Since the beginning of 2019 I have been writing “prose sonnets” Matt Trease calls them. 14 line prose poems often with an epigraph and sometimes three. I saw the form first in the work of Jack Clarke, who was at SUNY-Buffalo for many years and felt I had to try that. I am calling the series Sonetos de Cascadia and I’ve written 52 of them so far.
Thanks to Jami Macarty and Susan Zakin, one of those prose sonnets, from March, is now published at the beautiful Journal of the Plague Year website and there is an intelligent context into which the poem is placed. Dig:
Birds. Music. The nature of art. They converge in Paul Nelson’s Covid-19 Sonnet, a poem we’re reading over and over.
Nelson invokes Federico Garcia Lorca’s notion of duende. We included an excerpt from Lorca’s unforgettable rant on the subject and a reading of one of Lorca’s foundational poems by Philip Levine, plus an eclectic, gypsy-inspired playlist.
Nelson, Levine, Lorca. The lineage stretches back, yet each poet is essential to our present moment, telling us that art and politics are not mutually exclusive, but, as the Hollywood executives used to say, synergistic.
Oh, yeah. What’s this duende? It can’t be explained, not really. You have to feel it. But read Lorca.
Though the formatting does not present the poem in 14 lines, you still get what I’m talking about and I think a consideration of the duende is part of our challenge/opportunity of this lockdown time. Having just returned from a visit with Red Pine in Port Townsend, I was reminded that the lockdown is a tremendous opportunity for self-discovery since the lockdown is removing, or making more difficult, many of our distractions. He says we may not get another chance like this in our lifetime. We shared this discussion while on his daily walking route about town and then we watched baseball and polished off two bottles of Wind of the Woods saké. Do I contradict myself? I guess so.