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If It’s a Sonnet: JFRRS 1.2

If It’s A Sonnet, It Must Be Love:

Jen Frankel Reads Random S#it ep 1.2

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original airdate: Jan 13, 2017

When I write poetry, chances are good the inspiration comes out of some immediate thought or experience. But if it’s a sonnet, there’s an even better chance that I’m in love…

Transcript follows: some differences between actual recorded content and script is not just possible but likely!

JFFRS Ep 1.2


opening quotation

“For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Music changes.


Hello and welcome to the second episode of the JFRRS podcast, or, if you’re in a Not Safe For Work be damned environment, Jen Frankel Reads Random Shit. I am Jen Frankel, the writer of said random shit, but at the beginning of this episode, you heard me read the final couplet from a sonnet Shakespeare, that begins My love is as a fever. I hope to share with you some words of wisdom on life and writing in particular over the course of this podcast, from some of my favourite authors and thinkers on the subject.

Today, I decided to introduce some of my poetry, and what greater subject is there for poetry than love? For me, discovering that I’m writing sonnets is a pretty sure sign that I’ve fallen, possibly pretty darned hard.

If you’ve forgotten your high school English classes, or somehow managed to escape the unit on metered poetry, a sonnet is fourteen lines of rhyming wonder. In the first three stanzas of four lines each, the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth. The final two lines are a couplet, like the Shakespearean one I read off the top.

Dryden wrote that having restrictions placed on HOW you write a poem actually allows you more freedom in terms of WHAT you say, kind of like how a glass gives liquid a shape. Restrictions, knowing the rules, also gives you power to bend or break them, or use them to intensify the effect you intend. Listen in the reading for examples of places where for example there are rhymes within a line as well as at the ends, where the thought doesn’t end where the rhyme happens but continues into the next, or where all four lines in a stanza rhyme to up the feeling of being obsessed or in a romantic haze.

For me, having a place to start probably gives me a way to get into writing a piece of verse, especially if my senses are otherwise all flustered from a surfeit of romantic emotion.

However, something you’ll no doubt learn about me over the course of this podcast, I am never content to approach a subject in the most obvious or straight-forward way, and it’s the same way with my love sonnets. I’m going to read a selection of eight poems written over the course of Well, let’s just say several love affairs. Some were requited, some not, some disastrous, and some just never really became anything. But each provided a perspective, even a lesson, that inspired a piece of verse. I hope you enjoy them, and find your own lost or lingering loves in their lines. Oh, also look for alliteration!

Music changes.

sonnet i

I’ve been yours since the night you rescued me:
‘Til then I was the ruler of my heart.
To break my firmest oath, how could it be
Passion fights will to play the traitor’s part.
I had made an enemy of my gaze,
Forsworn those it looked with favour upon
As those that rule the night must shun the days
And waking, find the summer silently gone.
All I’ve ever fought for, all I’ve won
Seem like worthless boasts best left to the past.
And, lacking you, I find what I have done
Is built a summer-house, not meant to last.
Take care when through your fingers fall the sands
It will always be my heart in your hands.

sonnet ii

I faltered when I stepped first into light
But you held my hand and I felt assured.
So I sang to find favour in your sight:
You smiled and said, She has a voice like a bird.
My needs were simpler then; I could believe
Myself complete, and you nothing to teach.
I was entranced; I took too long to leave —
I had meant to fly out of your reach
The cage is beautiful, but still a cage
And sleeping here has made me too soon old.
You, why have you never yet seemed to age?
At least my cage still has its bars of gold.
See, little bird, your keeper is the cat —
How could I be loved by a man like that?

sonnet iii

Little boy, where are you going tonight?
You are so fair! with your smooth white skin.
Come, while the sun on your back is still bright.
I’ll walk by your side so you don’t fall in.
Where are you going? with your hair like dusk,
Your eyes like sun on green grass; I long to
Use you until I leave just an empty husk.
Come in, boy, how could the shadows hurt you?
Do you understand I can run my hands through
Your dark hair or your eyes with equal ease?
Your beauty’s not your fault; I had it, too.
Pretty boy, I know you can’t help but tease.
I would devour you if I thought I should.
Run home, little boy, you’ll die in this wood.

jenny speaks: sonnet iv

Whatever times we had, I’m glad they’re gone:
The presents you bought me, those baubles to wear.
How eagerly those young girls around you fawn!
You fooled me once, but now I couldn’t care.
I was in love with something you are not;
Your rich gifts made it simple to pretend
Affection could so easily be bought.
All my jealousies! Nothing yet could mend
That love is never happy so begun,
‘Though pretty was the fantasy we played.
I let you stand too long in the sun:
Watched your bright colours quickly blanch and fade.
I keep in mind your wit when we first met,
For beauty is too easy to forget.

sonnet vii

I wish I could tell you what my real thoughts are.
I know what to say but can’t; that’s my lot
To sit admiring meekly from afar
And to always want what I haven’t got.
Your smile makes brighter the sunniest day
And mine is frozen in inconstant fear.
Alone, I phrase the words I want to say
But my mind empties when you come near.
I’m flustered like a frightened five-year-old.
Everywhere, I feel your hand on my throat,
Touching my face. I try to be bold,
But instead, I blather nothings learned from rote.
Nothing binds you here; soon you’ll slip away
When I can’t begin to ask you to stay.

