No, an Anti-Sonnet

The only thing we have to fear is fear
itself — thus spake Franklin Delano Roo—
sevelt; thirty-second President of
the United States of America,
but, I fear the sonnet, whether Petrar—
chan, Italian, Shakespearean, or an—
y of the countless sub-sonnets,
the bastard sonnets: caudates, curtails, stretched
(which is exactly what it sounds like), the
submerged, redoublés, sequences, and the
Spenserian (oh please); I fear forced rhyme,
I fear writing to meet a quota of
lines; I list rhyme schemes with Ponzi’s schemes and
fear the words, the lines, the rhymes, the inspir—
ation will one day run dry and I will
be left with a blank sheet, hundreds of blank
sheets of paper and hundreds of favoured
pens such that the writing is never com—


*Originally published in National University’s GNU literary journal, Spring Summer 2017 edition.



This week I had to write about Italian actor/musician Adriano Celentano’s song, “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I saw it in a comment on a Facebook post recently and after I listened to it once, it remained ricocheting around in my head. Here is the best clip I could find of the song on YouTube. The premise is that Celentano does not speak English. At all. He decided to write a song about what the English language sounds like to Italians. However, there are no Italian words and the only two English words in the song are part of the chorus, “All right”.

What does any of this have to do with poetry? I believe most song lyrics have some poetic qualities. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if there are any recorded lyrics for “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I found some published on the website LyricWiki. Whether that site, Genius Lyrics, Lyrics Translate, Lyrics Mode, or any of the myriad of other lyrics websites, they all seem to be the same. Maybe they are all drawing from a single source.

The most informative article I found on the song is “It’s Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something” published on NPR on November 4, 2012. There is also a blog published four years earlier through The New Yorker. Sasha Frere-Jones published “Stop Making Sense” on August 12, 2008. They’re great articles if you are interested in some fun, light reading as well as a catchy, clean song.

Along these same lines, I found reference to a short film called “Skwerl”. In a similar premise to “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, “Skwerl” is described as “How English sounds to non-English speakers”. It was written and directed by Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston of the site Brian & Karl. Brian and Karl published a script on Tumblr and as I suspected, “Skwerl” isn’t so much gibberish as it is English words strung together. I would like to see examples of what other languages sound like to English-speakers. Maybe I’ll see if that’s a rabbit hole I can get lost in.

Keep writing and look for more examples of quirky translations and gibberish!



The Onion

onion_fb_placeholderThe Onion? America’s Finest News Source? Yes, that Onion, the parody news media outlet. Like so many of the articles and essays I have found about Poetry, I don’t remember exactly how I first stumbled across the story. But what does The Onion have to do with Poetry?

In June and July of 2016, I was taking a course called MCW640B Advanced Workshop in Poetry II through National University. At some point during the course, I found an article entitled: “Shadows Meet The Clouds, Gray On Gray, Like Dusty Charcoal On An Ashen Brow, Nation’s Poets Report.” What could be better than that? Poets as meteorologists, not so much predicting the weather, but describing it as only poets can. Of course the article is a parody, my favorite form of sarcastic writing. The article begins: “NEW YORK — According to a growing consensus of U.S. poets, shadows—inky sharp as a raven’s beak—meet the sullen bloat of clouds, their hues a pallid loam, each a dancer, each alone, like dusty charcoal on an ashen brow.” The sentences are poetic, though tongue-in-cheek, pieced together somewhat haphazardly, and hilarious! I don’t know if The Onion has any poets on staff, but they write some funny stuff, especially when they are making fun of my true passion. As poets and as humans we have to be able to laugh at ourselves.

I went back to The Onion‘s website recently to see if there were more. In a search for “poem,” “poet,” and “poetry” I found a total of 22 parody articles. There are seven full-length articles, and 14 short paragraph-length articles, and one obituaryesque death announcement. Additionally, there are a few brief “radio broadcast” news stories between two and five minutes each. Aside from the article mentioned above, the other six full-length articles are: “Bush Regales Dinner Guests With Impromptu Oratory On Virgil,” “I Could Write A Better Rubaiyat Than That Khayyam Dipsh*t,” “Maya Angelou Honored For Courage, Blackness,” “Nation Afraid To Admit 9-Year-Old Disabled Poet Really Bad,” “National Endowment For The Arts Funds Construction Of $1.3 Billion Poem,” and “Sappho Delights Crowds With Poetry.”

The death announcement from May 28, 2014 is “Maya Angelou, Poet, Author, Civil Rights Activist, And—Holy Cow—Tony Award–Nominated Actress, College Professor, Magazine Editor, Streetcar Conductor—Really? Streetcar Conductor? Wow—Calypso Singer, Nightclub Performer, And Foreign Journalist, Dead At 86”.

At times, the articles push the boundaries of propriety as in the death announcement of Maya Angelou. While May 28, 2014 was indeed the day Angelou passed and the announcement was intended to be humorous, maybe that wasn’t the best way to honor her. There is also the parallel between Luke Petrowski’s Hopeweavings and Mattie J. T. Stepanek’s Heartsongs. The former is the fictitious 9-year-old in an Onion article while the latter is the real-life poet who died at the age of 13 from dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy. Not to make light of DMM, I think there may have been a better way to find humor in the situation. Perhaps The Onion could have selected a different subject, one that didn’t so closely resemble a real-life tragedy. Think about it, is there true artistic merit in the creations we praise, or are we too quick to praise art because of the tragic condition of the artist?

Keep writing and don’t ever take yourself too seriously!