Neruda wrote a hundred sonetos in Spanish for Matilde, his amor; and Shakespeare wrote a hundred fifty-four in English of the King James Bible, true, but not exactly biblical in tone; and Petrarch wrote two hundred sixty-three before his Laura died, and then about another hundred after she had gone.
Some poets find the form a real constraint, while others like the boundaries it sets; and I confess I’m in the second group, who find the mold a fit for formless words.
So mock the sonnet as archaic art; I praise it as the poem of the heart
Eight-year-old Andrew comes into my study and seats himself at my desk and begins examining my pens and letter opener and other items that catch his sharp eye.
He finds a tin of push-pins near the corkboard, and in the tin a little saxophone, which prompts an exclamation of delight, “Hey Dad, look at this saxophone thumb-tack!”
A moment later out he runs to find his instrument, and soon he’s practicing the seven notes he knows the fingering for.
The kid’s an autodidact, like his father: he only calls for help when he gets stuck, occasionally asking, “Am I doing good?”
One afternoon I walked a riverbank, where children played nearby and parents strolled the garden paths and often stopped to feed the ducks and geese, or simply to observe the gothic teens who congregated there to smoke and smooch and, as they say, hang out-- their piercings, silver chains and black garb worn in protest of the privilege they spurn. Across the covered bridge a little crowd had gathered at the river’s edge to watch some drama in the water, which I could not see from where I stood, and so I crossed. A snake held fast a struggling fish too large to overcome at once—but it was doomed.
 . . . und sah die Schlang die dir am Herzen frisst. . . Heinrich Heine, Dichterliebe.
-- Lawrence Sisk has been chair of the Music Department at Lewis University since 1988. He is also the conductor of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra and choirmaster at St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church in Aurora. Sisk holds a PhD in historical musicology from Northwestern University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy. His favorite poets include Homer, Dante, Pushkin, Heine, and Neruda. Excerpts from his translation of The Odyssey have been published in Windows Magazine and are available at his website: www.lawrencesisk.com