Village Voice: Richard Blanco On The Enduring Sonnet

01.13.20

In this episode of the Village Voice, we shared several modern spins on one of poetry’s most celebrated forms: the sonnet.

“[These are not] our grandparent’s sonnets,” Blanco said, referencing traditional expectations like meter and subject matter. “There’s a lot more going on that we’ve inherited from the sonnet, and a lot of it has to do with the rhetorical mode or structure or movement.”

We then offered some historical background on the famously square poems, including their surprising origins.

“Sonnets, if my memory serves me correctly, were originated by lawyers,” he said. “If you look at it, it’s like a plea… an argument– it’s a form of rhetoric.”

Asked why a modern poet would be interested in re-purposing the 700 year-old structure, Blanco noted that “like every art [form], we want to see how we can take something from the past and mess with it in clever ways.”

Then we went on to read a few modern sonnets from writers such as Sherman Alexie, Denis Johnson, Kim Addonizio, as well as a poem written by Blanco himself, titled “Havana 50s.”

This episode of “Village Voice” aired on WGBH Boston Public Radio on January 13, 2020.