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Forum Home » High Critique » Ness Point sonnet

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2/9/2019 5:38:53 AM

Lisle Ryder
Posts: 3
I have contributed to Poetry Soup for nearly a year now but have only now spotted this feature in the Forum. So I offer this sonnet for critical comment.

This low salient once populated

by Lowestoft people till in 'fifty three

a storm surging high tide inundated

dwellings lamentably lost to the sea.

Former homes replaced by concrete commerce

sheltered behind a defiant wall,

where years later gathered Christians diverse

to greet the Easter sunrise; after all

only to be met with grey skies and snow

that covered the Salvation Army band.

No sign of the sun, we sang with gusto

to warm ourselves in this bitter wasteland.

No cliffs here to defy a raging sea,

just faith shared clasping a mug of tea.

The Lowestoft Council of Churches organised this sunrise service each Easter. It was always pretty bracing with a light breakfast afterwards. We had two white Easters during my four years as Curate in Lowestoft. I am not sure whether this was 1974 or 1975. I have a photo of the scene but have not found a way to upload it as a Premium Member.
edited by Lisle Ryder on 2/9/2019
edited by Lisle Ryder on 2/9/2019
edited by Lisle Ryder on 2/9/2019
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2/10/2019 5:15:34 AM

Jack Webster
Posts: 118
I love the humble simplicity of the scene. It is not trying to put makeup on anything or making it larger than life. it is very confidently letting the beauty of the contrast between the desolation and the togetherness of faith speak for itself and I think that's very wonderful.

I know there are a variety of contemporary approaches to sonnets, so I'm not sure if my feedback on meter is even relevant. However, you seem to have made a goal of retaining the syllabic count of each line at 10. All but one line succeeds in this. The line ending in "wall" is 9 syllables.

Similarly, I'm not sure what contemporary considerations are given to the volta of a sonnet. I would hesitate to say there is a flip in the position/ perspective/ idea of the poem, but the contrast between the environment and the faith is there, so one might say this is the volta, however delicately voiced.

touching on meter once again, you have 5 lines that end with an unstressed syllable:

'POP-u-late,-ed (trochee, trochee/pyrrhic)

'IN-un-date,-ed (trochee, trochee/pyrrhic)

'COM-merce (trochee)

'GUS-to (trochee)

'WASTE-land (trochee)

obviously this is only of interest if your goal for meter went beyond syllabic verse.

I do not feel iambic pentameter was your goal, however if so, a thorough review of all of your lines with the aid of a trusted source such as Merriam Webster would be greatly beneficial.

If iambic pentameter is your goal, but you do not wish to sacrifice your sanity, you might look to the rather cheeky John Keats for a role model, as frequently his method seems to be: 10 syllables per line, no more or less than 5 stressed syllables per line, always end on an iamb and let the other 4 stressed syllables fall where they wish.

The late, but immortal, Mary Oliver outlines in her Poetry Handbook a set of rules for substituting different metric feet for iambs when using iambic parameter, as well as conditions that allow for an 11th syllable in certain lines. If you wish, I would be happy to paraphrase them.

If lexical meter is not a consideration for this sonnet, the only thing to do is add an extra syllable to the line ending in "wall", and consider if the volta is voiced as vividly as you wish.

The final consideration is the use of the word salient in the first line. I admit it sent me to the dictionary. Perhaps this will not be the case for other readers, but for readers that must stop to look it up, having it in the first line is like trying to start a car but not popping the clutch properly and the car jostling to a halt before you've gone anywhere.

Lovely image. Hope my feedback is useful.
edited by superlativedeleted on 2/10/2019
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2/11/2019 3:37:21 PM

Lisle Ryder
Posts: 3
Thank you Jack for your comprehensive and considered comments which are very useful. I am a novice so far as meters and their names are concerned. I do realise that reading aloud exposes the deficiences of meter whatever the name and the nature of stresses.
I will see about an extra syllable for the line ending in wall, and also some alternative to the Word salient. I need to convey the feature that is actually there.

I am glad you appreciate the actual event I have sought to commemorate.

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