Thursday, February 7, 2013


I've been putting together a new edition of my Collected Sonnets for publication, and was going to include this squib below as an afterword, but didn't . . .  I post it here instead, for what it's worth—

Around 2000, Rain Taxi Magazine interviewed me and one of the questions they asked was why I was writing sonnets.  My answer (somewhat edited):

Like some others of my generation, I wrote short poems in the 1960s under the influence of Robert Bly . . . but then in 1971, as a result of reading Paz and Tomlinson’s book, Renga, I started working with the sonnet.  The short poems had led to an interest in haiku and tanka, but I felt unable to write these authentically, they were so indigenous to Asian culture and so foreign to mine.  Pound and the Imagists, although greatly influenced by these forms, rarely pursued them per se: how many actual haiku/tanka/renga did they write?—not a lot that I've seen.  —And then Renga was published and had an immediate impact on me.   To quote from Paz’s forward: “Looking for a western equivalent of the renga, one thinks of the sonnet . . . it is composed, like the tanka, of semi-independent and separable entities.”  From the Paz book I began to think of the sonnet as a putatively composite form, a sort of 'solo renga' or elongated tanka.  Quatrain, quatrain, tercet, tercet: these units [could be] autotelic, self-enclosed . . .  I would take four isolate bits written at different times and juxtapose them, sometimes arbitrarily, sometimes purposefully.  And gradually, over the years, this collagiste method has resulted in quite a few of the sonnets I’ve done, though many others were composed in a less piecemeal fashion.   But I think too of the sonnet in this way: it’s like going to the art supplies store and buying a lot of canvases all the same size, a size appropriate for your studio (or mental) space.  In other words, it’s handy.  Though like all conveniences it has the potential danger of being too easy, too readily and reliably a temptation shortcut.  And doubtless I have succumbed to that fault at times.


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