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Mary Jo Salter

Mary Jo Salter Presents "The Death of Argos," a Sonnet Sequence by Nicholas Pierce (Day 1)

Nicholas Pierce

For the next two weeks, Monday through Friday, we will be publishing daily, piece by piece, the sonnet sequence “The Death of Argos” by Nicholas Pierce (Photo), presented below by Mary Jo Salter.

What new thing can be done with old forms like the sonnet?  One answer comes from a new poet.  In his first book, In Transit, Nicholas Pierce invents an especially devilish rhyme scheme for an eleven-sonnet sequence, “The Death of Argos.”  The sequence is also an elegant narrative, an affecting love story set in contemporary Greece, while calling up The Odyssey. Inspired by a blank verse sonnet sequence by the late Claudia Emerson, which unspools as two tercets, a central couplet, and two more tercets, Pierce goes Emerson one better by rhyming  aba, cbc, bb, dbd, ebe. Yes, that’s six b’s per fourteen lines. And a rhyming couplet “turn” in the dead center, another radical move.  -- MJS

Here's the first mysterious sonnet, in which the speaker assembles a memory of being attacked by dogs. We’ll be adding the second sonnet the next day, and so on, until the final day. 

1.

A few key seconds haven’t yet come back,
if they ever were recorded. Who can say
why the dogs didn’t, finally, attack,

much less what would’ve happened if they did?
On foot, defenseless, we were easy prey
to start with—then my cousin and I slid

into a ditch, scrambling to get away.
The footage skips ahead when I replay

this moment, picking back up with his leg
already broken and the dogs at bay—
or nowhere to be seen, at least. Less vague

is what came afterward: the brief but none-
too-gentle ambulance ride, the X-ray
revealing that the break was a clean one.

Nicholas Pierce is pursuing a Ph.D. in Poetry at the University of Utah. His poems have appeared in 32 PoemsBirmingham Poetry ReviewThe Hopkins Review, and Subtropics, among other journals. His first book, In Transit, won the 2021 New Criterion Poetry Prize. “The Death of Argos” appeared in that volume, published by Criterion Books.

Click here for the full poem as posted on March 4, 2022.
https://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2022/03/mary-jo-salter-presents-the-death-of-argos-a-sonnet-sequence-by-nicholas-pierce-day-10.html


March 04, 2022

December 17, 2021

December 15, 2021

December 13, 2021

December 10, 2021

December 08, 2021

December 06, 2021

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Radio

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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