100 days of sonnets: unlocking that maddening door

How did I get through 100 days of lockdown?

Writing a sonnet a day
disappearing for hours on end
emerging from my makeshift workspace
from time to time triumphant or despairing
often half present during meals
Oh beautiful and tolerant family

finding me elated or flattened depending on the muse
and her inconsistencies

but the almost mathematical architectural aspects of the sonnet
what a gift freely given
to process the daily news
refine my poetic practice
and explore the state of things
you know what I mean by things

If you want to be good at something
you have to practise it
it must enter your bloodstream

I remember writing my first ever sonnet
going slowly crazy up at all hours
I was working up in Nottingham
doing a poetry project in a school
and every night I’d come home to wrestle
with this impossible machine of words

how could say what I wanted to say
within the constraints of rhyme and metre?

finally understanding that it was not
what I wanted to say
but what the poem wanted to say

I had been writing free verse for a while
but I had not fully grasped that fundamental truth
until my first sonnet

that I must
let the poem lead the way

oh and the sestet
folding and unfolding around itself

or the mystery of the final couplet
how to unlock that maddening door

how to be true to the sonnet’s wishes

The lockdown lengthened
something new revealing itself
each day

you never stop learning

Months of being crazed and sleepless
or asleep but dreaming in pentameter
rhymes jostling in my chest

saved by the very beast that was consuming me
and finally this:

Sonnet 100
28th June

‘Covid-19 death toll passes 500,000 worldwide’ BBC News
‘Cannibal rats are among the grimmest consequences of
the upending of urban life’ The Guardian
‘Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s really over’ Katy Perry

My loves, this is my last. I tip my hat,
I scrawl a wild hurrah, I lightly trip
into the red beyond. Stiff upper lip,
relief, day of the dirt, day of the rats
who eat their own. The rising numbers crack
their own facade, the sonnet slowly sips
its morning tea and speaks: Let’s call it quits.
To hell with poetry. Bring on the maniacs.
There will be greater griefs. The leading man
is doing press-ups and he has no plan,
the virus finds its host, the wars go on,
the markets rise and fall, the earth is spent.
I hold the sonnet close: my faithful friend,
and hear it sigh. Damn, it says, we are not done.


Author: Jacqueline Saphra

I'm a poet, teacher, educator, agitator, teacher and word enthusiast.

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