Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I have received many comments from readers referring to how my poetry, with its "orderly", "contained" and "controlled" language, nevertheless communicates strong emotions and touches them deeply.

Most recently I've received these comments on my poems "Coming to Terms" (a sonnet) "Gia Dinh" (a rondeau), "Journey" (a villanelle), "Wing-stroke" (ballad stanza), "Shadow Fish (Sapphic stanzas), "Eleven" (a list poem), and "Edward Hopper's Automat" (an ekphrastic poem in English sestets).

I appreciate these comments because they are witnesses to why I write: out of compassion and with the hope of (to paraphrase Millay) somehow putting chaos into fourteen lines, without spitting it out or spelling it out.

In my poem, "Sonnet Love" (which, of course, is a play on the term "love sonnet" -- as I "count the ways" I love sonnets), I express this philosophy in the first four lines:

I love the way its rhythm and its rhymes
provide us with a promise, a belief
familiar voices at specific times
may modulate unmanageable grief.

At times the emotional source of the poems is so great that distances of decades are required before an attempt at writing a poem is possible. For example, it took me thirty-two years to write "Coming to Terms" (which won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award in 2010), thirty-five to write "Gia Dinh", forty to write "Journey" and forty-five to write "The Flying Moment".

The Shakespearean sonnet I submitted to this year's Nemerov competition (I can't name it here, since the poems are still being judged), directly addresses the concept of metriopatheia, that is, the tactic for dealing with intense emotions through moderation. Though there is a moment of radiant ignition in the sestet, the final couplet turns the volta upon itself, in heartbreakingly simple terms.

This link to Howard Nemerov's poem "Poetics"  HERE will answer your nagging question as to why the image of a Steelers helmet appears above ;-)  .

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