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The So-Called Sonnets

84 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978-0-9792410-5-5
First Edition
Silenced Press
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Available HERE
Review by Nicole Tone

Poetry, as with all things, can feel antiquated especially when following the traditional meters set forward by the Masters of our languages. Sonnets are supposed to follow a certain rhyming pattern, a certain number of beats per measure, as with any song. But in looking at tradition, and turning it on its head, great poets—contemporary Masters—are born. They don’t just write beautiful words but cut open their hearts and leave them to dry on the page. Bruce McRae’s The So-Called Sonnets does just this.

Sonnets are known to be about love—romantic love, the wanting of someone you are trying to woo. McRae begins his collection with the loss of love:

It was here, and now it’s somewhere else,
a thing that’s not worth mentioning.
A thing gone down a drain
only to rise out of the cold lake,
reaching up like a hand,
missing a ring, missing a finger.
(“Unfounded,” p. 14).

But this love is specific to the love of a person, where his collection is about so many different types of love, grouped together like different stages of a storm. Beyond the obvious hints to water and weather—

And the rain with teeth in it,
with a few deft strokes a rain implied.
(“Painting,” p. 6)

—the cadence of each poem calms and becomes intense as the narrator moves through the loss of a relationship, the beginning of a new one, of a return to family, to accepting of his fate. As with any life cycle, the narrator grows with each new poem and with this growth comes a shift in what he cares about. This cycle is slow in an enjoyable way, the way afternoon rains are or a good cup of tea is. Even in the narrator’s acceptance of his fate—

As if dust-devils, as if a cobra, like Orion;
up and up and up it rose, cradled on a burdened wind;
That thing that doesn’t have a name,
and no one, and no thing, can stop it.
(“Risen,” p. 73)

—there is indeed a resolution that leaves no questions unanswered. It is a satisfying journey from the death of a relationship to, perhaps, the death of McRae’s narrator who is seeing many lives flash before his eyes. For the poetry lover, it is a loving embrace, a blanket of warmth and comfort to know that, even in a storming sea, they are not alone. For the prose reader, it is a new adventure, though one that feels familiar, like a new cover of your favorite song.

NICOLE TONE has her BA in Creative Writing and Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and is working toward her MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University. In her free time, she is an editorial intern for REUTS Publications and the Industry News Coordinator for the Women Fiction Writers Association. You can follow her on Twitter at @nicoleatone or visit her website at nicoleatone.com.

• This book was submitted to Alternating Current by the author. The reviewer does not know the author and received the book from Alternating Current at random. • Permalink • Tags: The Volt

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