About the book
In this new collection, Richard Sommer shadows the Shakespearean sonnet, taking the most traditional form for expressing love and expanding its range and message to reflect our times. Sommer's sonnets create a strange music, with rhymes that are often proximate rather than identical. They are shadows, too, of the spirit of the sonnet, of its ever present thread of argument, its dense and gnarled sense of intimate conversation or panicked declaration, its erotic unrest, its terrible desire for someone and something unpossessed and not to be possessed. Sommer extends the sonnet beyond its traditional territory of love between man and woman to embrace the natural world around him and the deteriorating ecology of the planet. The result is a rich weave of past and present, love and pain, language and world.
About the author
Richard Sommer taught myth and poetry at Montreal's Concordia University for many years, served three decades as a volunteer game warden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and led a citizens' environmental group in a seven-year battle, ultimately successful, to save the Townships' Pinnacle Mountain from developers. Sommer's previous books include Homage to Mr. Macmullin, Blue Sky Notebook, left hand mind, Milarepa, The Other Side of Games, Selected and New Poems, Fawn Bones, and The Shadow Sonnets. In 2004, Sommer was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the verse journal, Cancer Songs, has been an important part of his response to this challenge. He lives on a dirt road outside Frelighsburg with his wife of more than forty years, dance improvisationalist, teacher and artist Victoria Tansey. They have three grown children, three grandchildren, and currently three cats.
Writing to find the sonnet's real way
before she ups & leaves me flat, flies home.
(That first line was for tomorrow's poem,
but now I'm in the tomorrow of yesterday.)
Would she leave me so? You bet she would.
Yet where is home for sonnets, in these days?
The sonnet which is more than private maze
or verbal seduction or pedestal of wood
painted to look like marble which in turn
was carved to look like what the past seemed then.
Tradition: patriarchs pat bums again,
stuff ashes of flashy passion into an urn.
The sonnet's more, or less, than such lost
lace. The man's poem. His pretensions, his grace.
“These sonnets are 'smoky songs' of love and sex and politics, felt acutely, oh like the ache of the jazz horn in the 'sinuosities of Mingus.' Hurt, memory, and cigarette... ”>>
— Mary di Michele
“Richard Sommer is the latest in a long line of poets, mostly men, who have been seduced by the sonnet form, that wonderful controlled burning that embraces whimsy,... ”>>
— Gary Geddes
“How pleasing strange to come across a book of sonnets in the late 20th century. In a time when the form is generally derided as at best nostalgic or at worst politically... ”>>
— Canadian Book Review Annual
“These poems have a contemporary feel: the reader often forgets the constraints under which Sommer is working because he stretches the medium, bending the rules of metre and... ”>>
— The Montreal Gazette