Strange Fiction 1
The following is a sonnet, titled "A Sonnet Lumiere":
My love is like a red, red fire,
My heart on flame but out of luck.
You are my death, my funeral pyre.
Ripped out and torn and blown to fuck,
My heart explodes with my desire
To die beneath your monster truck.
I offer this, this tawdry verse
Nail-gun it to my dead eyelids
Then light the fuse, blow up my hearse!
My hopes are krushed; my life is shit.
Put your behemoth in reverse,
Drive over all my shattered bits.
[From here the MS can't be read,
The last two lines reduced to shreds]
It's not Shakespeare, and I'm not sure what class of sonnet the rhyme structure puts it in, but it's fourteen lines and a volte in the last couplet.
The following might be a sonnet... or it might not. It's from a series I've been working on called Still Lives:
Grave me an ode upon a funeral urn,
Sonnets of black and ochre, fine-lined grace
Of classic forms museumed in space
And time. Now put a bullet in it. Turn
And scan history as a war-torn foreign place:
See Babylon fall on your TV sets, see Baghdad burn,
Humvees patrol the road of no return,
The trials of grunts. Soldier... about-face.
Will you paint pictures of sweet fruit to mask sour taste
Of spoiled milk spilled from broken churn?
Or will you, poet, as a panther in the sheepfold, pace,
Savage and true to forms of new rhythms -- fuck the rhyme?
Turn as a corpse behind a car, hung from a streetlight, a dead soldier.
Turn, twist and turn poet; use the sharp edge of the serrated volte.
I include this because in some respects it fits the sonnet form -- fourteen lines and a volte -- but it also deliberately fucks with the conventions. It may not succeed, but what I was trying to do there was have multiple voltes rather than just the one. Question is: is it still a sonnet with more than one volte?
My answer to this is, yes, it is; there's nothing in the rules to say you have to limit yourself to one volte. Others might disagree. I have some sympathy for their argument, because I have a similarly thrawn reaction at times, with certain other types of free verse where... well, let me illustrate it with the following "Ode to a Poet", which is most definitely not a sonnet:
The poet spoke a while,
He spoke again, spoke for a time and then
Again. I listened as he started up once more
And then went on to bore us all. It was as if the way
Was just to add a sense of weight, as if
Is somehow deeply meaningful, as if
Is not just fucking ponderous, as if there's any reason why
Is not just a fucking way of
Fucking breaking fucking prose up
Into bite-size chunks,
Making those fucking bite-size chunks
Sound so fucking important when
It's just some fucking bullshit
With no rhythm and no rhyme,
No fucking poetry or patterning at all,
No literary bite, no verbal claws
Blah blah. Blah blah blah
Blah blah blah, blah blah blah.
I think that we should flay the shite,
Write sonnets in his blood
And then make drums out of his hide,
Sing as we drag his body through the mud.
This does not have fourteen lines and a volte. It is, however, a poem. It's not terribly poetic in places, I grant you. Indeed that second verse is deliberately designed to reflect the type of not-terribly-poetic poetry it is challenging, to simulate the sort of poem that make some of us (on days when we're feeling particularly snarky) mutter darkly, "That's not a bloody poem; it's just prose chopped up into bits."
I include this as illustration of a somewhat reactionary attitude I'm not myself immune to. More extreme and committed reactionaries will often express a similar sentiment in regard to works presented as being of a certain idiom but which, to put it bluntly, fuck with the conventions of said idiom, whether it be poetic or prosaic: that's not a poem because it doesn't rhyme; that's not a story because it doesn't have a proper plot; that's not SF because... well, because it doesn't satisfy some non-negotiable criteria.
Of course, the fact that I present that poem as a poem, means that I'm tacitly accepting that the form of poetry it criticises is nonetheless poetry, that you can indeed chop up prose into bits, lay it out in lines and call it a poem. I just think the result is shite. I like my poetry to have the sort of formal structures of the sonnet. I reckon a sonnet does have to follow the rules. I also want to fuck with those rules, to add extra voltes, or breach the tightly strictured rhyme scheme, to do something extra twisty.
Yes, I'm conflicted.
The point is that what I'm trying to illustrate here is the difference (and conflict) between aesthetic forms founded in negotiable conventions (e.g. the poem) and aesthetic forms founded in non-negotiable requirements (e.g. the sonnet).
The question I'm leading to is this: is SF more like the poem or the sonnet, in terms of its aesthetic formality?