Jen Bervin “nets” her own poems from Will’s sonnets

“The first time I encountered a Jen Bervin poem,” writes Philip Metres in his review of Bervin’s Nets, “was in a broadside format, among the books, chaps, seven inches, and other paraphernalia on the Ugly Duckling Presse table at the AWP conference in Chicago in 2004. In a small wooden frame, a short poem:


8                      In singleness the parts

Strike  each in each

speechless song, being many, seeming one

When I peered a little closer at the object, I noticed that there was a raised, but un-inked, undertext: Shakespeare’s Sonnet #8. Thus:

Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”

Go see the rest of  Philip Metres review of Nets by Jen Bervin (Unpaginated. Ugly Duckling Presse. Paper. $10. ISBN 0-9727684-3-2).

I love this book, which Jen Hofer recommended to me when both Jens were on the Wave poetry bus tour a few years ago. It’s beautifully done, and the work is amazing–both to have a collection of Will S’s sonnets in this format and to experience Jen Bervin’s “nets” of them. Unfortunately, I am afraid I loaned it to a student and it is long gone…

What aspect I like most is how the “nets’ call to mind both Will’s time and ours. Here is one of Shakespeare’s most well known sonnets surrounding one of the most decisive moments of our time:

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.