You get early inoculation against the idea of success if you're a poet. When I published my first collection of sonnets, I sold about five copies; now kids study them for A level. Wanting to be successful in that other world of money or fame is not interesting. Poetry isn't like that, and it never has been.
I don't think I can really believe in doomsday; I could hardly believe in rewards and punishments, in heaven or hell. As I wrote down in one of my sonnets - I seem to be always plagiarizing, imitating myself or somebody else for that matter - I think I am quite unworthy of heaven or of hell, and even of immortality.
Jorge Luis Borges
We all had such larks. Yes, it was hard work but the friendships and the genuine respect we had for one another, that side I shall miss greatly. I've stopped acting, but I don't think I've finished using my voice. I could, and probably will, record the whole of Shakespeare's sonnets. They live at the side of my bed and are my constant companions.
I am a close friend of Robert Loggia. And I just love how, with actors, there's the screen persona. Here is Robert, known for his portrayal of many characters, including gangsters. But in real life, he is elegant and erudite. He sits in the garden reading the sonnets of William Shakespeare.
We are made aware that magnitude of material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet. Thus, in his sonnets, the lays of birds, the scents and dyes of flowers, he finds to be the shadow of his beloved; time, which keeps her from him, is his chest; the suspicion she has awakened, is her ornament
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I built up these lumber piles of love, and with fourteen boards each I built little houses, so that your eyes, which I adore and sing to, might live in them. Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender this century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life.
Oh, there are no living poets, Miss Van Damn. We're not entirely sure there ever were. They've found some shreds of sonnets in England and, embedded in a chalk wall of a cave in France, some yet undetermined thing which might be the legendary inward eye. But all evidence, such as it is, suggests that, if there ever were poets, they were all burned into extinction during the interglacial period of despair.
Dancing, is, for the most part, attended with many amorous smiles, wanton compliments, unchaste kisses, scurrilous songs and sonnets, effeminate music, lust provoking attire, ridiculous love pranks, all which savor only of sensuality, of raging fleshly lusts. Therefore, it is wholly to be abandoned of all good Christians.
I have discovered the most exciting, the most arduous literary form of all, the most difficult to master, the most pregnant in curious possibilities. I mean the advertisement. It is far easier to write ten passably effective Sonnets, good enough to take in the not too inquiring critic, than one effective advertisement that will take in a few thousand of the uncritical buying public.
Sweetheart, darling, dearest, it was funny to think that these endearments, which used to sound exceedingly sentimental in movies and books, now held great importance, simple but true verbal affirmations of how they felt for each other. They were words only the heart could hear and understand, words that could impart entire pentameter sonnets in their few, short syllables.
My friends, tonight we bring you something entirely different. Something special. The poets will rest, the sonnets will be silent, and what words of love there are will not be spoken. Tonight, my friends, and I can hear you out there, sitting alone, like me, in your chairs, your beds, driving down an empty street with no one but me to listen to your weeping; tonight, I'm going to bring you Armageddon.
I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come out of him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve. ...I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.
People frequently comment on the emptiness in one night stands, but emptiness here has always been just another word for darkness. Blind encounters writing sonnets no one can ever read. Desire and pain communicated in the vague language of sex.None of which made sense to me until much later when I realized everything I thought I'd retained of my encounters added up to so very little, hardly enduring, just shadows of love outlining nothing at all.
Mark Z. Danielewski
I mean this is the kind of love people dream about, poets write sonnets for, and well it's the kind of love that keeps people from losing faith in humanity and encourages people to believe that true love still exists and it's still powerful and still wonderful. (Quote from a reviewer of Loving Lily Lavender)
No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath... We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?" -Donald Miller,Through Painted Deserts
What are the precise characteristics of an epigram it is not easy to define. It differs from a joke, in the fact that the wit of the latter dies in the words, and cannot therefore be conveyed in another language; while an epigram is a wit of ideas, and hence, is translatable. Like aphorisms, songs and sonnets, it is occupied with some single point, small and manageable; but whilst a song conveys a sentiment, a sonnet a poetical, and an aphorism a moral reflection, an epigram expresses a contrast.
I suppose poets have written sonnets for a thousand years about being in love. A lot of people say, 'I love my husband, I love my wife,' but I believe they really mean they're in love with their husband or wife, which is quite different from loving your dog. I loved her, I thought she was charming. I respected her intellect She could get a rock to follow her down the road. She was captivating. But there was a terrifying side to her that you would never want to rouse. Hopefully, it could be dampened and eased as she had a better life for the first time in her life.
Sonnets To Orpheus, Part Two, XII Want the change. Be inspired by the flame where everything shines as it disappears. The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much as the curve of the body as it turns away. What locks itself in sameness has congealed. Is it safer to be gray and numb? What turns hard becomes rigid and is easily shattered. Pour yourself like a fountain. Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins. Every happiness is the child of a separation it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel, dares you to become the wind.
