The following poem is the only one I’ve written in the last year, and was published as part of A Gallery/16, the annual collection of poetry and art published by my alma mater, St Edmund Hall. The theme of the collection was ‘draft’, and I really wanted to play around with the idea – write two poems, each the same until the volta, after which point the poems would change in content, and, consequently, tone. In the collection, the poems would have ideally sat side-by-side, articulating two conflicting moods and outcomes – while giving the reader no opportunity to choose between them.
One of the things I enjoyed most about writing this was playing around with the sonnet form. Typically, sonnets are of course perceived as having 14 lines, and the two most common forms they take are those popularised by Petrarch (Petrarchan) and Shakespeare (Shakespearean). They’re distinguished by different structures and different rhyme schemes, perhaps most notably at the conclusion – Petrarchan sonnets tend not to end with a rhyming couplet, while Shakespeare’s do.
In the nineteenth century, however, a notable third option was created by George Meredith; one of sixteen lines, though often not concluding with a couplet. I ended up – not perhaps as consciously as I would like – trying to borrow aspects of both – Petrarch’s volta, Meredith’s 16-line form, and Shakespeare’s concluding couplet. How successful this experiment was is not for me to decide, but I took pleasure in using a concluding couplet, while refusing to allow that couplet to provide a resolution to the sonnet’s key problem – and actually using the volta to mark a heightening of the turmoil, rather than an attempt to resolve it.
In the end, I found myself unable to access the necessary mood for the second piece in time for the submission deadline – in fact I still have found myself unable to – so the piece stands alone: a draft with no edits, a vision with no revisions.
On Visions, and Revisions
I’ve expected my canvases to fade
once brought to light, by the light weighed.
With strokes of pen I’ve been obliged to think
of the drying, dimming, of dull ink;
when crude-cut hands jut down on jouissant keys
and, joyous, jump like spring-sprung breeze
and notes give throat to two entwinèd visions
that seethe, and breathe, for more revisions…
I know time turns such touches to incisions.
But: if ink starts to fade before it’s dry
if canvases do not dull – but rip
if caresses come to crack keys under night
if phantasms neither float nor fly
on yielding air, but dash, and zip
out of grasping hands before blunt sight
what then to hold? How, then, to write?
Jack N. Moran