Poetry Book Review:
By Day Williams
Every now and then I read a book of poems that I dread reviewing. I try to look for as much evidence of craft as I can even if I don't like the book, but with 100 Sonnets
there is little to praise. Nevertheless, I'll start with the good.
Day Williams clearly understands the technical aspects of writing sonnets. His meter is fine. The rhymes rhyme. What more could you ask of a sonnet?
Well, a lot, actually. And here's where it all turns sour.
Williams attempts to bring the sonnet into the postmodern with a sense of the pre-modern, you could say “Victorian”, still on the pages. It just doesn't work. His humor often falls flat, his pathos is weak, and many of the poems just leave me with a feeling of “who cares?”
His preface is short, so I guess you can add that to the pro list. In his own words, Williams attempts the
surreal, imaginative, police procedural, Scriptural and fun.
OK, two-and-a-half out of five ain't bad.
Williams hits the police procedural pretty well. Hard and heavy. But most of the time I couldn't care less about the characters in these overly narrative sonnets. Scriptural? OK, you got me. But hardly fun. Barely imaginative. And only about half surreal, though a good attempt, I suppose.
The major weakness of 100 Sonnets
is a lack of serious commitment to the form. While technically apt, the poems do not demand attention and I found myself several times throughout feeling like walking out of a bad movie. Perhaps the titles of the five sections of 100 Sonnets
can be a clue to my meaning here.
- Wholly Sonnets
- Holey Sonnets
- Lowly Sonnets
- Slowly Sonnets
- Guacamole Sonnets
With titles like these you'd expect the poems to be a riot, but they don't even put up their dukes. Here's a quick sample, the best I could find:
The sixteen mirrored gems kaleidoscope
Across the heavens like a neutron star,
And physicists at their oscilloscopes
Discover droids that stand on Zanzibar
And howl at Moloch, harpoon Moby Dick,
and pick pickpockets' pockets while they talk
About the helix found by Watson-Crick
And both the pointed ears of Doctor Spock,
As Michelengelo plays air guitar
And Cleopatra skinny-dips the Nile
While Antony has romped across the map
To shop for Spanish bracelets in bazaars
That beam fluorescent lights on diamond tiles,
And capture for himself a Yankees cap.
Truth be told, I like this poem - a little. But it's one of the few. And with the exception of “Doctor” misplaced where it should read “Mister”, there are some nice poetic elements here. I particularly like the pickpockets line and the anachronisms are witty and fun. But this poem, titled "Sonnet 16", is not representative of the whole. Most of the poems in 100 Sonnets
are just downright awful. And I'd much rather see titles than the Shakespearean numbering system as well.
is published by Days Rays, which I presume is the imprint of the author, but that has little to do with the worth of this book. Read it at your own peril.
Purchase your copy of
100 Sonnets by Day Williams