Poet-a-Day: Meet Gabriel Spera
Gabriel Spera’s “Sonnet (With Children)” is one of my favorite poems in How to Write a Form Poem. While I have not had the pleasure of meeting the poet in person (yet), I’ve enjoyed corresponding with the warm and witty Californian whose distraction-riddled writing life is something I can relate to all too well.
Here are the first six lines from “Sonnet (With Children).” Want to read the rest? Buy Spera’s book The Rigid Body … and How to Write a Form Poem while you’re at it!
Sonnet (With Children) excerpt
My love is like a deep and placid lake…
Not now, sweetie, Daddy’s busy, OK?
OK: my love’s a deep and peaceful lake…
Here, Daddy can fix it. All better. Now go play.
Um, my love, yes—a rose that blooms in spring…
You tell her Daddy says she has to share…
Tania Runyan (TR): Tell me a little about the origin story of “Sonnet (With Children).”
Gabriel Spera (GS): I had three small children and a full-time job. Finding the time—and energy—to write anything at all was extremely challenging. The poem arose from a contradictory sense of urgency (I must start now) and resignation (I’ll never finish). Some of the images are intentionally trite, to reflect the sensibility of someone who can never get past the first draft, and who struggles (and fails) to rise above the mundane.
TR: Why did you decide to write the poem as a sonnet? Or did the form “cause” the poem to happen?
GS: My work can be rather bleak, and I purposely sought to write something lighter in tone. The sonnet was an obvious choice: the conventions are strict and widely understood, which makes them fun to subvert. Even that is part of the legacy of the sonnet, thanks in part to Shakespeare (“My mistress’ eyes … ”) It’s a versatile form, despite the constraints—or rather, because of the constraints, it demands versatility.
TR: What do you hope poets can learn from a book like How to Write a Form Poem?
GS: I write both formal and free verse; the two are not opposed. Form presents a challenge, which can foster innovation. It’s also less forgiving of lazy writing, which encourages precision. I find that the most intriguing modern formal poetry has elements of defiance and subversion, where the poet obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit (or vice versa). I hope that poets will learn to appreciate the extra texture and nuance that form can provide. More important, I hope poets will go beyond traditional forms and invent new forms that speak to the evolving human condition.
About Gabriel Spera
Gabriel Spera has published two collections of poetry. His first, The Standing Wave, was published by Harper Collins (New York) as part of the 2002 National Poetry Series. The book also received the 2004 Literary Book Award for Poetry from PEN USA-West. His second, The Rigid Body, was awarded the 2011 Richard Snyder prize from Ashland Poetry Press. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the City of Los Angeles. He was also awarded the Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry from the Bellevue Literary Review.
Photo by Mike Beales, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.
How to Write a Form Poem: A Guided Tour of 10 Fabulous Forms
With How to Write a Form Poem by your side, you’ll be instructed and inspired with 10 fabulous forms—sonnets, sestinas, haiku, villanelles, pantoums, ghazals, rondeaux, odes, acrostics (the real kind), found poems + surprising variations on classic forms (triolet, anyone?), to challenge you when you’re ready to go the extra mile.
You’ll also be entertained by Runyan’s own travel stories that she uses to explain and explore the various forms—the effect of which is to bring form poetry down to earth (and onto your own poetry writing map)!