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Tim’s not the only one who’s ambivalent about sonnets. It’s not for nothing that I didn’t write any for 15 years. The sonnet is an exercise in ambivalence, which is what makes it so enticing.

I can sympathise with Tim when he says: “I’m less keen on the ‘punchline’ structure of some Shakespearean sonnets, and the traditionally poetic imagery/trajectory that some sonnets gladly inherit.” And I see what he means about the predictability of “Mama’s Little Boy”. But when the overall construct is so conventionalised, then the details are allowed to emerge more strongly. So, for example, in “Mama’s Little Boy”, the matching pair of “the odd one out” (L4) and “round the bend” (L14) (i.e. “mad”) is an undercurrent that goes against the stream. That ambivalence again. 

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