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From Daniel To Frances

From Daniel To Frances
The idea of writing a sonnet series was no flash of inspiration. I had decided that Daniel, in Adulteress Anonymous, should convey his feelings, in part at least, with verse. You can read the reason in the introduction to From Daniel To Frances. It sounds precious, but given the fact that Frances allows herself to meet Daniel for love-making only three or four times a year, not totally so. After all, if he can’t write letters or ring her (partly for reasons of secrecy and partly because she thinks her conscience would be unable to stand the strain) what else is the poor man to do? A couple of concertinaed hours, largely and understandably devoted to such sexual activity as she permits, is hardly likely to be enough.

Thus, one day, while walking, but for no obvious reason, I thought of the first lines of sonnet 1. I chose the Shakespearian format, as the only one I had any experience of, rather than with any thought of imitation. After all, Haydn invented the string quartet structure but that hardly meant Mozart wasn’t allowed to use it too, as well as innumerable composers since. And I found the exercise interesting, and simply went on writing more sonnets, aiming, as I explain in the introduction, to cover as many angles I could imagine Daniel might come up with, though I wrote some modern verse for him too.

I had written sonnets before (see Gallimaufry), so I can’t pretend I was without experience, but the fascination I now felt persuaded me to go on long after I need have done. And I have written sonnets since, some of them about grief, or ugliness. Clearly the sonnet form greatly satisfies me, and in number 46 I say why – it being a sonnet about the sonnet. I am particularly taken by the appositeness of the constraint which the original rules of sonnet-writing impose, or at least used to before most of them were broken by later writers.

Still, all rules are artificial, there to be broken. It is no more logical to break them than to stick with them. So I do both. And whichever I choose to do (and who but pedants or professors of Eng Lit will know or care) my guide is not whether I am being correct in the literary sense or otherwise, but whether I am producing words which say something, and might be both memorable, and if possible, pleasing to the ear. Thus I have a sonnet which is a single sentence, a sonnet which takes word repetition (a Shakespearian trait) to extreme lengths, another which starts every line with the same word, and so forth.

My hope is that although these 80 sonnets refer to a particular – and peculiar – love affair, lovers of every kind will also find them interesting, puzzling as they do about the nature of love itself. Besides, any new gift for Valentine’s Day is never unwelcome!
 
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