Line twelve is in the bag in The American Scholar's crowd-sourced sonnet, thanks to readers' clever contributions. David Lehman recognizes runners-up and now includes a winner's circle in his weekly posts. Suggest line thirteen for Next Line, Please by midnight, Sunday, July 21. (Note: You must post your line at the American Scholar site.)
Here's the sonnet to date:
How like a prison is my cubicle,
And yet how far my mind can freely roam
From gaol to Jerusalem, Hell to home.
Freedom ends or starts with a funeral.
Say what must die inside that I may not
Cast down this die and cross the Rubicon
Thence to the true hell: the heat of Tucson
Where drug lords blaze loads of coke, meth, and pot.
Freedom starts, or ends, with a funeral.
I once watched men with Uzis guard the Pope
No hope, no hope, no hope, no hope, no hope.
What buzz can cheer this gloomy canticle?
Of line twelve David Lehman writes:
It is Bastille Day as I write and reflect on our efforts to master the paradox of freedom in imprisonment—the key to the sonnet’s prison-door lock.
Line twelve is provided by Sandra M. Gilbert: “What buzz can cheer this gloomy canticle?” It ends the third quatrain with a question, perfectly setting up our concluding couplet. The choice of “buzz” is inspired. Utterly contemporary, the word can refer to a state of intoxication, to noise, to the chatter of the chattering classes, and in each of these senses it fits our lines. It may be argued that the balance between “cheer” and “gloom” in our poem has tilted to the latter, but our “canticle” (if we are capable) is correctible—with the right pithy closing couplet.