, though sometimes I did get "poems" that were nothing but prose arranged in lines for no discernable reason.
But I do think it's good to dissect poetry before you learn to write it, and try rhymed and metered or other formal types, before going on to free verse. Colour inside the lines first to sharpen up your technique before taking off the training wheels (that was an abominable mix of cliched metaphors-- don't do this at home, boys and girls! ;-)

hunchback scholar said...

Fr Justin
Can we wait until after Pascha to start our discussion group? I've never been very good at multi-tasking . . .

And in response to the naysayers: it is precisely the incompatability of my love for poetry with the general treatment of it by the English establishment that I'm trying to resolve. After years of first tormenting all my English teachers and then abandoning them altogether, I've finally learned that there's a lot I just can't teach myself, and I'm trying to make peace with the Tradition . . . I sincerely hope this will be completely unlike the poetry discussions that alienated us all.