It is not easy to write a sonnet. Shakespeare’s contribution to the form is the pattern for these, written by Lucien Young, even though this book contains more than Shakespeare’s surviving one hundred and fifty. Twelve alternate rhyming lines then two more to sum up the subject is not the most elastic of poetical forms, giving fourteen lines to construct of a certain length, but in Young’s hands the pattern is not only filled, but completed with flair. These are very contemporary poems which tackle many controversial subjects head on, but always with a sense of humour which reflects a genuine engagement with the twenty first century world. Using often wicked if not shocking humour, there seems to be no subject that does not get attention. This is not a book for the easily shocked, as all the possibilities of the internet are fully mentioned and even explored.Yet there is also a certain hesitancy, even gentleness, about the personal poems relating to feelings and emotions. There is often a Shakespearean twist, however, not only in the witty illustrations which show some of the subjects of the sonnets in mock Shakeperean garb, but also in the words and phrases which pepper the poems. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual book.
The first sonnet in this book, “A Note from the Poet” suggests that the reader does not attempt to read the book from start to finish, but “Dip in and out, as doth your fancy rule”. He says that this is because not all the subjects will appeal; fans of “The West Wing” will find the sonnet of that name interesting, suggesting as it does that the idealised political entity was so inspiring that it exceeds the present reality in every way. There are several television based odes, including one dedicated to Mrs Slocombe, character in the very non P.C. television series of the 1970s, which cleverly plays on her suggestive catch phrase. The other aspects of television are examined, as Netflix not only encourages binge watching but also provides so much choice as to distract from actually watching programmes. When commenting on social media, Young ranges from the problems of porn and more, Twitter, facebook and snap chat, as well as texting with all the problems of committing hope to a brief message. Films, singers, reality television stars and games all come in for witty and often incisive comment, while even the current Prime Minister is depicted as emerging on a television before his controversial actions in 2016.
There will be some sonnets in this book which will shock, but all maintain a certain wit. It is undoubtedly clever, and the range of the subject matter is certainly impressive. I enjoyed the clever word play, and the author obviously knows the form so well as to be able to play with it successfully. The cheeky themes and sometimes fulsome imagery could trouble some, but there is an adult acceptance of what has been attractive once and no longer excites. A more substantial gift book than often available at this time of year, it is also a book that the buyer may well keep as a sometimes challenging and always interesting little book, which cheers and impresses.