Thursday, June 09, 2011

UPDATE: Two new comments on old posts call into question my knowledge of Shakespeare and Jew's Harps.


And whenever someone calls into question my knowledge, and that someone isn't Sweetie, who controls the money around our house, I take affront, but in a mild, blogger way, because God only knows if I'm right about the things I post on here. I've made clear, after all, that my "research" is done through the time-honored method of "making things up if I'm too lazy to Google them," whereas oftentimes I'll find that my readers have what some scientists call "actual knowledge" which they insist somehow trumps my version of events.

So let's hear from two of them: First, from the NEW most provocative thing I've ever said, ever, comes the TWENTY-SECOND -- that's a 2, followed by another 2 -- comment on The Best Language, which means that my nomination for Best Language is now more controversial even than the time I nominated The Best Olsen Twin.

Here's Comment 22 on The Best Language:

If you are going to call someone out as wrong, you should make sure you, yourself, are correct. It's true there are rules for sonnets, but a strict following of iambic pentameter is not the gauge of whether or not a poem qualifies as one. Shakespeare always wrote in iambic pentameter, and that has been the most common practice, but other poets before, during, and after the Elizabethan era have made use of lines in tetrameter and hexameter as well. It's a common misconception by people who are only familiar with Shakespeare and not his influences and contemporaries.
That was left by "Anonymous," but I think that after a close analysis of the text, you'll agree with me that the comment was in fact written by Christopher Marlowe.*

*How's that for an obscure reference?

So here's the question for you, Mr. Anonymous Christopher Marlowe: Who decides what makes a sonnet? Beside me, of course; as the person who decided what constituted a pizza, I think we can all agree that I am eminently qualified to decide "other stuff" like when is a sonnet not a sonnet (which sentence I think is a haiku).

Not being particularly motivated to get up and do anything this morning, I decided I'd do this the "scientific" way, and since all scientists do to resolve things now is "make up velociraptors and dark matter" or Google things, and since asking "Who decides what makes a sonnet?" and then answering "Velociraptors made of dark matter" seems unsatisfying, I decided to Google it to see if there's some sort of Poet Advisory Council or International Order Of Poets or some such that sets the rules and says "This is a poem, that's not," or some such.

Turns out that the One World-er fears are overstated: The international community hasn't yet banded together to send black helicopters into Kansas to keep kids from writing quatrains. And it turns out, too, that poetry, like everything else the Baby Boomers have ever touched, has gone all to hell.

Dummies.com says that sonnets have to follow a set of rules, but doesn't expressly say that Iambic Pentameter (which is the best pentameter of all, you know) is required. Then again, that site is run for dummies.

Then there's this site, which looks like it was one of those early web sites people made back in the olden days of the Internet, when website all had little "flash" animations of cartoon turtles playing a saxophone and were primarily devoted to Comic Sans MS-fonted descriptions of Grandma's lilies. The animated turtle on this site tells me that the sonnet was "invented" in Italy (probably in the 16th century, which was when everything but Pancakes On A Stick was invented) and goes on to say that

The traditional length [of a sonnet] centers around (but does not obsessively lock-step with) iambic pentameter in English.

Then there's "The John William Pope Center For Higher Education Policy" site. I don't know who "John William Pope" is, but he's obviously someone important because the only people who use three names are (a) 18th century nature writers or (b) people who shot a president.**

**Not counting Sirhan Sirhan, who I remembered as I typed that, and who obviously used only one name, but he used it twice.

The John William Pope Center For Higher Education Policy and/or Being An 18th Century Nature Writer backs me up:

One is that strict rules govern the construction of a sonnet. Each of the fourteen lines has to be iambic pentameter

Which proves me right. Take that, Christopher Marlowe!

Also, I've run out of time so I'll get to the other commenter later.

Also, if you google image search the word "sonnet," you end up with lots of pictures of the woman on this post. I love you, Internet!

Playground Destroyer Gif - Playground Destroyer
see more Gifs

Read The original post, "The Best Language," here.

You can't read The Best Olsen Twin anymore; it'll appear in my upcoming book Up Was Macaroni. Until then, why not read one of these great books?

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Rogue Mutt said...

They taught us in school about sonnets but I forget about it five minutes later. When are you ever going to need to know about sonnets in real life? That's what greeting cards are for.

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