Requisite Words 23 – Shakespeare’s Sonnet 127

This episode we share the first of Shakespeare’s Sonnets to the Dark Lady, Sonnet 127, alongside a brief contextual reading of the piece.

This episode was inspired by Patrick Stewart’s A Sonnet a Day initiative, which has been a source of much delight in recent months, but overlooked this one piece during a break.

Episode Music:
Be Chillin’ by Alexander Nakarada |
Music promoted by
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Photo is in the public domain, from

Poetry Roundup – August 2020

I’m publishing (on average) a short piece per day on Twitter, including a mix of poetry and prose, so I’m posting a “highlights reel” here, and the rest can be found on my profile, @PeterRavlich.

If you enjoy ultra short form work, there are hundreds of other poets and writers creating moments of delight, tension, wonder and bravery, most consistently using the hashtag #vss365.

Prompt: Swoon (vss365)

You are so
beyond me
in every
single dimension—
I can’t even

Prompt: Flutter (Poetryin13)

That sweet
lub-dub was
so sufficient—
but feeling
this flutter
is bittersweet

Prompt: Integer (vss365)

In your influence
I feel
and yet constrained
only to your orbit
where I’m dying
to remain
Count my singular
and salve this pain

Prompt: Concern (painfulprompts)

There are only four chambers
inside this heart
but I can’t seem to find
my way out

Prompt: Triangle (vss365)

The first is a fragile instant—
A heart is surrendered and won
The second a cognitive frisson
A deft dalliance is begun
The third is the angle unchallenged
Who toys with the others in turn
He’ll posture and pout as misdeeds echo out
But never be ready to learn

Prompt: Commute (vss365)

Everything you are to me
an absolute anomaly
in isolation can’t exist
(the pun misplaced but accurate)—
This is a sum that can’t be split
the product is inviolate
no cognitive coherence how
you’ve come to populate my now

But I’m glad

Prompt: Complex (vss365)

You say you’re
so simple

maybe it’s the word
that’s insufficient

maybe it’s me

because simple

has never meant
so much

Prompt: Field (vss365)

A heart is not a book
but a library
Where the authors each submit
a single tome
Whose pages leave us shook
and sad, and teary
But where sometimes we still sit
to dream of home

Prompt: Vector (vss365)

Turn my key until it binds
and point me down a stumbled line
I’ll be your rusting soldier
til the end
And when that final spring unwinds
my clockwork heart, my whole design
will be no single fraction colder—
For I’ve had you as a friend

Prompt: Calculus (vss365)

You nudge me
and sometimes
off the edge—
how is one to
these rates
of change?

If I were in
any way a smart
predictor I would
It is not at all
but it’s strange.

Prompt: iff (vss365)

I just can’t see a case
that tests for true

When something ill-defined
and ephemeral is
what do you weigh?

I know it’s my fault
But not how
when I can’t
be false

Prompt: Vector (vss365)

I have value
I know
and volition – a vector
so why
does my verse
to zero
on you?

Prompt: Enhance (vss365)

If wishes
even once
You’d be unafraid
still perfect
but content

Requisite Words 22 – Shakespeare’s better foot

We attempt to balance out the bawdy and bluest of the Bard with a few of his nicer Sonnets.

Featuring Sonnets 17, 18, 19 and 29.

Transcript follows below.

Episode Music:
Be Chillin’ by Alexander Nakarada |
Music promoted by
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Photo by Shamia Casiano from


You’re listening to this pod, so you’re likely familiar with Patrick Stewart‘s recent “a sonnet a day” initiative, where he’s working his way through performing all 154 of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

For the last week, I’ve been summarising each of those daily poems for my wife, who is incredibly patient with me, but less so with Shakespearean language and idiom.

Unfortunately, Sir Patrick is currently up to Sonnet 95, and this part of the sequence, while containing some beautiful works, is also deeply paranoid and potentially anxiety-inducing.

So with far too much context there, I’d like to share a few of the more uplifting and just generally lovely sonnets from Shakespeare’s sequence, along with what I’ve been calling the Lisa Versions.

I’m certain I’ve shared Sonnet 18 before, and it’s the best known of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but I’d like to start with it and 17.

The early part of Shakespeare’s sequence is an appeal for the speaker’s beloved “young man” to procreate and in doing so immortalise his beauty.

In a precedent that will continue through the sequence, the speaker then attempts to find an alternate solution: what if the young man does not have children? How can his beauty be immortalised?

Sonnet 17 is an attempt to impose a dual solution, and might be seen as a bridge from “go forth and multiply” to “I’m an amazing writer, I can just preserve you here -” but ideally, let’s do both and build in some redundancy.

Sonnet 18, as the most famous of the sonnets today, is both signifier and signified: it is the single enduring image of Shakespeare’s young man sequence, which is precisely what it posits.

Sonnet 17

Sonnet 18

And I can’t stop there, because 19 is also an amazing piece.

To recap, we’ve gone from “have children to keep your beauty in this world,” to “well, my poems can help too,” to perhaps a sudden realisation that genetics aren’t always predictable, so let’s double down on the poetry.

