capitalism: a Sonnet


chemical Macaque      glaxosmithkline


roche      trepanned-brain Baboon


max factor eyes burning Cat      l’oreal

Rabbit     (the devil wears perfume)


o, dear             easyjet       ryanair

melting Reindeer, Polar Bear


but a bargain for mcdonalds –

Earth’s rainforests         slashed


as Asians sweat for adidas

nike     the evil empire’s goddess


o, bless all ecocidal patriarchs – so smart

in suits             armani uniforms


a cocktail of intellect and greed

hellish stuff      they puppet us to need





Helen Moore
Picture Rupert Loydell



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19 Responses to capitalism: a Sonnet

    1. Dave Tomlin quibbles:

      Quibble: I notice you have a “sonnet” on the site. ‘Capital – A Sonnet’, by Helen Moore. My quibble is that it is no sonnet. It may have fourteen lines but this is not enough to qualify as such, it is in fact a ‘Quatorzain’, This is how valuable classical forms are lost and I am surprised that you allowed it through as a sonnet. I agree that the function of IT is to attack shibboleths and bigotry but I would expect it at the same time to defend our poetic inheritance.
      Attached is a real Sonnet concerning this very issue.

      Sonnet to W S

      Fourteen lines doth not a sonnet make
      Much more required to shape that mode
      And form the old Italian ode
      Preserve the rules for Petrarch’s sake.
      So if we would tradition break
      Upon the path Lord Surrey rode
      It should remain within that code
      While following his Lordship’s wake.
      But yet, an English sonnet must
      Contain one octave, one quatrain
      Seek twice four rhymes and seek in vain
      Has no resource but break that trust
      Thus split the octave in two parts
      And free the poet to his arts.

      Comment by admin on 5 February, 2012 at 8:47 pm
    2. Niall:

      There are two ways of looking at this issue. Modern poets have come the feel the sonnet form is too straitjacketed and now look to create looser models. Experimental sonnets are commonplace, many inspired by Ted Berrigan’s innovations.

      New Formalists have revived the strict forms, and agitate loudly for them, and against free verse.

      The New Formalists, though, are very much the squares in this debate.

      IT is proud of ‘capitalism – a Sonnet’ and does not deny its claim to sonnet status. It is also a powerful ecopoem, inspired by a little known pioneer in this field called Jonathan Griffin.

      Your own sonnet we feel is clunky, and also rhythmically/grammatically/prosodically/punctuationally inadequate.

      Glad you’re so pleased with it.

      Polonius-like pedantries apart, you claim yours is the ‘real sonnet’, not Helen Moore’s. A far more important distinction is this: ‘capitalism: a Sonnet’ is a real poem. Read it with humility.

      Comment by admin on 5 February, 2012 at 9:03 pm
    3. I am surprised that IT has joined forces with the dumbing down mob. Eventually getting rid of all forms to make things ever easier, but of course the price for this movement is loss of all quality and results in any arrangement of words to be called a Sonnet. This anti-dumbing down crusade is now known as ‘elitism’ and allows the ‘anything goes’ culture to flourish.

      Comment by Dave Tomlin on 6 February, 2012 at 2:04 pm
    4. The evolution of poetic form has nothing to do with dumbing down, nor does IT.

      Comment by admin on 15 February, 2012 at 1:49 pm
    5. Dear Dave,
      I hope that IT gives young writers the opportunity to do things that we were unable to do. One of those opportunities is the right to be wrong. In public.
      These matters are intricate. I have profound political disagreements with this writer. We talk about it. However, I find her verse clean and well focused.
      It is not a Petrarchan sonnet but to insist on the form chosen by Bill S. might be considered elitist.
      Hope to see you soon.

      Comment by admin on 6 February, 2012 at 2:36 pm
    6. Mike. More power to your arm for giving young writers these opportunities and congratulations for doing so. However you did say that the site allows people to be wrong (therefore this must include yourself) W.S. wrote around 150 ‘sonnets’, not one of which was Petrarchan, they were in fact a simplified form invented by the Earl of Surrey (even in those days they were difficult). My quibble was not a criticism of the lady’s poem itself, but rather only of the structure.
      And to ‘Admin’ As a Sonnet following strict Petrarchan form my poem, although ‘clunky’, cannot be rhythmatically inadequate. Also punctuation is the perogative of the poet as is grammar; poetry lies outside these rules, it is not prose.

