Another kind of wildness

A sonnet that begins with words yanked, one from each line of “returning the books to their shelves” by Bernadette Mayer.


Feeling far from the city finally in Desolation.
Time to walk and stretch and swim and think until
19 o’clock in the evening
when I hope we will eat a big fish you caught in the tide stream.
It’s running so fast gulls taxi by
on blocks of driftwood; wing back; do it
again. Scent of kelp sea urchin and desiccated crab mulching
on the shore. The dog sniffs, then pounces cracking
shells with her teeth, each delicious crab leg a window on
another kind of wildness. Nothing can take this from her.
Like I here with my sketchpad and books,
feet slippered against the cold, disregarding
the insistent phone, opening turning
emptying the shelves of ordinary life.


I finished reading the 25th anniversary edition of Bernadette Mayer’s wonderful Sonnets (Tender Buttons Press, 2014) while we were anchored in Desolation Sound. Despite their distance from where I was, Mayer’s urban words and images suffused my dreams, and I tapped away at her lines, trying to understand how they fit together. One of Mayer’s projects in particular, undertaken with Philip Good, struck me: a list of fourteen words finds its way into a sonnet, one word per line (66). I decided I would try to co-compose with Meyer, by pulling words from another of her pieces that I love very much, a love sonnet entitled “returning the books to their shelves” (67). But as soon as I decided on this method and pulled the words from Mayer’s poem, I thought, I can’t make a poem from these words! I’m north of 50 degrees north latitude–what have I to do with cities, time, taxis, windows, phones or shelves? But then when I let the poem begin with that dilemma, the rest followed: I found that being where I am lets me empty these words of their ordinary contexts and make other associations. Evidently, the neighbourhood is everything, no matter where you are.

June 30, 2015


Image: reflections north of 50 degrees north latitude

First published  in

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s