In 19, we again go a step further: now that 18 has established a permanent
“save point” for the beloved, the speaker gets cocky and decides to taunt Time, placing the beloved explicitly beyond its reach.

Sonnet 19

I’ll conclude this episode with Sonnet 29, in which the speaker attempts to describe the disparity between the value of being loved and of all worldly aspirations. It celebrates the power of love to grant transcendence, and to fundamentally and utterly reframe the world for the better. Sonnet 25 follows a similar theme, but is more militaristic, and while the tone is darker, I find this one more heartfelt.

Sonnet 29

Poetry Roundup – July 2020

I’m publishing an average of around one short piece per day on Twitter, including a mix of poetry and prose, so I’m posting a “highlights reel” here, and the rest can be found on my profile, @PeterRavlich.

If you enjoy ultra short form work, there are hundreds of other poets and writers creating moments of delight, tension, wonder and bravery, most consistently using the hashtag #vss365.

Prompt: Ocean (#vss365)

Yours is the shore
and the shallows
yours are the deeps
and the docks
You are the ocean
whose bellicose
give beat
to this heart
as it clings
to the rocks

Prompt: Nectar (#vss365)

Your nectar is far
too sweet—
I can’t stop sipping
the heart is
blameless here
but it still hurts
to feel it slipping

#Hamilton #AngelicaSchuyler #TakeABreak

Prompt: Nostalgic (#vss365)

The volumes on
my mental shelves
are battered
Like every book
I’ve ever loved
too much
But those pages are
that really matter—
Every visit
with a delicate

Prompt: Estrange (#Poetryin13)

Is there
an inverse
or tacit
and this

Prompt: Charisma (#vss365)

I know it’s problematic
to conflate sincerity with reality—
to make a character emblematic
when the stage and the page
are more suited to static impressions
than actual accuracy…

But as for charisma
it’s clear there’s
no deficit here—
Miranda’s Hamilton
is revelatory
owning his story
and an absolute
revolution to see.

Prompt: Xenophobe (#vss365)

Losing fear
is liberation;
Holding it

But when that fear
is fabricated
facile, false and fanciful

An arbitrary othering
of any trait you
don’t digest

You’ll find my
is slipping—
please don’t
put it to
the test.

Prompt: Orphan (#vss365)

I sometimes wished
while the belt was
coming down
in the latest
punctuation of
my faults

That some other
for my
was at hand;
that could
escape from
these assaults

Prompt: Pachyderm (#vss365)

How ponderous
our parries
when that trunk
gets in the way—
yet how deftly
we deny
our own

Prompt: Liberty (#vss365)

The figure of
Liberty beckons
with a valiant
verdigris mien
While behind this
inviting impression
Is an irony
cast for a queen

Prompt: Demogorgon (#vss365)

Your petals
seem peculiar
and your botany—
While I hate
to hasten rumour
I can’t fathom
what you are
Open wider
let me see—
those look
remarkably like
just a second
maybe three
to get
my head in

Prompt: Angel (#vss365)

You used
to call me angel
but I thought
my wings
were gone—
that time
had marred
the feathers
that I’d fallen…

I was wrong

I was silly
and afraid
but those
do not reflect
on you
and if I soar
again it’s only
‘cos you were my
angel too

Poetry Roundup – Early 2020

Prompt: Rubiginous (#vss365)

Have you seen
my electrons?
I could swear
I left them here…
or there…
or in this vague

I used to be
when I had them
floating near
but now I’m
oxidised for
all to see

Prompt: Velleity (#vss365)

Did I tell you
of a boy—
let’s call him Henry—
who couldn’t quite
decouple from
his sheets?
“I’ll get up soon,”
he said,
a time
and that duvet
attached to him
for weeks

Prompt: Submontane (#vss365)

You humans conquer
higher peaks and claim
the climb is tough

While we who burrow
dig beneath—
but never deep enough

You strain and swear
and summit

While we
strain and swear…

if we hadn’t
started digging here
there wouldn’t be
a hill

Prompt: Periapt (#vss365)

Wear this in
my memory dear—
it’s fashioned from
the bone
that caught in
Uncle Reuben’s
when Satan called
him home

My darling
don’t be sorry
he was the spawn
of Hell—
but wear it
and remember
we’re both
destined there
as well.

Prompt: Ingurgitate (#vss365)

She scoffed a saucerful
of worms
some spiders, and a frog —
that pixie preys on anything
that lingers near her log —

So children, for the love of Pan
stop playing by the bog.

Prompt: Benthos (#vss365)

It’s far too cold
plunge me into
your diffuse depths

let me sink
still shivering
until I brush
that veiled bottom
clenched closed
lungs lurch
skin alone

I’ll stay
a second

and then




my way back
to the

Prompt: Ambrosia (#vss365)

“Well, what do you think?”

“It’s okay.”

“Okay? It’s the literal food of the Gods!”

“Call me a stickler, but I’d prefer the food of the chefs.”

Prompt: Sapid (#vss365)

I’ve carried the taste
since that bakery closed down
sweet nothings linger