The Sonnet Competition (again)
Sonnets on the theme of 'Distance'
Last summer, I ran a sonnet competition on the theme of ‘Distance’.
After a scrupulously anonymous judging/voting period, some poets have come forward to confess; others have remained elusive. If you wrote one of these sonnets, please tell me! As a treat, I’ve provided AI illustrations for some of them.
For more sonnets from a similar crowd, see my earlier competition on the theme of ‘Salt’.
A quick note on theatre: I’ve been quieter with reviews since starting a new job, which has been busy and exciting. I’ve written elsewhere about a few shows: Semmelweis (hauntingly good), Cabaret Unleashed (excruciating & pornographic), and The Flea (amusing). These have all closed, but if you’re after a show to book in London, I recommend:
Hadestown: magnificent Orpheus/Eurydice jazz musical which I saw on Broadway last year. Opening 10 Feb.
Mean Girls: musical adaptation of the 2004 film. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on loop & it’s extremely . Previews from 5 June.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. To the sonnets!
The bed is cold again. Penelope,
Familiar with his ways, walks to the shore.
When grasped by restlessness, the melody
Of siren-song, or bitter thoughts of war,
Her husband-king comes here. This time, a crowd
Of men are loading ships bound for the sea.
"Don’t leave!" she cries, "Recall your father's shroud,
My nights unpicking stitches, patiently."
But arrows piercing suitors, he remembers,
Girls who twitched like birds, his calloused hands
Unfurling sails, and coaxing warmth from embers,
Tricking monsters, mastering strange lands.
He sees his father's wasted life, a heap
Of royal corpses, fat with age and sleep.
By me, Rachel, @underthenettle. One of the perks of hosting the competition is that I can make you read my sonnet first. I also, embarassingly, received the most votes.
Powell’s (and Poussin’s) Dance, devoured when young,
I’ve mostly danced. How do its measures seem
From this unlikely place where I’ve been flung?
(A happy marriage, like a lucid dream).
I know the things Time’s Music will not mend:
The silenced wit, or the extinguished zeal.
A friend became a lover, then a friend.
Another’s now my antipope: I, she’ll
Tell you, hers. How unimportant, tears,
Pride, anger, shame, and all but literal pain.
I’ll wear my new shirt, owned for forty years,
And by habit ponder once again
The memories of feeling scared and sad
About that difficult young man, my dad.
That very evening, strolling on the strand
As is my wont, I saw a lonely yacht
Upon the mottled sea. Adrift, a dot
Emerged into a man. His waving hand
Was distant - much too far to safely swim
(Admittedly I swim a mile each day -
But what of that? The pool is not the bay.)
To gamble with my life to rescue him
Would be a huge unkindness to the wife
And kids I plan to have. So don’t blame me
There should be lifeboats for so rough a sea.
Of course we all regret this loss of life.
I could do nought, however well I meant,
Therefore, your honour, I plead innocent.
By an unknown poet.
The green hills lie silent beneath the sun,
And around me crowd the dreaming barrows,
My heart seizes and yet I do not run,
Strange faces call my name from dark hedgerows,
That sound is the hot yawn of humming time,
From green wombs the chatter of knocking bone,
Singing out as steeply upwards I climb,
A fossil song, the song of living stone.
“Gentle cousin, is there news of my kin?
Rest upon my hill, picnic upon me.”
From long span of years comes a friendly din,
At the crest I sit and look out to sea,
I am a walker on old ways, old land,
And underfoot is a distant human sand.
I'll walk until my feet hurt, and then more
Until the skin goes numb and peels away
When bone gives way to tender rotten core
I'll crumple on the flowers and there stay.
There's somewhere far from every painful thing
But somehow close enough to those I love.
Already some are far by wheel or wing
One farther: underground, us stuck above.
"Away"'s not where I should be wandering.
The things I've fled have followed me for miles.
To reconcile is often tiring,
But it's not tiredness that reconciles.
I guess I should fly home. But yikes, the rent?!
My childhood friends instead should move to Brent.
Here it is, the house where I was born:
A redbrick cottage on a country lane
Midmost in the valley. Pools were filled with spawn,
Then blackberries were ripening in the rain,
But thirty summers since have dulled the heart
And distanced me from marvels such as these.
Sullen, from the hill the clouds depart,
The hedges climb, the valleys ache with trees.
Slaveboys, Plato said, recall the Forms
And Wordsworth found them blazoned on the Lakes
In youth. From then the soul is wracked with storms
And knows neither what time gives nor what it takes:
Sublunary weather, tending overcast.
The child’s hand outstretched for what may last.
By @SalisburyJohnof. Some good solid yearning, here.
Between the teeming earth and Heaven lies
A distance vast beyond our failing reach.
No human effort can unmake the breach;
Nor through the blue and aery gulfs can rise.
And so we hasten on with feet of clay;
Take worldly physic for unworldly needs.
How fast the glowing horizon recedes -
The godward path is travelled but one way.
Let poetry enliven earthy prose.
Let thistles dream that they are goldenrod.
And for a shining moment let me see,
Though fleetingly and distantly, a God
So merciful His mercy overflows
The lofty bounds of unreality.
By @Dust_Foot. Oof.
In kitchen's realm, where twilight fears reside,
A cheesecake moon, in berry stardust, hides.
Betwixt the leap, a constellation's glide,
A longing song in purring heart abides.
O cosmic jest, to hang such stars so high,
Each tick of time, a comet's fleeting sigh.
For celestial prize, just whiskers shy,
In dance of shadows, 'neath the nebula's sky.
To leap or stay, in this cosmic dance,
A black hole yawns, a jump of trust to chance.
Yet for a bite of stardust's sweet romance,
Sailing on shooting stars, through the expanse.
So here's to cats, to cosmic leaps that astound,
Where the spirit of the hunter forever rebounds.
By an anonymous poet.
Long day I could not fill. One lonely night
I walked (your place from mine) — then walked right by.
I don't need words like "who" when I have "why".
No entry tried although I saw the light.
I crossed a river wondering just when
The journey ends. But rivers never end.
One river back I lost my closest friend.
One river more I think I'll lose again.
Relationships are fields we fill with thought.
Unbound; against my will your thought fills mine.
Perhaps you'll learn that love is not a crime.
Unused, unloved, a winding weed — your lot.
As we go on, we know the road ahead
Is shorter than the memories we shed.
By an anonymous poet.