Seymour Mayne – Hail: 15 Word Sonnets

[EDITOR'S NOTE. My own concern with minimal forms of poetry & verbal composition goes back to the 1960s & discoveries I was making & creating in Techncians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin & connecting to experiments in our own time by poets like Ian Hamilton Finlay & others connected most specifically with what we were then speaking of as concrete poetry. That there was a complexity of thought & act behind this was another point I had to make – both “there” & “here” – & still that point seemed obvious enough.  I called it, for Finlay & others, “a maximal poetry of minimal means,” & where I got into it myself, I found it helped to cool off, to set another temperature for what was otherwise my work.  It’s with thoughts like this in mind that I approach Seymour Maynes’s long-running project of what he calls & practices as “word sonnets.”  In their one-word verticality I’ve found a strong resemblance too to the look & feel of Chinese poetry that led Ernest Fenellosa to see in the immediacy of the Chinese graphic/visual ideogram (set one per line) “a splendid flash of concrete poetry.”  The following, then, is from Maynes's recent gathering, Ricochet (University of Ottawa Press), composed over a short period of time & conceived by him as a single & unified series. (J.R.)]

PREFACE

 

The word sonnet is a relatively new variation of the traditional form.   In essence, it is a fourteen line poem, with one word set for each line.  Concise and usually visual in effect, this “miniature” version can contain one or more sentences, as the articulation requires.  

 

Each of the word sonnets in the following sequence attempts to be a pithy and suggestive poem in its own right.  Many draw on the seasons and also aim for a compact resonance that may attract the reader to return to them again and again.

 

JANUARY

 

After

the

third

fall

even

the

traffic

trails

away

in

the

thick

sinking

snow.

 

VESSELS

 

I.

 

In

celebration

of

God's

domestic

air,

this

show

of

confetti

stills

the

festive

tongue.

 

II.

 

Flailing

foolscap

shreds

sheet

after

sheet,

each

torn

flake

flying

then

embedding

like

seed.

 

III.

 

Today's

snow

recycles

into

yesterday's

swollen

solar

pumpkin

and

next

season's

crowded

blueberry

bush.

 

LIGHT

 

Who

believes

in

light

everlasting,

enlightening

silence,

darkness

and

the

first

and

final

word?

 

EQUINOX

 

If 

early

light

returns,

is

there

renewed

hope

for

ailing

tongues

rising

in

darkness?

 

HAIL

 

Hail

peppered

the

air

like

seed

as

you

were

lowered

below

the

frost

line.

 

STONE

 

You

have

come

and

gone

and

none

know

your

voice

or

name

but

stone.

 

CROWS

 

The

crows

of

Sandy

Hill

are

much

too

big,

sleek

with

wide

bristling

wings.

 

WIND                                                            

 

From

behind

the

maple

the

sun

flaps

its

blinding

plumage

without

a

waking

cry!

 

DUST

 

The

dust

of

afternoon

fragrance

settles

on

your

skin

and

limbs

grainy

with

touch.

 

PRACTICE RUN

 

What

is

this

sleep?

Practice?

I

put

up

my

feet

to

float

into

reverie.

 

SEPTEMBER RAIN

 

If

the

maple

trees

could,

they

would

dream

of

the

healing

entrance

of

May.

 

FROST

 

Cold

morning,

winter’s

reconnaissance

scouts

out

the

terrain

for

a

sortie

of

sudden

snow.

 

DECEMBER FLIGHT

 

These

starlings

swerve

in

flocks,

turning

their

frantic

wings

towards

the

sun’s

slanting

light.

 

Copyright © 2004 Seymour Mayne.

All rights reserved.