Rainer Maria Rilke
The woodchopper reads the wisdom of the ages recorded on the paper that holds his dinner, then lights his pipe with it. When we ask for a scrap of paper for the most trivial use, it may have the confessions of Augustine or the sonnets of Shakespeare, and we not observe it. The student kindles his fire, the editor packs his trunk, the sportsman loads his gun, the traveler wraps his dinner, the Irishman papers his shanty, the schoolboy peppers the plastering, the belle pins up her hair, with the printed thoughts of men.
Henry David Thoreau
The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.
Not only to myself or before the mirror or at the hour of my death, which I hope will be long in coming, but in the presence of my children and my wife and in the face of the peaceful life I'm building, I must acknowledge: (1) That under Stalin I wouldn't have wasted my youth in the gulag or ended up with a bullet in the back of my head. (2) That in the McCarthy era I wouldn't have lost my job or had to pump gas at a gas station. (3) That under Hitler, however, I would have been one of those who chose the path of exile, and that under Franco I wouldn't have composed sonnets to the caudillo or the Holy Virgin like so many lifelong democrats. One thing is as true as the other. My bravery has its limits, certainly, but so does what I'm willing to swallow. Everything that begins as comedy ends as tragicomedy.
In the case of Michel Angelo we have an artist who with brush and chisel portrayed literally thousands of human forms; but with this peculiarity, that while scores and scores of his male figures are obviously suffused and inspired by a romantic sentiment, there is hardly one of his female figures that is so, -the latter being mostly representative of woman in her part as mother, or sufferer, or prophetess or poetess, or in old age, or in any aspect of strength or tenderness, except that which associates itself especially with romantic love. Yet the cleanliness and dignity of Michel Angelo's male figures are incontestable, and bear striking witness to that nobility of the sentiment in him, which we have already seen illustrated in his sonnets.
The work of the philosophical policeman, " replied the man in blue, "is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective. The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed. We have to trace the origin of those dreadful thoughts that drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime. We were only just in time to prevent the assassination at Hartlepool, and that was entirely due to the fact that our Mr. Wilks (a smart young fellow) thoroughly understood a triolet.
The Sunlight on the Garden The sunlight on the garden Hardens and grows cold, We cannot cage the minute Within its nets of gold, When all is told We cannot beg for pardon. Our freedom as free lances Advances towards its end; The earth compels, upon it Sonnets and birds descend; And soon, my friend, We shall have no time for dances. The sky was good for flying Defying the church bells And every evil iron Siren and what it tells: The earth compels, We are dying, Egypt, dying And not expecting pardon, Hardened in heart anew, But glad to have sat under Thunder and rain with you, And grateful too For sunlight on the garden.
When sonneteering Wordsworth re-creates the landing of Mary Queen of Scots at the mouth of the Derwent - Dear to the Loves, and to the Graces vowed, The Queen drew back the wimple that she wore - he unveils nothing less than a canvas by Rubens, baroque master of baroque masters; this is the landing of a TRAGIC Marie de Medicis. Yet so receptive was the English ear to sheep-Wordsworth's perverse 'Enough of Art' that it is not any of these works of supreme art, these master-sonnets of English literature, that are sold as picture postcards, with the text in lieu of the view, in the Lake District! it is those eternally, infernally sprightly Daffodils.
Snow-melt in the stream: Mama Nature turning winter's storms into nourishment for the soil, fecundity, and beauty. This is what I must now learn to do with the stormy weather I've been passing through: turn it into beauty, turn it into art, so new life can germinate and bloom. One example of a creative artist who does this is my friend Jane Yolen, who wrote her exquisite book of poems The Radiation Sonnets while her husband was undergoing treatment for the cancer that would eventually claim his life. This is what all artists must do: take whatever life gives us and "alchemize" it into our art (either directly and autobiographically, as in Jane's book, or indirectly; whatever approach works best), turning darkness into light, spinning straw into gold, transforming pain and hardship into what J.R.R. Tolkien called 'a miraculous grace.
We all behave like Maxwell's demon. Organisms organize. In everyday experience lies the reason sober physicists across two centuries kept this cartoon fantasy alive. We sort the mail, build sand castles, solve jigsaw puzzles, separate wheat from chaff, rearrange chess pieces, collect stamps, alphabetize books, create symmetry, compose sonnets and sonatas, and put our rooms in order, and all this we do requires no great energy, as long as we can apply intelligence. We propagate structure (not just we humans but we who are alive). We disturb the tendency toward equilibrium. It would be absurd to attempt a thermodynamic accounting for such processes, but it is not absurd to say we are reducing entropy, piece by piece. Bit by bit. The original demon, discerning one molecules at a time, distinguishing fast from slow, and operating his little gateway, is sometimes described as 'superintelligent, ' but compared to a real organism it is an idiot savant. Not only do living things lessen the disorder in their environments; they are in themselves, their skeletons and their flesh, vesicles and membranes, shells and carapaces, leaves and blossoms, circulatory systems and metabolic pathways - miracles of pattern and structure. It sometimes seems as if curbing entropy is our quixotic purpose in the universe.
