Next Line, Please

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?

Print

By David Lehman

October 20, 2015


 

The many strong contenders for line two of our sonnet could pull our work-in-progress in as many different directions. The candidate that I liked the most, which points to the direction that strikes me as most promising, is Angela Ball’s “We crave a lovely scandal with someone well-known.” After our strong opening line, with its abstract formulation, how refreshing to modulate to something as concrete and ever-timely as a “lovely scandal.” The phrase is almost an oxymoron, but its plain sense will be lost on no one. Everything from old-fashioned tabloids to the latest in social media reminds us that we’re hooked on scandals. We can’t get enough of them—whether it’s a case of financial malfeasance on a colossal scale, a spymaster caught pants down with a fetching enemy agent, a celebrated actress caught shoplifting, or dozens of variants. We are suckers for such stories—to the point that it might be said that we “crave” them. But Angela’s choice of “crave” has an extra effect, implying that the spectator may harbor a secret wish to be a player—rather than an observer or bystander—in just such a scandal.

Second place honors go to Charise Hoge for “What secrets pitch their tents on borders known?” It is a muscular line of strong, assertive iambic pentameter, and it is tempting to pick up the baton where the line leaves off, with “secrets” and “borders.”

Though I don’t fully understand it, MQ’s entry, “We walk the sheets until the bell, well known,” captivated me. I was baffled by the first phrase, though “walk the sheets” sounds enough like “walk the streets” to make this a non-problem. And it would be a pleasure to imagine the bodies in, or the sentences or musical phrases written on, these ghostly “sheets”–which are visible perhaps only until the “bell” signifying daybreak sounds.

Honorable mentions: LaWanda Walters (“rearrange the yesterday we thought we had known”), Brian Tholl (“The oneiric craftsman lies masked among the known”), and Elizabeth Solsburg (“We rifle through them for truths we’ve known”).

So here we are:

Our dreams as disparate as our days uniform,
We crave a lovely scandal with someone well-known;

Line three needs to end with the word “thunderstorm,” preferably followed by a comma.

Deadline: Sunday, October 25, at noon. My sincere thanks to all who took part. Please know that I read your line–I read every line–at least thrice, and usually more.

 


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.

More Posts from Next Line, Please:


Comments powered by Disqus