Thursday, September 09, 2004

R S Gwynn Aces Rhyme

In Body Bags, a triple sonnet sequence that treats Viet Nam in a most original manner, Gwynn utilizes rhyme in what some might think a pedestrian way. I happen to think it’s an uncomplicated success.

There’s this beginning octet:
Let's hear it for Dwayne Coburn, who was small
And mean without a single saving grace
Except for stealing—home from second base
Or out of teammates' lockers, it was all
The same to Dwayne. The Pep Club candy sale,
However, proved his downfall. He was held
Briefly on various charges, then expelled
And given a choice: enlist or go to jail.
Every rhyme is a simple monosyllable word except “expelled,” and that rhyme for just that reason stands out nicely among a straightforward narrative. Nothing jars. There’s a nice rhythm and sequence of events that is never sacrificed for some clever rhyme that either stands out like a sore thumb or gets left behind like a forgotten soldier.

The sestet is very similar.
He finished basic and came home from Bragg
For Christmas on his reassignment leave
With one prize in his pack he thought unique,
Which went off prematurely New Year's Eve.
The student body got the folded flag
And flew it in his memory for a week.
Again, all monosyllabic rhymes except one: unique. This time the exception is the first rhyme word, setting up the closing line. Unique for a week. But, for me, the most clever rhyme pair is Bragg/flag for another reason than the obvious: Bragg is such a clever setting for this flawed gem of a character.

William Logan should listen up. I know I am.

1 comment:

Dr J said...

Can't say I care much for the "poetry proper," but I agree the rhyme works quite well. It doesn't seem forced at all, an increasingly difficult task in an age predisposed to view rhyme ('view rhyme'? oy...) as artificial and sometimes comical.