the Art of the One-Word Poem in 2021

the Art of the One-Word Poem in 2021

 Writing in 1961, at the establishing of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) development, Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais, two of France’s most huge post bellum artistic experimentalists, pondered to each other “what a small number of words can make a sonnet?” 

As per Le Lionnais, this inquiry would distract the two until Queneau’s demise 15 years after the fact. Indeed, even in 1976, they questioned that a sonnet could be devloped from less than a few words. Maybe in light of the fact that their experiences were not principally in 

exploratory verse or after war craftsmanship (Le Lionnais was a mathematician and Queneau fundamentally a manager and writer), the two strangely neglected solid verse, a type of visual verse that utilizes the plan of words to pass on importance. The two additionally appeared to be uninformed of crafted by Aram Saroyan, whose mid-1960s sonnets investigated and broke the cutoff points proposed by Queneau and Le Lionnais. 

This article is adjusted from Paul Stephens’ book “nonattendance of messiness: negligible composition as craftsmanship and writing.” 

Despite the fact that the Oulipo’s authors may have been underinformed about solid verse, their incredulity is telling: Setting aside solid verse during the 1950s, it was not until the 1960s with the contemporaneous rise of pop craftsmanship, moderation, and reasonable workmanship that a solitary word or letter could be perceived as a sonnet. 

The single word sonnet may truth be told have quickly arrived at the stature of its notoriety in late 1967 with the last issue of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s diary Poor. Old. Tired. Pony. In July of that year, Finlay kept in touch with Saroyan — at that point just 24, however a main specialist of the structure — that he planned to assemble a whole issue of P.O.T.H. dedicated to single word sonnets: 

the thought being that the sonnet comprises of single word and a title. These are to be considered as 2 straight lines, which make a corner (the sonnets will have structure); while the oddity of these corners is, that they are open every which way. This is on the grounds that we can’t have entire world sonnets (we haven’t got one), and yet we ought not give up all hope of something with corners, for example, making them, and opening them up. 

As can quickly be perceived from Finlay’s letter, the rubric “single word sonnet” is somewhat deceptive. The entirety of the sonnets remembered for the issue highlighted a title, and the majority of the titles were longer than a solitary word. Taking cues from Finlay, I also consider as single word sonnets not only a solitary word in confinement on the page, however a solitary word rehashed per sonnet or per page (or other unit of distribution) that is rehashed (in entire or partially) as an arrangement. This far reaching definition would incorporate numerous eminent solid sonnets — for example, Eugen Gomringer’s “silencio” or Finlay’s “unlatched” or Mary Ellen Solt’s “Zinnia” — and my own unpleasant gauge is that maybe however numerous as 10% of solid sonnets may be basically developed of a solitary word. Saroyan, in any case, perceived himself to compose not as a solid artist, but rather as a negligible artist. 

Maybe the best effect on Saroyan’s insignificant sonnets was Louis Zukofsky, to whom Saroyan had been presented by another solid impact, Robert Creeley, in 1964. Creeley’s sonnets likewise turned out to be more negligible in the last part of the 1960s, however never so insignificant as a solitary word or a solitary word rehashed. Zukofsky gave the epigraph to Saroyan’s diary Lines, and he may have mostly enlivened Saroyan’s “lighght,” just as his “crickets/crickets/crickets . . .” Saroyan composed three particularly extraordinary cricket sonnets, two of which were recorded for LP. 

The section adaptation of “crickets” would proceed to turn into a mark sonnet of Saroyan’s, as confirmed by a 1968 Paris Review ad that discovered Saroyan at the pinnacle of his notoriety. The section of “crickets” (like “not a cricket”) ought to be tuned in to be valued completely. In the 1967 chronicle, the single word is rehashed by Saroyan for 80 seconds, and it inspires that of which it talks by likeness in sound. 

The section form of Saroyan’s “crickets” would proceed to turn into a mark sonnet of Saroyan’s, as proven by this 1968 Paris Review commercial that discovered Saroyan at the pinnacle of his distinction. 

As indicated by the writer, the sonnet “was written in the spring of 1965 of every a high rise on East 45th in New York City, demonstrating that crickets are amazing animals, equipped for entering New York City itself.” Interestingly, Saroyan rehashes “crickets” around 33 times each moment — not far-removed from the 30 trills each moment created by the North American field cricket. (The speed at which a cricket twitters is dictated by species and temperature — it is even conceivable, adhering to Dolbear’s Law, to decide the temperature outside by tallying the recurrence of cricket peeps.) 

The sonnet may well have been affected by a sonnet from Zukofsky’s “All,” first distributed in 1965. Zukofsky’s sonnet — a simple 19 words in 16 lines — starts with “Crickets’/bushes” and finishes with “are crickets’/air.” Saroyan indeed visited Zukofsky with Clark Coolidge in New York City not long after the section of crickets had been distributed in Lines six in November 1966, he advises me: “Louis referenced the sonnet immediately, saying something like ‘Okay, however what might be said about’ and here he exchanged into resonant recitation — ‘crickets’/shrubberies/light, please.’ He didn’t go on long yet it was clear I had gone excessively far for his preferences.” 

Saroyan’s seclusion of the single word had amazing impacts: It denarrativized and decontextualized language, and it put the word in distinct alleviation. 

Saroyan’s other two contemporaneous cricket sonnets play on the sonic and visual properties of the word otherly. Additionally a solitary section, “crickets/crickess/cricksss . . .” eliminates one letter from the word for eight lines and afterward re-adds a letter for each line. “Cricket” vanishes and returns outwardly among the extra s’s. Saroyan’s “not a cricket,” paradoxically, plays with a sonic and semantic paralipsis: 

not a 


ticks a 


In spite of the fact that it was not composed explicitly for The Dial-a-Poem Poets, that recording is vital to understanding the sonnet. Saroyan peruses the sonnet gradually as though it were a radio or phone declaration of the time, and “ticks a/clock” sounds a lot of like “six o’clock” (maybe regarding the notable tolls of Big Ben that have been communicated overall day by day by the BBC at six o’clock since 1924). In spite of the fact that “ticks a” half-rhymes with “cricket,” it isn’t a similar word, as in different “crickets” sonnets. Also, the sonnet plays a stunt like Magritte’s “Ceci n’est pas une line” or George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant”— it adversely summons something, as though to recommend a cricket doesn’t make a sound like a clock. Or on the other hand maybe there is a quiet so profound that solitary a clock can be heard. 

“crickets” and “not a cricket” can be helpfully contrasted with another contemporaneous sonnet by Saroyan: essentially “tick” fixated on two confronting pages. Like the crickets sonnets, it is onomatopoeic, and truth be told may sound more like a clock than the customary English “tick-tock” or the French “spasm tac” (the Italian treats, presented in 1969, is said to have taken its name from the sound of the confections shaking in their compartment). A clock doesn’t have two sounds that substitute each other second; it has one.

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