"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Monday, January 23, 2017

And tonight I wanted to read a sonnet that fights

“First fight. Then fiddle”
I love the sonnet form, how it can be used to ponder an argument, using the turn and the 14 line constraint to strengthen the paradox or conflict. This wonderful sonnet by Gwendolyn Brooks was chosen by Robert Pinsky in response to the 2016 election for a piece in Slate.com.    

 (Gwendolyn Brooks, from The Womanhood, 1949)

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.
According to Robert Pinsky, "Gwendolyn Brooks’ sonnet from her sequence The Womanhood uses that form to present the relation between art and battle, with their related priorities and demands: a practical, urgent struggle for a black woman poet of Brooks’ lifetime. “To arms, to armor,” she writes, with her fluent mastery of the sonnet form enacting a victory."
Read the four poems from the past that Robert Pinsky collected for readers at Slate.com in response to the 2016 election.

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