Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets - 5/21

A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets were written over a bit less than three months in 1996; the date on each poem indicates when it was written. I remember them as being pretty spontaneous overall. As I mentioned earlier this month, I'll post these sonnets here on the dates they were written as a sort of 13 year anniversary.

I’m sure I envisioned more than seventeen sonnets, which is an odd number to end on, literally & otherwise, but in August I hit a wall. The poem dated 8/1 was the last thing wrote until writing “She Sells Seashells” in 2002; I then “put down the pen” again (only figuratively—I’ve pretty much only written on a computer keyboard for a number of years) until the spring of 2008.

The summer of 96 was significant to me both because I was nearing my 40th birthday in September (I think decade birthdays tend to be times of reflection), & also because I traveled from San Francisco back to Charlottesville, VA in July. I believe the 7/18 & 7/23 sonnets both were written on that trip. Since my time in Charlottesville (from 84-89) had been filled with all sorts of psychic commotion, the trip was a bit of a pilgrimage. Of course, the past—as always—had slipped away from any sort of tangibility into memory, where it’s both lost & ever present….

Some people assumed at the time the sonnets were being written that the character “Marlowe” was literally intended to be Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe character. Though I am a big Chandler fan & read him a lot around this time, this was at most a piece of the puzzle. I liked the name in general, & I also had the (reputedly) dissolute Elizabethan poet in mind along with the fictional LA detective. There also are both autobiographical & imagined details contained in the character quite separate from either of those two figures.

One final note—just because I liked the way it looked, I abbreviated state names in these poems: VT=Vermont, VA=Virginia, etc. When I gave readings I would say the state name, not the abbreviation. It seems a little confusing when used for Vermont because I don’t believe town names are ever mentioned alongside the abbreviation. I still keep this quirk up, along with my passion for dashes as sole punctuation & a few spellings that I like but some may or may not find like a tic; same goes for me & ampersands!

The streets referred to are in San Francisco, mostly either in the Mission or the Western Addition (or betwixt & between the two)— the places I loved to hang out & live in those days.

The first sonnet was dated 5/21. Here it is:


A badminton net in a VT backyard afflicted with a
Rosicrucian sunset & an outbreak of communist mosquitos
buzzing a Manachevitz buzz in Mr Marlowe’s a-
symmetrical ears— & a transistor radio

perched in a scotch pine sporting superfluous
shades & crooning Blue Bayou— which is likewise
superfluous— as Baltimore Orioles
swooping into the hedge to roost make Marlowe think

Descartes was right for no particular reason
except he’s cadaverous drunk & shouldn’t be lounging
in the tattered green & white lawn chair after all

his eyes floating westward plasmic inside a spectacular
bronze Chevy Malibu 15 miles east of Needles
where shuttlecocks & fortune cookies are likewise dissolving

© John Hayes 1996-2009


  1. Do you feel like a different person now? Your poems from the 1990's have such a different tone.

    It's wonderful that you have such a wide range of perspective and emotion in your writing.

    Beautiful. Thanks.

  2. Hi Reya:

    Yes, I don't think the sort of hard edge is there anymore, or not much. I think as one gets older the distance from the core emotion diminishes, & the emotion is less mediated. I also think that about music-- the stuff I play these days is less complicated technically, but that allows for a more direct emotion to come to the surface.

  3. I wrote religiously via journals and diaries most of my life, but took a major hiatus from 2003 to 2008. Five years of memoir all but lost. It was a time of tremendous change and transition - it was hard to write. I still journaled some, but I wasn't telling the truth in my writing. I always fear the block that stretches on for years...

    This sonnet reminds me that often poetry must be studied and experienced. We can't just read it and move on - not if you expect to receive its gifts. Like all art, we have to return to it again and again.

    Have you heard of Where you publish quality hardback book for around $30. You might want to check it out.

  4. 'Cadaverous drunk' is a wonderful image.great poem John,you are a truly great poet,you make even 'Sonetts' sound like real life gritty popetry. Love it!!

  5. Hi Jen & TFE:

    Jen: I can't say I'm familiar with the term "French Sonnet," but there is something called a "Sonnet Redoublé, which would be a very complicated form, & perhaps that's what he was referring to. I've never tried that one.

    TFE: Thanks-- I thought you'd like that one!

  6. I love the word superfluous. And, hey, I was also born in 1956!

  7. Hi Willow:

    Cool-- it was a good year!

  8. Descartes sounds like "My Typical Weekend"!

  9. Hey Tony:

    All I can say to that is "wow."


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