Haunted Sonnet

by Hoa Nguyen

copyright ©2016 by Hoa Nguyen

Haunt lonely and find when you lose your shadow
secretive house centipede on the old window

You pronounce Erinyes as “Air-n-ease”
Alecto: the angry     Magaera: the grudging

Tisiphone: the avenger (voice of revenge)
“Women guardians of the natural order”

Think of the morning dream with ghosts
Why draw the widow’s card and wear the gorgeous

Queen of Swords crown        Your job is
to rescue the not-dead woman before she enters

the incinerating garbage chute     wrangle silver
raccoon power     Forever a fought doll

She said, “What do you know about Vietnam?”
Violet energy ingots     Tenuous knowing moment

Notes on the Poem

As we consider "Haunted Sonnet" from Hoa Nguyen's 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Violet Energy Ingots, we get to revisit a poetic form that has appeared in many variations among our Poem of the Week selections. The sonnet is an enduring form, but also seems to be very resilient with respect to flexibility and openness to reinterpretation. Among Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collections, from which we draw to fill our Poem of the Week feature, we've seen poets such as Don Paterson, Rachael Boast and Paul Muldoon, among others, take on its challenging format in different ways. Les Murray makes sly reference to the sonnet form in his much longer than 14-line poem "The Quality of Sprawl". How does Nguyen's "Haunted Sonnet" sit in this company of sonneteers? Distinguishing her approach to the form is the series of seven couplets, an interesting departure from more traditional octave-sestet (eight-line followed by six-line) and other configurations. This crisp segmentation lends the poem a faster tempo, even a sense of urgency. This is borne out by the interpretation of the poem mentioned in this attentive review by Miriam W. Karraker in Full Stop. As Karraker observes, the lines "Your job is to rescue the not-dead woman before she enters the incinerating garbage chute" seem to indicate an imperative voice ("and here I feel implicated as a reader by the use of second person") that is further reinforced by the terseness with which the sonnet is spliced in two-line declarations.

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