Sunday, July 3, 2011


I can't find it online, and if you knew what you were missing, you'd thank me for not providing the text.

This one is notable for being the worst poem in what is, overall, a very impressive collection. I suppose even amazing poets have their off days.

It's a sonnet in a sort of anglicised Italian form: an ABABCDCD octet followed by a CDCDEE sestet. The subject of the sonnet is Casanova, and his experience with with Marieanne Genevieve de Charpillon. (Thanks for the info, ramblingrose--I wouldn't have worked it out on my own.) The octet tells us what a sexy guy Casanova was:
...his tongue so silver-quick, his hands so skilled.
A gentle man who knelt at Venus' throne,
he would not leave a mistress unfulfilled.
And it worked too; "women... surrendered to his arts".

So where does the dramatic conflict come in? The sestet begins:
One night, tormented by a heartless game,
he turned to rage. He did not sink to rape...
Seriously? How is raping a teenager ever an appropriate response to any situation? Even if you decide to be a big moral hero and not rape the teenager after all, how is severely beating her a reasonable thing to do? I have so little sympathy.

Of course, good literature can take morally loathsome characters and make them appealing. (Take Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre, also mentioned in my last post.) But it takes work: you can't just tell me things from the morally loathsome character's frame of reference and expect me to automatically sympathise. I guess it could conceivably be a commentary on what a jerk Casanova is, but I'm not finding enough signs of irony to make that reading very plausible. It just ends up as an abstract, uncompelling puddle of meh.

Thankfully, none of the other poems in the book is anywhere near this grade of awful.

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