Paul Hoover, Sonnet 56, Les Figues 2009

Have Shakespeare’s sonnets ever been more engaged with? Jen Bervin, K. Silem Mohammad, Harryette Mullen, and now Paul Hoover. He takes up one of the homely sonnets–and rewrites/revisions in all the hip ways, from N+7 to digression, villanelle to ghazal, haibun to haiku, flarf to homophonic–translation that is. Great idea. And some of the versions offered up here are quite good.

Here is the original

SONNET 56
Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d,
To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might:
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d,
more rare.

And here are a few of my favorite of the 56 (of course!) treatments. From the “Homophonic Translation,” “Sweet glove, imbued by gorse, bleed it knotted/Twine sedge good hunter tea than batter tight”. Or “flarf,” “Love, force it and it disappears/Courtney Love is a force of nature,” or here from the beginning of the “Peronal/Ad” “Scholarly SWM, 59, with discreet tattoo and private means seeks companionship with younger woman, 30-40, leading to long-term relationship. Enjoy reading, speed walking, romantic strolls…” and finally, here is the end of the N+7

As call it winter melon, which being full of carfare,
Makes supweed’s wellcurb, thrice more wished,
more rare

This latter one wasn’t a favorite. Perhaps it lacks the surprise because by now the constraint has become a cliche too… But I should say no more because discovery in this collection is half the fun. This volume adds handsomely to the growing body of responses to Shakespeare’s sonnets. But it does beg the question: who of us is crafting work that will illicit such attention in even a decade? Oh, I know, I know, it’s a nasty question, yet it hovers in the fun of these texts (not only Hoover’s). Some of which are thrillingly composed.