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Sonnet with a Different Letter at the End of Every Line -- George Starbuck

(Poem #194) Sonnet with a Different Letter at the End of Every Line
     O for a muse of fire, a sack of dough,
     Or both! O promissory notes of woe!
     One time in Santa Fe N.M.
     Ol' Winfield Townley Scott and I ... But whoa.

     One can exert oneself, ff ,
     Or architect a heaven like Rimbaud,
     Or if that seems, how shall I say, de trop ,
     One can at least write sonnets, a propos
     Of nothing save the do-re-mi-fa-sol
     Of poetry itself. Is not the row
     Of perfect rhymes, the terminal bon mot,
     Obeisance enough to the Great O?

     "Observe," said Chairman Mao to Premier Chou,
     "On voyage à Parnasse pour prendre les eaux.
     On voyage comme poisson, incog."
-- George Starbuck
    N.M.: New Mexico
    ff: fortissimo (musical term, 'very loud')
    de trop: too much
    bon mot: clever saying
    French sentences:
      they travel to Parnassus[1] to take the waters,
      they travel as fish

  [1] Name of a mountain in central Greece, anciently sacred to Apollo and
      the Muses; hence used allusively in reference to literature, esp.
      poetry. -- OED

Rhyme scheme: aaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Today's poem is not so much poetry as verse. However, it is a wonderfully
ingenious piece of verse, and I for one am an unabashed fan of ingenuity. As
an added bonus, it's not only a poem about poetry (see previous theme <g>)
but a poem about itself. The latter, incidentally, is a not-too-unusual
device in poems whose main focus is their form - inverting the scheme of
things somewhat, the content highlights and reinforces the form, explicitly
pointing out its various features. On the down side, it's a slightly
overused technique, and one that is liable to topple over the fine line
between 'crafted' and 'contrived' - nonetheless, when well done it can, and
has, produced some delightful poems.


  George Starbuck 1931 - 1996

  There's not much about Starbuck online - for a somewhat personal
  perspective on the man, see the obituaries at

  [broken link]


36 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Victor Curran said...

On your site, line 14 is missing a word. It should read:

"On voyage a Parnasse pour prendre les eaux.

[The "a" should have an accent grave.]


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His work is marked by clever rhymes, witty asides, and the fusing of Romantic themes with cynicism towards modern life. Starbuck called his style of formalism SLABS, for Standard Length And Breadth Sonnets.

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