The Chimaera: Issue 6, August 2009

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by Peter Bloxsom

Many thanks to Stephen Edgar, our spotlight poet in Issue 5, for joining us as a guest editor to help in selecting the poems for this feature. 

Among the featured 30 poems from 23 authors, you’ll find villanelles, sonnets (including the less-common Mason and Stefanile varieties, and a sonnet sequence), sapphics, terza rima, ottava rima, sestinas, a tritina, an ovillejo, a ballade, and a good sprinkling of interesting nonce forms — though possibly some of the last are established forms I just don’t recognize.

Our theme description, well-wrought form, perhaps risks placing too much emphasis on the mechanical aspects. Of course we set out to choose good poems that also happened to be well crafted in their use of form. It isn’t all that hard, after all, to bash out something that satisfies the superficial structural criteria for a villanelle, sonnet, triolet, or what have you. The real challenge is to make it an effective and affecting poem as well.

Sometimes form does seem to overwhelm content. I’m not usually a great fan of the repeating forms, which too easily become a sort of vacuous conjuring trick. (Both Stephen and Paul would probably say something similar.) Take sestinas, for example. Many of them have the whiff of workshop exercises. But I have to say I was emphatically won over by the two very different examples we have chosen: “Caul” by Claire Askew, and “My Imaginary Friend” by Tad Richards. 

It’s just a coincidence, but a pleasant one for me, that Clive James in his 96-line ottava rima poem “A City with Green Fingers” is talking, on the surface at least, about the future of my home city. The Brisbane of today, though it boasts nowhere near the rather scary two-hundred-mile diameter that the poem envisages, certainly has its “green fingers” to the sea; indeed, I live on one of them.

Well-wrought form. Happy reading! 

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