Essay

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Some poems resist working. They fight inquisitiveness into any of the secrets of their composition and critical decomposition.
Contrary to what it may tell you, Sonnet #1 is not a sonnet. It doesn’t follow any sonnet scheme. It could, tangentially, be said to follow a sonnet’s argumentative pattern (thesis, antithesis) but this is a stretch. Also, this isn’t new. Poets have been calling the strangest things sonnets since the time when it was the dominant poetic form. It isn’t new, but I think it helps this poem make meaning.
Sonnet #1 is, in essence, about gardening and about writing. In its most cultivated form, gardening is like a sonnet: based on tradition, entrenched in form and rules, rhyming of colour and species, a symbol of civility. Kroetsch says as much with that first line and its colon pointing to the blank white of page stock: my garden is the page and this is my garden/sonnet….

Some poems resist working. They fight inquisitiveness into any of the secrets of their composition and critical decomposition.
Contrary to what it may tell you, Sonnet #1 is not a sonnet. It doesn’t follow any sonnet scheme. It could, tangentially, be said to follow a sonnet’s argumentative pattern (thesis, antithesis) but this is a stretch. Also, this isn’t new. Poets have been calling the strangest things sonnets since the time when it was the dominant poetic form. It isn’t new, but I think it helps this poem make meaning.
Sonnet #1 is, in essence, about gardening and about writing. In its most cultivated form, gardening is like a sonnet: based on tradition, entrenched in form and rules, rhyming of colour and species, a symbol of civility. Kroetsch says as much with that first line and its colon pointing to the blank white of page stock: my garden is the page and this is my garden/sonnet.


Some poems resist working. They fight inquisitiveness into any of the secrets of their composition and critical decomposition.
Contrary to what it may tell you, Sonnet #1 is not a sonnet. It doesn’t follow any sonnet scheme. It could, tangentially, be said to follow a sonnet’s argumentative pattern (thesis, antithesis) but this is a stretch. Also, this isn’t new. Poets have been calling the strangest things sonnets since the time when it was the dominant poetic form. It isn’t new, but I think it helps this poem make meaning.
Sonnet #1 is, in essence, about gardening and about writing. In its most cultivated form, gardening is like a sonnet: based on tradition, entrenched in form and rules, rhyming of colour and species, a symbol of civility. Kroetsch says as much with that first line and its colon pointing to the blank white of page stock: my garden is the page and this is my garden/sonnet.
And then, the poem goes terrible. Terribly terrible. Who could put such cultivated words “primordial,” “nothingness,” and “undomesticated” in the first four lines of a poem? And then “Out of which.” Yuck. For the start of a poem, this is just bad and barely forgivable. What this poem needed was some rewriting, some editing, some judicious weeding.
“The undomesticated”–or is Kroetsch letting the poem speak to the paradox he created with the title? That is, this isn’t a sonnet/garden, this is an undomesticated garden, a place where useless weeds crop up, where decisions to weed are resisted, and the garden/poem is left to grow unedited? The garden is left unjudged.
Perhaps with the idea of judgment, other parts of the poem make sense, especially the quoting from the snippets from the Christian daily prayer: “our daily,” “temptation.”: “give us this day our daily bread and lead us not into temptation.” Wasn’t it bad judgment in the garden of Eden that lead to dress (covering the nakedness) and, in the end, to culture? Could it be that Kroetsch is trying to draw a connection between banishment and poetic formalism? That poetic formalism locks one out of the original garden, which is the blank page? And, then, that “not bad. Not bad for / a start:” like the mumbling of a distracted god halfway through creation.
And this is a spring poem. The snow is melting on the page, and the blackbird is singing.
A not-garden. A not-sonnet.
Resist the temptation to give it (the poem/the garden) form. Resist the temptation to make it (the garden/the poem) pretty. Resist the temptation to work (the poet/the gardener/the reader). And resist the temptation to make this another sonnet about spring.

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