Yorty, Don. “Spring Sonnets”, Indolent Books, 2019.
I am amazed that the 90 sonnets that are collected here were selected from 180 sonnets that poet Don Yorty wrote between the spring of 2003 and the spring of 2009. He is actually still writing them. For those of you who do not remember here is the definition of sonnet as it appears in the Oxford English dictionary: “A poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line.” This is not the rigid definition I remember learning in high school but it allows for several interpretations of what can be called a sonnet.
Yorty uses this traditional poetic form as a container for contemporary writing. He writes of topics that do not fulfill the idea of a sonnet being a love poem as it was with William Shakespeare. He employs wit, honesty, sass and reflection in his sonnets and he writes about many different topics. These include writing with wit, honesty, a sharp eye and a touch of sass about the natural world; love, sex, and marriage; family and friendship; aging and mortality; language, teaching, and poetry itself. Unlike many sonnets, these are not meant just for the person to who the sonnet is written but for anyone who would like to read it. We thus become a part of a community with others who share common interests we learn about via Yorty’s sonnets. Sonnets were once considered to be somewhat lofty poems that were personal odes to love yet here, for example, we have sonnet XXXI about losing and finding a phone; “Today for the first time in my whole life, I can’t find the phone. Where did I put it?” This is quite a distance from “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”.
These sonnets contain the minutia of Yorty’s life and cover his living in New York City, rural Pennsylvania where he was born and he shares his connection to both family and the land, his connection to family and the land, teaching English to non-English speakers, and his beloved cat, Cachito, who lived with his father until his father died. Yorty has the ability to write a sonnet about whatever he chooses. Perhaps this is what attracts me to his poems so much. “It is absurd not to love till the end. In my pen when the ink runs out, are my thoughts somehow diminished?”
Through his poems, we enter his world and get “detailed glimpses and glimmers through his eyes, documentation and wisdom from daily existence”. I found a great deal of emotion in the sonnets” and while it is not always overt, we sense it between the lines even when writing about snakes or spiders.
I believe that everyone who reads and enjoys these sonnets will find at least one that speaks to him directly even though he does not personally know the poet.