Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Strange Fiction 1

1. Fourteen Lines And A Volte: or, Of Sonnets And SF

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,
Then paused.
He spoke again, spoke for a time and then
He paused
Again. I listened as he started up once more
And paused.
And then went on to bore us all. It was as if the way
He paused
Was just to add a sense of weight, as if
A pause
Is somehow deeply meaningful, as if
That pause
Is not just fucking ponderous, as if there's any reason why
That pause

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 blah blah.
Blah blah.
Fucking pause.

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?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like prose in the form of poetry, but I wouldn't know that, as this whole "define it and slap a tag on it, then put it into something we can be happy with" is all about. And who bloody cares if it is a poem, poetry or even prose for all that. It's words, and if you connect you connect, and if you don't then you don't. The importance of a verse to me lies in the words and whether from my side of the reading I can connect, not what it presents itself as.

So why do you pull your hair out with a mess in thinking of such as that? Just curious. I do it too I suppose. Example, i write the words that follow and refuse to slap them into a definition such as prose, poetry, or whatever they would call it because it all takes away from the words to begin with.

here, read, enjoy, and for heavens sake make up a new category for literal works called "Nota Thing, "none of the above thing.

And I lay there, thinking of you. My hand drifted once more, as if there would be something there, next to me in this bed. As though that one time, in all the empty times I had done so secretly, even to myself, as I slid it slowly there, my fingers opening and awaiting, that there would come a grasp. The soft cotton sheet, the bed beneath it, was a tiny hint of solid, compared to the weight of emptiness that seemed to haunt my palm. The damn ache, spilling forth, and seeming to creep from my very bones and pulse lightly, ever so lightly, beneath my skin, while calling a throbbing tune in despair…

Come now and take my hand…

Come now and put out the fire…

Come now to make it go away…

And I waited, listening to this my soul’s chant. One minute, two minutes, a lifetime of minutes my hand would wait, before it closed in instinct, before my hand closed in shame, horrid shame, as though I asked so much than what was deserved once more. Again, my denial setting in, that there ever was that hope. That hope, the one of the time you would be there, grasping my hand. That you would bring me forward, into that unknown future, of all that is unknown to me, all that had called, while inwardly I argued vehemently against such, to a betraying deaf soul, which left me wishing for you. All that had beaten down my walls, digging trenches beneath my solid foundation that was no longer so concrete, but now comparable to straw of so much fairy tale, to slither its way in. That which pierced the surface, with bitter strong line, and a hook that sunk deeply into me, were ripping me asunder, while I lashed at the pain of having been caught at all. That which showed me my bittersweet lesson, of knowing how a chanced fraction of that I run from would make me feel, with that mere allusion of being alive, that mere sensation of being on fire. That hope that has burned and pretended to die before, once more, rising up even greater than before, threatening to consume my sanity as I stood there before the door of the chamber I had built in my heart for you. As I stood there dreading the slam forever, while wanting to axe it to pieces to just…cut it out, take it the hell away.

And I lay there, as I denied all that hope once more. I denied there was a weeping melodious strain, marching its way up my arm. As though its legs were chained, it had to step so heavy, and on the chains the weight of balls, to drag it on in a slow beat sum, and on those balls the very writings that once more I was shackled to this, my sentence of life. The weeping weigh that crept my arm, and slid down snuggly into the muscle of my heart, making it want to cave in upon itself. I denied that weeping one that mourned the tune of slavery so sad, that it evoked within me that rolling inner cry. That rolling inner cry which made my eyes ache in dry sockets that may have burned for yearn of watering once more. I denied I felt that ache which made my neck so heavy, while it threatened to roll up from the very base of my bones beneath the skin, pouring it all forth finally, from those aching eyes. I denied that heavy moist breath, of which I could choke when there was nothing there to choke on. I denied it, all of it, because the truth of knowing how much I wanted you, when you were not there to take my hand, would have surely killed me so, instead of sentencing my soul to the life of misery it already led.

And I lay there, looking into the twilight of the night breaking the dawn, as you break my soul each time. The curtain swayed away, the wind breaking it and pushing it forth, its parting sweep heard to my ears through the mute nothing of a bare room. Then I heard the thunder, knowing it was my thoughts once more that spilled my rumbling cries, and that the heavens had heard and echoed it in some sort of acknowledgement of all things that are felt so deep and left so unfairly unanswered. And my eyes slid closed, as the breath of wind caressed me. I felt the dizzy sway of my slumber creep upon me. That dizzy sway of the soul that is truly tired and then a soft, so intruding, sound appeared to pull my hearing without.

And I lay there, lifting my eyes half-mast; I was so lazy to lift them fully. And there you were before my very sight, not a thread of hair misplaced in the misplaced of its swaying form from the wind. Not a set of eyes less evoking of portals through windows of worlds I rather explore through, leap through, run away through and be lost into the oblivion they seemed to offer me. My heart was a lazy beat of prowling beasts, which bask the sunlight in only places I have dreamed to dwell but once to see. I watched you come forward as though a simple walk was nothing, nothing to one of grace and style of simply being there. What is a walk, when a mere presence is more noticed, but I noticed the walk, because to do so would not be true to what I should notice, and all that should notice encompassed the whole of your presence. You seemed to glide, not stride, but not float all at the same time. I admired, oh how I admired, the caged and leashed bestial soul I knew hidden beneath those right fitting clothes. Those, only made for you, clothes meant nothing in the way of things, but that they fit you so well and locked away all that a set of prying eyes would dare to dream see.

The distraction held me well, so well in fact, that when next I noticed, I was surprised that I had known all along you were going to be there. There right by the side of the bed nothing but inches, but my mind had played the trick you see…the trick of evasion in case of the rebellion it knew me so well for. So you had your chance, you had your moment, you had your coup de grace, and my lips screamed a shouting crescendo, when met with the full basking of the loving hug you deigned to place on them, before I realized I had no breath, that you had swept it from me. Before I opened my mouth, only to me submerged beneath a wall of taste I never knew could surpass any food that cured many hungers I had fed before. Before your eyes looked deeply into my own, our lips closing and parting, humming of the duel of dancing tongue, still wanting to do the duel once more, still wanting the twine of divine, and you…looking at me. While your hands slid into my hair, while you said to me…I am here…all before my very own soul knew the bastard truth that …that…no, you were not there, and this, all of this, it was a dream. A dream that met my sorrow of sorrows of never be. That is when I rose up into the gap between you and I, that barely measured inch, and I kissed you for all that it was worth. I kissed you because I could kiss you. Because you were my dream and mine for only that moment before you seemed to fade away, right there, slipping from my hand, slipping through the reality of my waking mind, and it’s damn needful strive of knowing what is and what is.

And there, laying on my bed, with my hand out, I let my hand drift slowly, and there…I cried aloud, breaking my summer song into a summer storm. And the lightening was the only glow left in this night. Then, in the long shadows between the night and day, chased away with the coming of dawn’s sun, I asked myself once more for truth in which I rather hide. And there, my hand closed in denial, but my answer had gone duly noted deep within.

7:58 am  

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