from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday 17 June 2011

Radio 4's Poetry Workshop and 13-line sonnets

On a Sunday at the end of July (more anon) Radio 4 will be presenting a new 4-part series called Poetry Workshop. Hosted by Ruth Padel, each session will be offered from a different part of the country.

Last night we recorded the first one, where members of ExCite, the Exeter Poetry Society Stanza group, were the pioneers/guinea pigs. Lawrence Sail was co-hosting this one, and I was one of the four Westcountry poets to have a poem workshopped by Padel, Sail and an invited audience of about a dozen poets.

Our session had as its focus landscape poetry (and we aptly met in the C14th White Hart hotel, where W G Hoskins, he of the landscapes of the English countryside fame, used to drink); and opened with a poem by Alice Oswald, who lives near Totnes, which we all discussed.

My own poem was a 13-line sonnet (I call it the fibonacci sonnet form). The chosen poet wasn't allowed to speak about their own poem until after the feedback. It was an interesting process, and the poets were quick to see the areas in the poem that I was hesitant about myself, which confirmed the accuracy of my hesitation. I wasn't sure how many people realised it was a sonnet form I was using; but since hardly anyone (anyone?) writes in a 13-line sonnet form that wasn't all surprising.

As I've assigned rights on that poem to R4, I can't reproduce it here yet, but I want to mention two brilliant essays on the sonnet by Don Paterson (including his thoughts on the 13-line sonnet, which I find very inspiring given my seduction by the Fibonacci sequence ['phi' in terms of its mathematical formula], and the sense that it underpins as a harmonious pattern so much more than we already know that it does, as in eg music, art, architecture, natural forms like pine cones, sunflower seed patterns, nautilus and snail shell spirals and so on and so on). One essay prefaces his 101 Sonnets, and the other is an afterword in his versions of Rilke's Orpheus. If you are interested in poetry and the relevance, at least in terms of knowing about it, the sonnet form, I can't recommend those erudite essays highly enough.

I'm not generally very keen on formal poetry, but there is something unique about the sonnet form, and something very dynamic and pleasing in the 13-line one with the usual volta after 8 lines, and the 5 rather than 6 lines in the second stanza corresponding so beautifully to the sequence.

Anyway, more about all that another time.

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