      Comment by dave tomlin on 6 February, 2012 at 5:34 pm
    7. Niall:

      The first line of your sonnet is pentameter, the rest are tetrameter.

      Comment by admin on 8 February, 2012 at 6:36 pm
    8. Niall:

      Did I say Polonius? Try Holofernes.

      Comment by admin on 6 February, 2012 at 10:40 pm
    9. From Dave Tomlin:

      Niall. No you still don’t get it. Even though people have ‘developed’ the sonnet (and of course I know about that) there have been many more who have accepted the challange of the old form, even up to Auden and so on. The question is how much can be taken from something before it ceases to be the original? And of course this question applies not only to sonnet writing but to what is going on around us all the time; the sonnet question is but a symbol of this. However I know now that that your style is combative, although you do seem to look into the nearest dustbin for your missiles, jousting matchsticks and so on.

      I have devoted another Sonnet to Helen Moore which I have posted on her Sonnet site, I would have thought she would have been pleased to have been the object of so much controversy.

      Comment by admin on 8 February, 2012 at 6:39 pm
    10. Niall:

      Helen will respond in time.

      As for dumbing down, your Muriel Spark school of poetics is for people who mostly ignore the poetic territory gained in the 20th century.

      The New Formalists take much from Auden, but they’re bogged down in their workshop limits.
      Auden was a great moderniser, and a great formalist. The point is to do both. Best to start with the old and then move onto the new.

      Your sonnets are deviants, anyway, because they’re in tetrameter.

      A sonnet is a ‘little song’, that’s all.

      The songwriter Richard Ashcroft has a beautiful song called ‘Sonnet’. The chorus is the simple:

      ‘Yes there’s love if you want it,
      don’t sound like a sonnet,
      my love’

      He’s right. Check it out on youtube.

      Comment by admin on 8 February, 2012 at 6:45 pm
    11. Sonnet for Helen Moore

      Willy-nilly flows the mind
      To seek delicious intercepts
      of surreal views and such concepts
      Through words of a poetic kind.
      A sonnet though must seek to bind
      its content, which the form accepts
      and taking words the mind adapts
      these rhythms as a tree be-vined.
      The roots and trunk are fixed below
      but higher up the branches spread
      foretelling all that lies ahead
      where strange and new the blossoms grow.
      A sonnet tree to reach the sky
      Though difficult, is worth a try.

      Dave Tomlin. 7. 2. 2011

      Comment by Dave Tomlin on 8 February, 2012 at 1:28 pm
    12. Niall:

      Be-vined. Tres bien.

      Comment by admin on 8 February, 2012 at 4:55 pm
    13. There is a myth that says Sonnets are confined to Pentameters. Where it came from, or when, is unknown?
      ‘Poetry territory gained in the twentieth century.’ Yes, but in what direction.
      Thanks for the Tres Bien. The form often pushes the writer into corners that are difficult to escape from, but can also sometimes lead to otherwise inconceivable solutions. And anyway, I’m quite fond of archaisms, innit!
      Petrarch was writing in Italian. Italian has a plethora of rhyming words: Spaghetti, Macaroni, Vermicelli, Baloney, Bugatti, Maserati, on and on. Therefore he had no trouble with his rhyming scheme. ABBAABBA for the first octave. Two sets of four rhyming words, in Italian, no problem.
      English however, is another matter, and rhyming words are not so abundant; this is why Lord Surrey made the first dumbing down, although for the reasons given, it was entirely justified. Now the sonneteers could loosen their feathers and sing.
      The next dumbing down came between that time and Shakespeare’s, discarding Petrarch’s ingenious A.B.B.A with its strangely halting cadence, and replacing it with the plodding nursery rhythm of: A.B.A.B. ‘Mary had a little lamb’, and so on. Strange too is the fact that Shakespeare adhered to this simplest of forms throughout his 154 Sonnets, whilst all around him many serious poets tackled the more difficult form. This mystery far surpasses the question of who he was, but illuminates a startling fact. Since the form he used was already common in his time, he cannot be said to have invented it. Conclusion, there is no such thing as a Shakespearian Sonnet, a term oft mistakenly used.
      Dave Tomlin 9.02.2012