The truth is, everyone likes to look down on someone. If your favorites are all avant-garde writers who throw in Sanskrit and German, you can look down on everyone. If your favorites are all Oprah Book Club books, you can at least look down on mystery readers. Mystery readers have sci-fi readers. Sci-fi can look down on fantasy. And yes, fantasy readers have their own snobbishness. I'll bet this, though: in a hundred years, people will be writing a lot more dissertations on Harry Potter than on John Updike. Look, Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction. Shakespeare wrote popular fiction-until he wrote his sonnets, desperate to show the literati of his day that he was real artist. Edgar Allan Poe tied himself in knots because no one realized he was a genius. The core of the problem is how we want to define 'literature'. The Latin root simply means 'letters'. Those letters are either delivered-they connect with an audience-or they don't. For some, that audience is a few thousand college professors and some critics. For others, its twenty million women desperate for romance in their lives. Those connections happen because the books successfully communicate something real about the human experience. Sure, there are trashy books that do really well, but that's because there are trashy facets of humanity. What people value in their books-and thus what they count as literature-really tells you more about them than it does about the book.
THE METAPHYSICAL POETS Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime (Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress) While theatre was the most public literary form of the period, poetry tended to be more personal, more private. Indeed, it was often published for only a limited circle of readers. This was true of Shakespeare's sonnets, as we have seen, and even more so for the Metaphysical poets, whose works were published mostly after their deaths. John Donne and George Herbert are the most significant of these poets. The term 'Metaphysical' was used to describe their work by the eighteenth-century critic, Samuel Johnson. He intended the adjective to be pejorative. He attacked the poets' lack of feeling, their learning, and the surprising range of images and comparisons they used. Donne and Herbert were certainly very innovative poets, but the term 'Metaphysical' is only a label, which is now used to describe the modern impact of their writing. After three centuries of neglect and disdain, the Metaphysical poets have come to be very highly regarded and have been influential in recent British poetry and criticism. They used contemporary scientific discoveries and theories, the topical debates on humanism, faith, and eternity, colloquial speech-based rhythms, and innovative verse forms, to examine the relationship between the individual, his God, and the universe. Their 'conceits', metaphors and images, paradoxes and intellectual complexity make the poems a constant challenge to the reader.
When you start searching for 'pure elements' in literature you will find that literature has been created by the following classes of persons: Inventors. Men who found a new process, or whose extant work gives us the first known example of a process. The masters. Men who combined a number of such processes, and who used them as well as or better than the inventors. The diluters. Men who came after the first two kinds of writer, and couldn't do the job quite as well. Good writers without salient qualities. Men who are fortunate enough to be born when the literature of a given country is in good working order, or when some particular branch of writing is 'healthy'. For example, men who wrote sonnets in Dante's time, men who wrote short lyrics in Shakespeare's time or for several decades thereafter, or who wrote French novels and stories after Flaubert had shown them how. Writers of belles-lettres. That is, men who didn't really invent anything, but who specialized in some particular part of writing, who couldn't be considered as 'great men' or as authors who were trying to give a complete presentation of life, or of their epoch. The starters of crazes. Until the reader knows the first two categories he will never be able 'to see the wood for the trees'. He may know what he 'likes'. He may be a 'compleat book-lover', with a large library of beautifully printed books, bound in the most luxurious bindings, but he will never be able to sort out what he knows to estimate the value of one book in relation to others, and he will be more confused and even less able to make up his mind about a book where a new author is 'breaking with convention' than to form an opinion about a book eighty or a hundred years old. He will never understand why a specialist is annoyed with him for trotting out a second- or third-hand opinion about the merits of his favourite bad writer.
Literature before the Renaissance had frequently offered ideal patterns for living which were dominated by the ethos of the church, but after the Reformation the search for individual expression and meaning took over. Institutions were questioned and re-evaluated, often while being praised at the same time. But where there had been conventional modes of expression, reflecting ideal modes of behaviour - religious, heroic, or social - Renaissance writing explored the geography of the human soul, redefining its relationship with authority, history, science, and the future. This involved experimentation with form and genre, and an enormous variety of linguistic and literary innovations in a short period of time. Reason, rather than religion, was the driving force in this search for rules to govern human behaviour in the Renaissance world. The power and mystique of religion had been overthrown in one bold stroke: where the marvellous no longer holds sway, real life has to provide explanations. Man, and the use he makes of his powers, capabilities, and free will, is thus the subject matter of Renaissance literature, from the early sonnets modelled on Petrarch to the English epic which closes the period, Paradise Lost, published after the Restoration, when the Renaissance had long finished. The Reformation gave cultural, philosophical, and ideological impetus to English Renaissance writing. The writers in the century following the Reformation had to explore and redefine all the concerns of humanity. In a world where old assumptions were no longer valid, where scientific discoveries questioned age-old hypotheses, and where man rather than God was the central interest, it was the writers who reflected and attempted to respond to the disintegration of former certainties. For it is when the universe is out of control that it is at its most frightening - and its most stimulating. There would never again be such an atmosphere of creative tension in the country. What was created was a language, a literature, and a national and international identity.