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Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006 12:51 am

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

aroundtownpoem #12

phone rang a youthful voice said
I want to talk to my grandma
I said which grandson is this he said
christopher I said I don’t have a
grandson named christopher but
I’m always glad to talk to a
grandson what shall we talk about
he excused himself politely
though and hung up

© Jacqueline Jackson 2006

Writing a sonnet is an exacting task: 14 lines in iambic pentameter, as in “Today we went to hear the children sing.” There’s a prescribed rhyme scheme depending on whether your sonnet is Petrarchan or Elizabethan. Beyond the mechanics, you’re expected, usually, to say something of relative importance, and after the first eight lines (the octave), the next six — the sestet — are supposed to reflect on the earlier lines with some sort of turn, a higher rise, that makes the reader reflect, too. That’s in the Petrarchan version. In the Elizabethan, the concluding couplet makes your point. All in all, it’s a daunting undertaking, and I haven’t even mentioned the caesura.

William Fairchild does a nice job with the following Elizabethan sonnet. The rhyme and rhythm are right, and he’s using an extended metaphor on a serious subject: Gaea is the classical Greek earth goddess, the mother of all things. Blake has a sequence in his nonsonnet “Tyger, tyger burning bright,” where the words cluster so thickly that you’re forced to slow down almost to a stop, and emphasize: “. . . what dread grasp,/ Dare its deadly terrors clasp?” I’m reminded of Blake’s line in the first line of Fairchild’s final couplet: The words are so dread that he abandons iamb for trochee: in which each syllable is given equal weight and force. “She lies, dress rent, hair torn, ash smeared, distraught . . . ” and this drives home his message with the sledgehammer we are using to destroy our earth. — Jacqueline Jackson, editor

Gaea’s Lament

Sunrise has rent the veil of time again.
Through the tear we see the Earth when she was young:
A golden lass with emerald crown, unstained.
The seeds of trees, and birds, and beasts, she flung

Upon the loam, her womb, and life was born
And grew. The realm was clothed in forest green.
Her world with consciousness she did adorn
And so it was that Man was finally seen.

Yet Adam’s smile concealed a pit of greed.
For Mammon’s sake he raped our precious girl
And stole her gold, and coal, and oil, and freed
From hell Pandora’s Bane upon the world.

She lies, dress rent, hair torn, ash smeared, distraught,
And sings her dirge and weeps, “Was it for naught?”

William Fairchild of Elkhart, now nearing 40, says he’s been “messing with poetry and other creative writing since I was 17.” His poem “Depression” alarmed his English teacher enough for her to recommend he see the school shrink. He’s married, has three little girls, works in the airline business in Springfield, and is the union steward for the Machinists at his location. He says (and the poem shows), “I believe that our lack of attention to issues such as global warming, our disconnect with nature and a sense of entitlement present a major challenge to the long-term viability of modern society.”

Send submissions to Jacqueline Jackson Presents People’s Poetry to poetry@illinoistimes.com or to Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705.

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