      Comment by dave tomlin on 9 February, 2012 at 8:31 pm
    14. A last word on the Shakespeare aspect of this controversy.
      Many reasons have been given as to why Shakespeare wrote no Petrarchan Sonnets, despite them being all the rage of his time. Some have proposed that he just couldn’t be bothered. Others, that he was raising two fingers at such tradition, or again that he considered it to be a dying form. But we have only to look at the long list of poets from later generations who have pitted their skills at the art to see that this is unfeasible. From Byron to Keats, (who wrote seventeen of them), to Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Christina Rossetti, whose ‘Sonnet of Sonnets’ contained twenty eight pure Petrarchan sonnets, and so into modern times with Auden and Ezra Pound.
      Perhaps the simplest solution of all is that he never wrote them at all!
      During his writing period Shakespeare achieved a very high degree of fame, although he was surrounded by other poets of perhaps equal calibre, but they were outshone by it and pushed onto the fringes. Amongst humans, jealousy is often generated by such circumstances, not least among the poetic fraternity; and this can cause difficulties where friendships are concerned. Richard Barnfield, for instance, his close friend, well respected for his Petrarchan ‘Sonnets to Cynthia’, was a little put out when in 1599 Shakespeare published his folio ‘The Passionate Prince’, two of which poems Barnfield claimed as his own. (This has later been vindicated; three in fact).
      Such a paltry act of poetic skulduggery provoked a great furore and much ado at the time, for it went no little way up Barnfield’s nose and he caused a great fuss over the issue; Will would have lost a friend there for sure. Another man of letters, Ben Jonson, hardly sung his praises, for was he not heard to say when told that the Bard never scratched out a line, ‘Would that he’d scratched a thousand.’, and, ‘He flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped.’ Then there is Kit Marlow, whose lines from ‘Hero and Leander’, were considered to have been plagiarised by Shakespeare in ‘As you like it’, and he, therefore, unlikely to wish the great man well.
      Such feelings aroused amongst this powerful group was unlikely to have had no consequence, and where such energies collude, schemes and plots abound, and such, inspired by Jonson’s words: ‘He should be stopped’, may well have provided the catalyst. A plot to be hatched which would put a bit of a dent in Will’s hallowed reputation, by collectively writing a series of Sonnets, couched in the most ‘user friendly’ form possible, and published under the name, William Shakespeare. Thus would the great man become the laughing of London and certainly amongst his fellow poets, some of whom may have even, once or twice, used the simple form themselves.
      But… one hundred and fifty four?
      Surrounded as he was by great Sonneteers who were writing the Petrarchan form in Sonnets to their ladies, their patrons, and even, amongst courtiers, to the Queen. How could such a genius be unable to compete at this level? The poetry is sublime, but couched in the easiest terms, and in those days poetry had a far more important role in the culture than as now, therefore, there were higher expectations upon their Bard.

      Kit Marlow, a man notorious for his involvement in the dark world of espionage would have been up for it. Ben Jonson, without a doubt; and in Barnfield’s case the Pope is definitely a Catholic. Three (at least) high calibre poets such as these would have had no trouble producing the goods; publishing them under Shakespeare’s name; and an end to this scurvy knave. However, as plots, despite the efforts of the plotters, are prone to mishaps, and this one, far too late, backfired in an alarming way. Instead of bringing derision down on to Will’s head it had the opposite effect. His fame by this time had reached such a level that, like Picasso, anything which flowed from his hand was immediately seized upon ecstatically by an adoring public, having the status, (in modern terms), of a brand name.
      Just flash the Logo and all resistance is neutralised.
      Shakespeare’s reputation, far from being diminished, was now increased by many magnitudes, a result that, to their chagrin, cannot have failed to get even further up the noses of our three conspirators, leaving the world to sadly wonder why he did not endow us with at least one Petrarchan Sonnet, and if had, how he might have handled it.

