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« Books Make Great Gifts - Some Recommendations | Main | Book Recommendations (by Laura Orem) »

December 13, 2008


Lively as ever, EH. Paging Tammy Wynette? Don't bother indeed.

This sonnet's rhymes work (for me) like an objective correlative. Early on I feel the rhymes are in charge (as when "spat" arrives to answer "cat"); I feel the pattern taking Hilbert places he'd not otherwise be likely to go. This submission underscores (and is underscored by) the ways in which the girlfriend is driven by irrational forces. That the poem ends in a relatively free-standing couplet (one that could have been used alongside entirely other narrative) makes the whole thing click shut.

Ernest Hilbert strikes again! Funny and frightening. Watch out for that wood chipper! Even better, come and see Ernie read this poem live. Can't wait for his new book, Sixty Sonnets, to come out. So much wisdom.

There is something compelling about this; I think it may be the control and restraint Hilbert uses in presenting such pointless brutality. It makes tolerable the last lines which, in context, seem almost offensive--how can one not denounce this as entirely barbaric? Yet one often merely shrugs at the loves of others, and accepts that relationships differ as people differ. One might even suppose that this applies to the cruel and the beaten. If nothing else, this does what poetry should do: it provokes thought.

Ha! So true. Sadly.

I love the way you're using these choppy (chipper) sentences to create the sense of talking to yourself, or arguing with yourself, underlining the interior argument that a sonnet, after all, is - and keeping the thing firmly within the way we actually speak. The rhymes sneak themselves in, hiding under cover of the rapid-fire. and your Coen Brothers touch sets the scene from the start, doesn't it!

I'm dying to get my hands on a copy of Sixty Sonnets. It will happen...

It’s Christmas season, and the Hallmark presses are in high gear. But a certain holiday tinsel coils all year around frothy poems about falling in love. So by mid-December, while life is ensconced in carol revamps, it’s refreshing to read a poem about just how deeply fallen love can be – as fallen as the pinky-snapping, cat-hacking oafs who somehow inspire it. Hilbert stacks those wicked details until they widen past the momentary macabre and stretch into a years-long romantic car-wreck for the reader to gawk at. Usually “What could they be thinking?” is something we ask about criminals, not the women who love them. Yet Ernie builds our fascination with the vile and violent – What will he do next? – before redirecting it toward love itself, and by that time he has prepped us for his real motive, a bare-bulb inquiry into the “unique call.” His overt cynicism refuses to ask (or answer) whether this thoroughly unpretty love redeems itself by forgiving any crime.

Ernest's language is taut, enough short sentences you could almost say staccato. I like to think the form didn't lead the poem, rather it wrote itself - straight from the newspaper article and Ernie's immediate reaction to it. I hope this lover actually did "spat" and not just because he'd chipped the cat.

It's a tough, tough subject, the matter of how the cycle of abuse leads its victims to believe abuse is love. Hilbert's subtle iambic and his quiet rhyme make the poem work for me. I hope it will help people think about a human problem that is quite disturbing and much too prevalent.

Hilbert's sonnet, "Domestic Situation," sounds like a sonnet Raymond Carver might've written had he written sonnets and lived long enough to see FARGO. Perhaps what's most remarkable about this poem is its illusion of effortlessness, primarily in the rhythm and choices of rhyme, but also in the casual tone--bordering on ennui--, which relays these horrors in the voice of some guy from the neighborhood. There's no pretense, no pyrotechnics, yet there's honed prosodic craft. Wordsworth and W. C. Williams, it's safe to say, would approve of this poem for its "plain" and "common" speech. The poem seems to have merely dropped out of the sky, and I can't just now think of any higher praise than that for any poet.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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