Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Annie Finch on Sonnets and Bernadette Mayer

While searching for Bernadette Mayer’s comments on the sonnet, I came upon this Annie Finch comment on deformations, sonnets, and Mayer in particular:
The other point concerns what Michael Boughn calls 'deformations," poems that change/deform received forms. After much thought on this matter, it seems to me that, while all deformations of a traditional form can certainly be usefully thought of as akin to each other, some deformations remain at the formal end of the continuum while others do not. To take the sonnet as an example, the deformations I included in A Formal Feeling Comes are still regularly formal--some rhymed nonmetrical sonnets, some unrhymed metrical sonnets, some metrically variable but still metrical sonnets, some 16 or 18 line sonnets or 12 line sonnets that kept the rhyme and meter. All these deformations are still formal, because they are structured by the conspicuous repetition of language elements. Bernadette Mayer's deformations of the sonnet, while it is interesting to consider them in the context of the more formal deformations--which is why I mentioned them in the introduction to A Formal Feeling Comes-- are on the other hand not regularly formal, in my opinion, since the only elements of the sonnet they keep are the name and the length and they are otherwise irregular in structure (length, by itself, seems a quality of extension or size, not of structure or shape, or else any nineteen-line poem would be a villanelle).
After my seven August sonnets to date, I find myself experimenting more in Finch’s world of formal deformation. There has been a conspicuous repetition of language elements. Old habits are hard to break. Yet I will try before the month is out. But first, I thought I’d get more formal in number eight. Before I get down with those informal deformations.

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