Best. Sonnet. Ever
I’m trying to resuscitate the blog. I’ve realized that I’ve virtually abandoned all hobbies where I produce something tangible. Part of my abandonment has come from my own anxieties & self-defeating strategies about writing. So, in an attempt to rekindle my love for writing, I hope to write a little more here. And next year, when I study for my PhD exams, I’ll try to post some thoughts about my reading. It’ll help my consolidate thoughts for various aspects of that arduous process. To begin, then, my favorite sonnet, with a little commentary afterward:
The Rural Carrier Stops to Kill a Nine-Foot Cottonmouth
Lord God, I saw the son-of-a-bitch uncoil
In the road ahead of me, uncoil and squirm
For the ditch, squirm a hell of a long time.
Missed him with the car. When I got back to him, he was all
But gone, nothing left on the road but the tip-end
Of his tail, and that disappearing into Johnson grass.
I leaned over the ditch and saw him, balled up now, hiss.
I aimed for the mouth and shot him. And shot him again.
Then I got a good strong stick and dragged him out.
He was long and evil, thick as the top of my arm.
There are things in this world a man can’t look at without
Wanting to kill. Don’t ask me why. I was calm
Enough, I thought. But I felt my spine
Squirm, suddenly. I admit it. It was mine.
— T. R. Hummer, 1982
I could probably sum up by stating that Hummer’s poem appeals to me because of its unabashed description of violence. The poem succeeds, though, with its internally-expressed discomfort with that same description (and, of course, the actions that predicate it). Hummer recalls the enmity between man and serpent described in God’s curse from Genesis, so he succeeds in thoughtful biblical allusion. Finally, Hummer amplifies the reader’s discomfort by employing slant rhyme (“uncoil” and “all”; “end” and “again”; “grass” and “hiss”; and “arm” and “calm”). Something isn’t right here, and it’s pretty damn cool.