sonnet viii

Even if it’s something for nothing
You want, just say so. I’ll give you all
I can. I only ask one little thing.
Please — never treat me like a china doll.
This skin — is as pliant as anyone’s
And these wounds, just as tender. I burn
For you with the strength of a thousand suns.
Please — will you ever know how much I yearn
To give you anything you could demand?
If I didn’t know it would make you think
Less of me, I’d put myself in you hands,
Say please — keep me afloat, or let me sink.
I always thought I wanted to be free
Please — do what you want, but don’t let me be.

sonnet ix

Really, I come here only to see him —
Each night sitting at my table alone,
Feeling again the light on my face dim.
I sit still as a woman made of stone.
I can pretend to myself that I’m here
For the music, alcohol, the neon light,
Or even familiar atmosphere —
As his fair head winks in and out of sight.
I love the warmth of the night in his face,
The shape of his body changed with each pace
As he moves through the shadows of this place
Here, then gone, leaving me an empty space.
But raise a glass, leave the picture intact,
Passions in silence, the mirror uncracked.

A Sonnet to Defeat Evanescence: Sonnet XI

For aught that I was fond in my schooling
And opened books as eager as a Dean
O’er my head I find my heart is ruling
And else but love takes on a paler sheen

For head o’er heart is only vain fooling
The truth is folly over sense will win
And like a lion turned to kitten mewling
Will find folly to desire closest kin

As kingdoms kings in chaos unruling
As rivers are in springtime all in flood
As time and tide leave sands only cooling
So thoughts of you will never cool my blood

Oh be thou not evanescent but stay
Beside me here forever and a day

Music changes.


From longing to loss, heartbreak to heaven, love is one of the most ineffable of human emotions. Some days I don’t believe in it at all, some days I denigrate it as nothing more than a selfish instinct more akin to madness than revelation, but whenever I’m in love, I write sonnets.

Next time, I’m going to try a piece of fiction, possibly about a woman who starts to feel like her life doesn’t fit her, or vice versa, and is treated to a rather concrete demonstration of just what it means to grow out of the world.

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard today, please follow me on Soundcloud, and leave me a comment there or on my website at Jen Frankel dot com. You can follow me on Twitter at jen frankel, or on instagram at jen frankel author. I also write books, and you can find them, appropriately enough, at jenfrankel.com slash books. Thank you for listening, and see you next time on Jen Frankel Reads Random S#it.

My Taste

toronto, harbour, birds, wildlife, emma, niece
toronto, harbour, birds, wildlife, emma, niece
Toronto Harbour

My Taste: A Poem

Taste is a tricky thing. We mistake our taste for an arbiter of quality, calling something terrible or brilliant because we like it, without any resort to an objective standard.

One of the most humbling realizations as an editor or reviewer of other people’s work can be that, while you hate a particular piece of writing, there’s nothing at all wrong with it. It can be good even if you don’t like it. Just as every writer has a style and a viewpoint, so does every reader, and you probably will never please them all.

When we’re young, a lot of us want to change the world. We’re going to write the game-changing novel, or discover the missing piece that will lead to universal happiness.

But what exactly is the change we seek? What do we want to cure in humanity, or gift to it that would make everything better? Does everyone even want the same thing? And how much time have we spent learning what is wrong so that we’re even trying to fix the right thing?

As we get older, we often become less idealistic, believing that it’s either unrealistic or arrogant to think that we can make a difference. Me, I became overwhelmed. I’ve tried hard to look into the lives of every kind of person I come across, to understand the deep needs that aren’t being met, to discover what they have too little, or too much of, and how an alteration of their circumstances might actually affect them. After all, lots of people want to win the lottery, but those who have aren’t necessarily any happier.

For 2018, I want to set the bar very high for myself. I want to search for that thing that everyone can understand and relate to, instead of writing for the lowest common denominator, seeking instead the highest.

So for 2018, here is my pledge: to look more clearly, to ask more questions, and to try to discover what, if anything, I can really do to make the world a better place. If it’s through my art, all the better. If not, I hope I will have the humility to help in another way.

This poem is about learning that even personal preference can be a luxury others can’t afford to exert.

My taste

Would be more acceptable if it was only my own
If I was stating my disgust with brown bedding
Or floppy hats
My love of strappy sandals
And a sunset with boats sailing through

But my taste isn’t only my taste
It wants to look at the bigger picture
Those tall yachts are a lifestyle I can’t fathom
So to speak
Not when I compare it to the place I stand
And the disadvantaged folk sharing this beach with me

What place do strappy sandals have in a world
Where having shoes at all can make the difference between going to school or not
And having good work boots can mean the difference between having a job
And going hungry
Every year you don’t have those boots
Adding to the likelihood you’ll fall further away from any job
From any chance of a livelihood

How can I justify a preference for this bottled water over that
When water runs free and clean from my taps?
My taste likes to remind me of that good fortune
When I consider water from a store

My taste never stops reminding me that it is a luxury others don’t possess
I’ll exercise it with restraint
Until everyone can have their own.