Sonnet Conversation

Diana Hamilton

While I would never want to reduce friendship to a sublimation hack, I don't know of a more likely experience to produce the desire to write than a long conversation with someone whose thinking you admire. Today, I'm sharing some excerpts from a collaborative project with Violet Spurlock (whose book, In Lieu of Solutions, is forthcoming from Futurepoem). Recently, I asked Violet to write ten questions I might answer in the form of a sonnet. She asked:

1. What is accidental writing?
2. At what point is individual bodily autonomy responsible to collective
problems of embodiment?
3. How would human culture change if keeping [insert animals of your choice]
as pets was as common as keeping cats or dogs?
4. What constitutes a good reason to dislike someone, and when does one
not need a good reason?
5. Is conversation art?
6. What do we want to happen to ‘the bad man’?
7. What makes sex good?
8. What can a hedonist teach an ascetic? What can an ascetic teach a hedonist?
9. If I have a crush on my friend’s crush on my friend, whom do I have a crush on?
10. What do we want to give to our beloved?

As soon as I began to answer, I understood this would take the form of a conversation, that Violet and I would begin talking in sonnets. By circumstance, she had written a set of ten herself, recently—taking as prompts some one-line titles from Lyn Hejenian’s Oxota. She responds to my responses, and I respond to hers. Excerpts follow:


What is ‘accidental writing’?



“The poets saw they made more sense than art, and tried to stop,”
she clarified, “by modeling their lines after some ruins.
This didn’t work. The next step was to do away with tears.”
She doodled in a notebook while she spoke, some shapeless dogs
that, all together, took the form of “love.” She scratched it out.
“Base legalese hides images one finds in any poem. Like sleeping in
to put off work and drafting a new novel in a dream,
like grocery lists, or mundane texts, that accidentally rhyme,
like gossiping, but adding certain lies, like setting out
to live, but by a script, like waking up to find you’ve sent
a text you lost to wine, like slips of tongue—they wrote despite
themselves, and beautifully, at times. And so they turned to form,
hoping to pass themselves off as machines . . .” The other paused
this clattering to warn: “If you go on, you’ll prophesize.”


Response to ‘Dialogue’

If she was afraid of thinking fibers, or hands that hide,
was it something in her failed to see the way out proposed
by ventriloquized deflection? “Everything I said I meant,
but it all came from elsewhere.” Perhaps our stand-in knows her
excuse and rejects it, we learn from her disdain to take
responsibility for what we cannot understand.
Like tweets out of context, we make ourselves known through mistakes.
Vestiges or premonitions of chance peek through assuming lips
that treat a fetus hypothetically. Cute accidents
abound, and love to harmonize with what we think we plan,
but it’s the way errors escape from apologies we loathe,
and not the least because it forces record-keeping. Writing
seems perverse if seen as hoarding mental dandruff—to lord
over whom? People picking fetishes at random to fit in?




Wet signs slip to continue
Any dog in any cave with any infinite source of pulled pork
This global adolescence, sick of all sustenance by breakfast
He doesn’t want to be hungry but he doesn’t want to have to thank anyone
Who coaxes whom
Through a forest thickening in response to an invisible yoke
I know I catastrophize to avoid explanation, explain avoidance
Nature being the perfect concept to decry and upon which to simultaneously rely, the
universal side piece
We don’t even know which insects’ extinctions we are mourning
Water always wants a little light and always has it
A testy sip, a poison check
Dirt ate by feet
Metal too seems to be forever barfing itself up
I am not playing favorites when I say the sky is my friend



Infinite mammals should study the great works to test their theorem faster
Laertes warns that “nature, crescent, does not grow alone / in thews and bulk,” that
thoughts gets bigger too
An hour ago I could think of actual flowers, but misplaced them with their non-elected
“Laurels and lilacs / bloom” around Adnan’s head
Permitting me to see them without standing up to stars myself
The land has its own chiasmi, sure—the Hudson reverses, repeats, reorders the terms of
salt—but bass just need to know the water’s brackish
Speaking as a side piece, I’d remind you that “the clouds get enough attention as it is”
You know you stepped on Samsa
No taxation without being reminded, in a dream, of a song nostalgic for the Dust Bowl
I had a stuffy, called her Annabelle
My tree, meant to preserve the memory of trees, is dying
The soil is either over wet or dry
A stye from the nude eyeshadow palette
I leave the Norfolk Pine to cry it out

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