Thus far I have taken this series of posts on love poems very seriously, largely because well, love is pretty serious isn’t it? The intensity of the experience and the joy and pain that love brings are hardly a laughing matter most of the time. Don’t misunderstand me; you can have an awful lot of fun being in love. But even in its lighter moments, I think love moves us in a way that goes to the most sensitive and fragile parts of our being. People describe the act of falling in love as ‘scary’, as the act of giving ourselves wholly to someone else makes us so vulnerable that it isn’t something we do lightly.
But the wonderful Julia Copus, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and David Constantine, the poets in my first three posts on this subject, have expressed those moments when love cuts literally to the heart of us so well, that I couldn’t resist something a little more humorous; more of an exercise in writing a love poem.
Billy Collins’ poem ‘Sonnet’ isn’t deeply moving but it is still a ‘love poem’, almost to love poetry itself. He is, in a sense, just entertaining us with a sonnet about the different ways in which the sonnet form has been shifted to suit the poet holding the pen. A poem about writing poetry. However, I also think he is taking a pot shot at poets who strive so hard to write a poem to their love in sonnet form that it becomes a puzzle to be solved - words slotted in to fit the rhyme scheme or metre, as much as a genuine reflection of feeling.
Anyway, I like it. I hope this video in which you can hear Billy Collins read the poem works on here, as the poet’s voice does add a little something. The vision of Petrarch in his ‘crazy medieval tights’ (although I rather think he was more of a robe man…) is bit of a giggle for another dreary Monday morning…
Sonnet – Billy Collins
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love’s storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.
The last in my series (can I bear to end it? I have loved choosing these poems!) will be a sonnet, an absolutely brilliant one. It will be up on St Valentine’s Day itself. Lets see if you can guess who it is by…..