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Tony Grist

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A Note On The Sonnets [Sep. 6th, 2008|01:33 pm]
Tony Grist
A lightbulb just went on. I've been approaching the sonnets as romantic or confessional poems (which is how they've usually been treated in the tradition) when what they actually are is highly decorated pieces of Renaissance craft-  poems about poetry- objects of vertu- with very little true feeling in them.  The "lovely youth" was a patron who was paying to be flattered and the "dark lady" little more than a literary construct.  But is that bad? Any of it?  Of course not. Or only if you're expecting Shakespeare to be Sylvia Plath....
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Comments:
From: nostoi
2008-09-06 04:35 pm (UTC)
I don't believe so. Surely a beautifully constructed piece (be it poetry or sculpture or whatever)can be appreciated solely for what it is.

Emotion can add resonance and meaning, but I'm not sure that it is a necessary requirement in itself.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-06 06:08 pm (UTC)
Exactly.

The thing is to approach the work without preconceptions or prejudice- a very difficult thing to do.
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From: saskia139
2008-09-06 05:12 pm (UTC)

I haz the perfect icon

This is very similar to what Mark Musa has to say about Dante's Vita Nuova, which he has translated (and the Comedy also--though I don't like his version of either). The VN, he says, is not fundamentally a book about a youthful romance, but a book about the craft of poetry.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-06 06:10 pm (UTC)

Re: I haz the perfect icon

I don't know Dante- except by report- but, yes, these guys weren't writing autobiography- at least not as we know it.

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From: saskia139
2008-09-06 06:47 pm (UTC)

Re: I haz the perfect icon

I had the good luck to discover Dante as a teenager, all on my own, and have loved him ever since. He's a cranky, uppity bastard and a brilliant poet.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-09-06 11:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your insight. Now I shall have to re-read the sonnets without wondering about the "romance" factor. A whole new perspective!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-07 09:01 am (UTC)
I've set myself the task of reading them all in sequence- something I've never done before. Maybe I'll change my views, maybe not.
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[User Picture]From: brttvns
2008-09-07 09:36 pm (UTC)

Sonnets

Yes, the 'lovely youth' was a patron, and if the 'dark lady' was little more than a literary device what does that matter? If the passion on the page affects the reader in the way that the writer intended then surely the poet has done his job. It may be argued that the content, in such circumstances, is void of true emotion, or even hypocritical - bah, I say. For the praises and passions conveyed in the sonnets (and let us not just restrict this argument to them) prove the writer's passion. If a poet writes of the tangible, the ideal, or the metaphysical, the passion is still very real and even more so if it is successfully conveyed to the reader.
And who would want Shakespeare to be Plath? Could you imagine her versions of Twelfth Night or A Midsummer Nights Dream? Shocking!
Cheers
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-08 11:10 am (UTC)

Re: Sonnets

I agree. The idea that poetry reflects- or should reflect- authentic personal experience is a romantic idea. You find it first in people like Coleridge. And I think it has seriously distorted our view of what poetry is and does.

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