Age of (dis)content

And Now, A Sonnet is a personal project that attempts to resolve a problem with writing in the 21st century. It is made manifest from two views I have: that (1) the internet is a siren-song megaphone to any poet who wants to see their work recognized, and (2) all art is propaganda. The latter has always been true, but the politics of art and language is as amplified by the megaphone as the song. In our cultural cold war the battleground is the internet, and any poem that looks for space there is subject to assault — even the poem that ignores politics is itself political.1

I don’t believe this is a bad thing, but if we look at the current state of social media, I think we can agree that it is a dumpster fire of content. Disinformation, conspiracy theories and mental illness abound.2 Part of the reason is that, forgetting the amplifier, we are not careful with how we contribute and consume online content. By 2018 I had become fed up with it and deleted my major accounts. But the siren-song was forever singing and difficult to ignore, because as a writer I wish to write and respond, to communicate. The web may be a dumpster fire, but it is also the agora, the public space, the marketplace of ideas. Anyone who wants to speak within it must occupy part of that space.

Which is the starting place for And Now, A Sonnet, a weekly newsletter of an American sonnet that will be in response to some aspect of American politics and culture. It comes from the necessity to write and be read, but in a space that is a little more intimate, sheltered (somewhat) from the hurricane of content blowing about elsewhere.

Why a sonnet?

It isn’t as stuffy as it sounds. To say they are sonnets is true in the sense that the poems will be limited to 14 lines and will loosely follow the traditional rhetorical form of “proposition” and “resolution”. The limits of form is what matters here, to create a space in which a thought or sound can inhabit, which a reader can enter into. The work being done throughout the week will be creating that space of 14 lines.

The content is where the real experiment lies. The limit of the form is to order some crucial truth in song and rhythm. That truth is limited secondly by the politics it arrives from. I am a white, cisgender, heterosexual man. Anyone of my demographic who has humility and any hope for self-improvement can’t help but reflect on what it means to be white, cisgender, heterosexual men, especially when many of us seem bent on selfishness, intolerance, and insurrection. Since 2017 I have been trying to find where my voice can fit from this privileged position; if this experience succeeds or fails, it will be due to my ability to understand myself and my place in the world.

Of course, beyond my political identity I am a father of two, a web developer, cyclist, with a penchant for year-round vegetable gardening. That can be the fallacy of the amplifier as well: that it is always an eight measure melody without point or counterpoint. We are all containing multitudes.

1

Credit where credit’s due: I’d like to give a shout out to Noor Hindi’s poem, “Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying” from Dec. 2020 issue of Poetry, as the catalyst for this project.

2

For more on this, look at this interview from The Sun Magazine, November 2020: https://thesunmagazine.org/issues/539/dark-corners