Some might find it an odd pairing, Ogden Nash and Sir Thomas Wyatt. But the two could not be better mates in my opinion as poets, as each loved a bit of a riddle, mixed heavily with their rhyme. I find more humor when I look for it; in life and in poetry. Why must sonnets be stuck with the reputation as “serious” poetry? What stodgy English department proclaimed that the sonnet has to be “classic” verse? It’s only because we allow ourselves as readers to be buffaloed into believing such a thing, that we accept it to be true. We the reader are the one placing lofty expectations on the fourteen line form because we have been misled into thinking that’s what we are required to do. Generations of high school and college literature classes have boxed the sonnet into a corner. Maybe it’s time we unpacked the sonnet from it’s historical baggage, time to set the sonnet free.
There is a solution for friends of the sonnet; read the sonnet above through a different lens, a lens that you are reading a comedy, it may be a tragic comedy, but a comedy. Have you ever written a sonnet or tried to write a sonnet? If you have, you can speak from experience there is a moment during its creation where you recognize the silliness of it all – 10 syllables, 14 lines, rhymes all in their proper place. How could it not go off the rails a bit from drama into comedy, if for no other reason than to break the tension? Next time you are inspired to write a sonnet, trying doing it with your tongue set firmly to one side of your mouth as you write to remind yourself of the absurdity of it all and see if it yields a comedic gem along the way.
Most great sonnets have at least one great one-liner contained within them. The question is whether that one line is drama, action adventure, romance, horror, sci-fi, rom-com or stand up comedy? It may be all of them depending on your whim as a reader. But don’t limit your options. Trying reading Shakespeare’s sonnets sometime with the eye of looking for the punch line and then go ahead and laugh at the silliness of it when you find it. Don’t force Shakespeare to be so serious. It’s lots more fun slogging through old English, looking to be inspired by its brilliant comedy, than trying to sleuth out something weighty and intellectual; Oh, where art thou? And like all good comedies, the audience laughs the hardest when it releases the tension of something more serious, something darker. Just look at Ogden Nash.
Progress might have been alright once, but it has gone on too long.
by Ogden Nash
Behold the hippopotamus! We laugh at how he looks to us, And yet in moments dank and grim, I wonder how we look to him.
Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus! We really look all right to us, As you no doubt delight the eye Of other hippopotami
I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.
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