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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Short Form: Sonnets and décimas?

Are sonnets and décimas forms of the "short form"? I would say that sonnets are short, 154 syllables Spanish. Décimas are 80 syllables. I'm not sure brevity is the point of these forms, though. All short lyric poems are not examples of the short form. Brevity itself has to come into play.

I'd be glad to be corrected if you have a better idea.


clarissasblog.com said...

I'm doing sonnets for sure because I love them and students love them. And I plan to have a discussion as to whether they are short form or not. If the conclusion we reach is that they aren't, we will at least have a great discussion. I was thinking of having a debate where half of the people have to defend the idea that they are and half that they aren't.

Jonathan said...

Great idea. I'll steal that one from you.

clarissasblog.com said...

This will be a collaborative course design. :-)

j. said...

my feeling is that a sonnet's shortness is pretty relative to the prevailing literary/textual culture. obviously it's easy to make a case for two-line forms or saroyan's 'lighght' or whatever, no matter the context. but once longer verse forms (than, say, a sestina? or roughly a page or two of verse?) fall out of fashion, something roughly the size of a sonnet is the default poem shape, which makes its other formal features seem more like parameters, as opposed to something like discoveries about an optimal set of restrictions to work against / work with in verse of that length.

on the other hand, i would not be surprised if the sonnet were the most useful form for investigating the nature of the poetic sequence, given its history. and some phenomenon like that, sequencing, seems pretty essential in a course on short forms.

(come to think of it, 'relative to what?' seems like a question that would be right at the top of the syllabus description for the course's 'big questions')

Andrew Shields said...

For Calvino, brevity is a virtue in literature (see "Six Memos for the Next Millennium"). And his paradoxical example of brevity is Musil's "Man without Qualities". An endless, unfinished novel, but of such great precision that it is actually brief.

Or so I thought he said, but it turns out I completely misremembered Calvino's point. I used Google Books to search the text, and the reference to Musil in the chapter on precision ("Exactitude") not brevity ("quickness"). Calvino connects Musil's precision to his lightness, but not to brevity.

The vagaries of memory. Perhaps I conflated my experience of the speed of "Man without Qualities" with Calvino's remarks.