Next Line, Please

Midnight Champagne

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By David Lehman

October 27, 2015


 

These were my five finalists for line three of our sonnet in progress:

 

“To make love in the aura of a thunderstorm,” (Angela Ball)

“Come id, unbidden rain, thwarted thunderstorm” (Joe Lawlor).

“First hot, quick lightning. Then [a] dark, deep thunderstorm” (Joanna Peders)

“Midnight champagne, penthouse lit by thunderstorm,” (Christine Rhein) and

“Spotlit by the lightning of a media thunderstorm,” (Elizabeth Solsburg).

 

I was almost tempted to put it to a general vote but decided not to pass the buck. After hemming and hawing, I opted for Christine Rhein’s line “Midnight champagne, penthouse lit by thunderstorm.” I like the way the “lovely scandal” of line two turns luxurious (“penthouse”) but with tremors of danger (“lit by thunderstorm”). It is a very cinematic line, and the bubbly at the stroke of midnight means either that it is New Year’s Eve or that there is something gothic in the movie that we’re in.

In their differing ways Angela Ball’s line and Joanna Peders’s line elaborate our poem in desirable directions: Angela’s to a level of romantic intimacy, Joanna’s to a place where the weather is entirely metaphorical and erotic. Elizabeth Solzburg introduces the media into the equation, while Joe Lawlor turns to Freud, the id, and the repression of wishes expressed as meteorological conditions.

To all five, my compliments. Our sonnet is in good hands. Here it is so far:

Our dreams as disparate as our days uniform,
We crave a lovely scandal with someone well-known;
Midnight champagne, penthouse lit by thunderstorm,

Now we need to complete the first rhymed quatrain of our poem. The only requirement for next week is this:

The last word of our next line must be alone.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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