Wednesday, October 13, 2010

400. Moscow Ballet: 1917 (rewritten as a Rainis Sonnet)

This poem was rewritten in collaboration with Tony of Poetry Magnum Opus who introduced me to the form and came up with two alternate versions; he also contributed the final killer couplet!

Lithe and willowy, the sad-eyed soubrette
retreats from stares. Her alabaster lips
seal in cares she cannot speak of yet,
her gliding young body sways and dips.

Hidden are the yellow rotting fangs
brought on by war. In art she can forget
for passing moments her hunger pangs.

Grace under pressure by a crushed coquette,
foreshadow years of Soviet roulette.


Rainis Sonnet is a short meditation. Whether or not it is a true sonnet is up for debate. It is a lyrical meditation with a turn or volta, however it is shorter than the usual quatorzain of the sonnet. It is named for the Latvian philosopher and poet Janis Rainis (1868-1929)

Rainis Sonnet is:

1. written in 9 lines made up of a quatrain, followed by a tercet ending with a couplet.
2. metered, primarily iambic pentameter.
3. rhymed, turned on only 3 rhymes. Rhyme scheme abab (cbc or cac) and (aa or bb or cc).
4. written with the epiphany arriving in the tercet.

(with thanks to our very own Tink of PMO!)

Original version:

Young and willowy, the sad young soubrette
retreats from glances; she cannot say, not yet,
anything from behind her closed alabaster lips
as her body sways and moves, glides and dips.

Those lips press over stunted decaying yellow fangs
that all young Russians possess, from hunger pangs
brought on by poverty, despair, and this dreadful war
and they do not, cannot, understand what life is for.

Yet in moments of beauty and stylish grace
attention turns from a suffering face.