Covid divertimento

firesticks with legs

During Covid lockdown I found an online course about poetry in Spanish. Elena Preciado, the teacher based in Mexico, talked about poetic styles from the Spanish Golden Age to modern song. One of the latter would perhaps suit the English ballad form, its story being a night-long search for a cigarette.

Elena also taught us the tricks and subtleties of counting syllables in a line. She would give us homework, at first it was simple stuff, like write four or eight lines of x number of syllables. Then she asked us to write a sonnet. That was fourteen lines of eleven syllables. A big ask, I thought! Anyway, long story short, I wrote one, yes, in Spanish.

I showed it to a local Mexican poet who told me that certain of my rhymes didn’t work, and that the syllable count was sometimes wrong. I made an English version of the sonnet, then tried my hand at an Italian adaptation. This was reviewed by my Italian teacher Vittoria Pasquini and my fellow students in her long-standing “gruppo de venerdì”.

Finally Elena got back to me with her critique and suggestions, and yes, problems with syllable count and rhyme! Then she added, I have a present for you. These were translations of the sonnet into French and Portuguese. I couldn’t believe it, my poem Firesticks exists in five languages! I now call the sonnet “firesticks with legs”.