      Comment by dave tomlin on 11 February, 2012 at 11:15 pm
    15. Niall:

      The volume in question which you call ‘The Passionate Prince’ was actually called ‘The Passionate Pilgrim’ and was not printed by William Shakespeare but by William Jaggard, a pirate publisher, who was cashing in on Shakespeare’s fame as poet – and on the Shakespeare brand – by collecting some works by Shakespeare, some works by other poets such as Barnfield, and publishing them all as a collection by W.S.

      It was known that Shakespeare disapproved of this because of comments made by another poet Thomas Heywood.

      The Sonnets were not written by a group of jealous rivals and published in his name to ruin his reputation. Marlowe, for starters, was long dead by the time the sonnets were published in 1609. He didn’t live to see As You Like It either, where S was eulogising not plagiarising Marlowe.

      Ben Jonson loved Shakesoeare. ‘I loved him this side idolatry’. Check out the name of his tribute poem: ‘To the Memory of my Beloved Mr William Shakespeare and What He Hath Given Us….’

      Contrary to what to you say, the sonnets did not increase S’s repuation. They flopped. The covert homosexuality and the overt heterosexuality both shocked the Jacobean audiences. The book was not reprinted, unlike all other S poetry books.

      Your scholarship is artlessly dodgy.

      See my essay ‘Shagspurt’ in IT which debunks other conspiracy theories that try to pull down England’s master poet.

      Comment by admin on 13 February, 2012 at 4:50 pm
    16. Well, that’s just one theory, but thanks anyway for the corrections. My scholarship may be (very) dodgy, but I refute the accusation of artlessness, and my main point still holds. Why, master poet or not, did he write no Petrarchan Sonnets?

      Comment by Dave Tomlin on 14 February, 2012 at 2:07 pm
    17. He wrote ‘English sonnets’. After the seminal Thomas Watson in the 1580s and Philip Sidney in 1590s, English poets wrote tons of sonnets. Shakespeare wrote in the form he wrote in because it was already one of the models of the English sonnet.
      Not only did he trash the Petrachan sonnet with his revolutionary psychological and sexual realism, he had no interest in preserving the form.

      He used the new English model and the new English language to take English poetry to a new level of reality.

      Comment by admin on 14 February, 2012 at 5:41 pm
    18. The Petrarchan Sonnet was introduced to the English court by Thomas Wyatt, it was then transformed by the Earl of Surrey, for reasons given, into the English Sonnet, ABBA- CDDC, although Spencer came up with a slightly different form which only relieved it of one set of four rhyming words, ABBA – BCCB. Still preserving the Petrarchian cadence of 1221 which was the real revolution.
      The next step was to ABAB, which was the counter revolution, reducing the form to a more ‘user friendly’ form, in any terms this cannot be considered an advance.A Sonnet form cannot be ‘trashed’ by the content, although it must have been fun to trash my speculative little tale.

      Comment by dave tomlin on 15 February, 2012 at 2:40 pm
    19. Well, that seems the end of that little spat. However, one last word and the real reason for my contentions. Now that fashion, fickle as it is, has decreed that the Petrarchan Sonnet is ‘obsolete’, ‘old fashioned,’ ‘archaic’, ‘not worth considering’ and so on, this concensus opinion of the rah rah free-formers will, unfortunately, deter younger poets from even attempting one, which is not just a pity, but more of a tragedy.
      Writing free form poetry (this is actually an oxymoron) relies on inspiration and the imaginative mind. But writing a Petrarchan Sonnet means utilising the anyletical mind in a marriage with that inspiration. To willingly place oneself inside the prison of this strict form and yet still, in spite of the handicaps it demands, overcoming the difficulties and producing good and wholesome poetry is a triumph for the muse. Engaging in such a battle is a joy unecountered elsewhere, and it is this pleasure which those ignorant of its opportunities deny themselves. Like many other instances of this syndrome, valuable standards are lost by, as in this case, ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’. This is the crux of my argument and the reason why I contended this issue in the first case.

      Comment by dave tomlin on 16 February, 2012 at 6:44 pm

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