Sex and the Sonnet

Flash forward a couple of years. That girl from the sonnets—OK, it’s me now—I’m sitting on the kilim on the floor of my study, a glass of red wine off to the side. I’m doing that thing that poets get to do that writers of other genres don’t so much have: I’m reshuffling the deck of my manuscript, deciding that this book doesn’t end happily ever, that the woman remains alone, sometimes lonely, yes, but no regrets. Strains of Edith Piaf waft… (kidding). It’s nearly 4 a.m.

“How’s it going?” asks my still recent, always forbearing husband, who’s staying up to keep me company, sitting at his desk and playing that weird Aztec-frog video game.

“Here’s something strange,” I answer. “There are forty-one sonnets in this book.”

“That’s not so strange. You write a lot of sonnets,” he says.

“True,” I answer, and pause, and think about it for a minute, “but you know, I have written only one sonnet that I’m remotely happy with since I’ve been here. And I’m only remotely happy with it.”

“Really?” At this point, my dear and patient husband stops playing the weird frog game and spins around to look at me. “Should I feel responsible for that? Maybe I should feel responsible for that.”

“I don’t know,” I answer. I think for another moment. “No, no, I don’t think you’re responsible for that.”

But upon further reflection, I think he was.

Since that 4 a.m. epiphany a couple of years ago, I have figured out how to write sonnets again, but it’s no surprise that they’re different. For me, so much of the strategy was—back to the mixed metaphors, uh oh—the asbestos glove, the carapace, the corset. Through the lens of form, I was able to look at and write about things that weren’t always pretty, things that still have the power to shock, dismay, or anger. But during my adventures with the wild girl sonnets, I feel as if I also wrote myself out of behaviors that weren’t necessarily conducive to my own health or happiness.

Who knew? Sex and the sonnet: a salubrious path to self-discovery and staying in on Saturday night. Maybe I should call Oprah.