Berrigan ‘the sonnets’

Reading these today. I don’t find them especially memorable, despite some appealing qualities. What is odd about them for me is how the surface (the sonnet form) seems to pick up the more annoying features, let’s say inertness, while still being composed of something emotive, let’s say insincerity. The last line of sonnet XXXIV

Tell me now, again, who I am

The results disappoint me, and they seem to rely on looseness not of the ‘sonnet’ but himself.

I wouldn’t say the surface features of a poem are important per se. I got the word ‘surface’ from Silliman’s analysis of Jack Spicer, in the new sentence. Here, it is claimed that the surface is constructed from a deeper inability to make sense of what is happening in the poem except how quickly reading works: “a dizzying… sequence of such negations”, even if that surface seems quite dull except under analysis. My point is that it is the interplay of surface and depth (here, reading and thinking / sonnet and insincerity) which makes a poem. So, going back to ‘lowbrow’, perhaps acts of forming can only have (relatively) lowbrow content, and a poem has form only when how it is written is in some way concealed by a surface appeal. In which case arguably both poets I have mentioned fail.