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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Couplet of Sonnets


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When you've shed all illusion,
if you find only confusion,
where will you look to make sense
of a reality so dense?
Is it truly a hopeless cause?
Will we never delight in seeing
the core essence of our being
Laid out, bare, to logic's claws?
Take care, you may not want to see
exactly what it means: "to be"

But if you're truly a brave soul
and wont shrink from your goal
If you've grit, and persevere,
abandon all your hope and fear.
You'll find that everything's explained,
from the deepest trenches of your pain
to the ecstasy you find in gain,
without the self you've so maintained.
Do you have the honesty
to revise the thing called "me?"

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A couple of inspiring things: 44 at the CAC yesterday was amazing. Jim Swill is the most expressive individual, and probably the best writer I've ever been face to face with. He's got a scary depth of passion an energy. He pulls out genuine, strong emotions and shows them to the audience. I get the impression that he's not acting, that he feels it.

I've not yet fully parsed his message though. A quote I really like and can relate to: "we are ships within ships, with no understanding of where the ocean ends," relating the the multitude of selves in each person. But then, He looses me when he talks about the Oneness of humanity. On the one hand he's asked us to recognize the fragmentaryness of "individuals," but he also wants us to accept the non-fragmentaryness of humanity as a whole. I'm not yet sure if I definately disagree, or if I'm missing a connection.

At any rate, he put on a phenomenal show. The CAC lobby has glass walls on two sides that look out on the street, so people on the outside could see it as well. Watching regular-folks' open-mouthed reaction to the bizzareness was entertaining as well as ironic, since part of the point was to expose and condem the very social norms that made their jaws drop.

So that show provided some of the conceptual juice for the sonnets above. The formal structure (the pith, if you will) was provided by Le Ton Beau De Marot. I find Hofstadter a great refresher during study breaks, and I was just reading his discussion of Eugene Onegin, the Russian novel in verse. I've never been especially enthusiastic about poetry, particularly not super-constrained forms like the sonnet. But with DRH's guide to EO, I get it. The english translations of Onegin are probably the first sonnets that I've understood well enough to be able to enjoy, and I've come to understand the joy that can be taken in the subtle interplay of form and content.

With those things in mind, I set aside my SAS printouts momentarily and wrote those lines in the back of my notebook. And, to my amazement, I think they're pretty good sonnets. I'm not sure about the meter, but I think its at least close. As I was finishing the first stanza, I realized that it could be construed as a letter from my current self, sent back in time to my self of four our five years ago.

Update: I should note that I was shooting for the Pushkin sonnet form. I didn't have an example on me at the time, so I ended up a quatrain short on each. Oh well; call this a Murphy verse.