The soufflé cliché feels apt for sonnets, the cliché about them falling down a lot, and even though I’ve never made a soufflé, or even watched someone make one, and can’t remember the last time I ate one, I’m going to go with it.
So. The sonnet is just like the soufflé. All are made with the same ingredients, but only a few turn out right. Most collapse. It’s all in the technique and the quality of the ingredients. I’ve been working my way through The Making of a Sonnet (eds Hirsch and Boland), a pretty thorough anthology divided mostly by century (Sixteenth – Twentieth), with sections also for sonnets about sonnets (‘The Sonnet in the Mirror’) and sonnets of lengths other than 14 lines. And I don’t like most of them.
Which isn’t saying much — percentage-wise I probably don’t like most of any type of poetry. Like all the other arts, for every shining peak of a poem there’s a ginormous iceberg of crap poems waiting to sink you. And sonnets have been written around for 500 years now, so that’s a big iceberg.
However, the sonnets I like I tend to love. Broadly speaking I feel more strongly, I think, about the sonnets that I like, than, for instance, the ghazals that I like. Continue reading