Thursday, September 24, 2009

Onegin Stanza #1

Currently I am reading The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, a crazy and great sui generis book: the story of a bunch of San Francisco yuppies in the 1980s, told entirely in verse. And not just any verse, but Onegin stanzas, one of the hardest verse forms to employ in English--but one which, if done well, can create stunning effects.

And, just as seeing a Shakespeare play makes me want to start speaking in iambic pentameter, reading The Golden Gate has inspired me to compose my own Onegin stanzas. Of course, iambic pentameter is relatively natural and easy to compose, while Onegin stanzas are artificially and strictly patterned--a great challenge!

When the beginning of a quatrain popped into my head the other day, I decided to develop it into a complete poem. So here, after much crossing-out of lines, and much consulting of a thesaurus, is my first-ever attempt at an Onegin sonnet.
When we are faced with disappointments,
They should not come as a surprise,
For well we know that sweetest ointments
Inexorably lure the flies.
But just as sand, within an oyster's
Shell, its secret nacreous cloister,
Is transfigured from grit and grime
Into a pearl; so can the slime
And dirt and bugs that Life provided
Transfigure, too. This may sound odd,
But flowers spring from barren sod;
And with an insect trapped inside it,
An amber lump gains an allure
More precious, even though less pure.
I'm not sure I agree with the message of my poem, nor do I like its moralizing tone, but the verse scans correctly and the images work--which is all that one can really hope for on a first attempt, right?

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