Details of Critical study
Stephen Gill’s Sonnet book Love is the Singer of Life: An Analytical Study
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Stephen Gill’s Sonnet book Love is the Singer of Life: An Analytical Study
Dr. K. V. Dominic
I am extremely delighted to make a brief evaluation of the World Renowned Peace poet Dr. Stephen Gill’s new book of sonnets, Love is the Singer of Life. The very title of the book is catchy and telling. Dr. Gill has started a new variety of sonnet which will be remembered and named after him like Petrarchan, Elizabethan, Shakespearean, Spenserian etc. Many modern poets have attempted experiments and innovations with the form of the sonnet using free verse but the one Stephen Gill has used here is unique and praiseworthy. Gill has used prose lines instead of poetry, and the number of lines is twelve instead of the conventional fourteen. Though he has not used any metre, as it is prose, the lines are highly sonorous and musical as they contain assonance and alliteration. The astonishing and herculean part of his sonnet structure and stanza is that even though the lines are prose they are symmetric and ‘justified’. As he has mentioned in his preface it needs much craft, time and patience. True, Stephen Gill is a master craftsman and he has already proved his mettle through his masterpiece The Flame and Amputee. I have been fortunate enough to edit a book on his poetry entitled Stephen Gill’s Poetry: A Panorama of World Peace, published by Authorspress, New Delhi in 2010, which contains fourteen well crafted articles by renowned writers and scholars.
Love is the Singer of Life (Sonnets) contains 31 sonnets. In the preface the poet has manifested his manifesto of love. Gill’s philosophy of love goes thus:
I believe love is a singer of life. I also believe that love and peace walk side by side and where there is no love there is sickness in every shape and where there is sickness there is no peace–neither personal nor national. It is in the interest of every human to follow the path of love for personal health and governments at all levels are expected to maintain peace to nourish a meaningful life and prosperity. I believe live and let live is the way for personal and national prosperity. (Gill 10-11)
Stephen Gill believes that human beings are born with attachment. Even though the form of the sonnet has changed the content remains the same. Love as its theme and lyricism as its poetical quality shall be there in a sonnet whether it is verse or prose. These basic requirements are brimming in the sonnets of this book. Gill continues in his preface:
I believe that to find the lyrical aspect a poem should be read out loud. If the poem does not sound lyrical when read out loud, then it is definitely not a sonnet.
To me, lyricism is the expression of deep emotions and feelings in artistic ways. This is to make the expression appear beautiful or more beautiful. The beauty may be in the character or in the style. Any object, such as a flower or the moon, can be lyrical. At the same time, the object can appear lyrical to one person and non-lyrical to another. (Gill 13)
Let me analyze a few of Stephen Gill’s sonnets demonstrating the poetic beauty they contain. The very first sonnet proclaims the mine of images Gill is hunting out throughout the book. Let me do a hairsplitting critique of the sonnet:
The bounty of your beauty is the opening
of the bud that shyly peeks or the blaze
that sages seek or the balsam that runs in
the veins of the rose or the absolute
solitude of the Citrus in the saddest lines
of my ode or the body of these combined.
The innermost riddle of our unrivaled bond
is the ocean’s every drop that I strive to
sonnetize with the iris I see in your eyes. I
need your love to prime the path of my
sincerity that is the lasting relief to
wanderers in the vastness of their perplexity. (Gill 18)
The sweetheart’s beauty is taken by the suitor as a bounty by the Creator. The assonance of the words “bounty” and “beauty” adds special beauty and rhythm to the very opening line of the poem. Now look at the wonderful imageries Gill has used to describe the beauty of the ladylove. Its beauty is like the opening of a bud that shyly peeks. It is the blaze that sages seek. It is like the balsam that runs through the veins of rose flowers. Its beauty is like the beauty of the solitude of the Citrus portrayed in the saddest lines of the suitor’s ode. Next we find the dazzling beauty of an imagery to visualize the strong bond between the couple. Their bond is unrivalled and the secret beauty of it is like that of every drop of water in an ocean and those drops are his sonnets which are found in the iris of her eyes. He needs her love to prime or prepare the path of his sincerity which in turn is a lasting relief to those wanderers of love who are immersed in the vastness of perplexities. How many images Gill has filled in this compact stanza of only twelve lines! Only genius can draft such lines and no doubt Stephen Gill is a master craftsman in the composition of poetry.
Due to constraints of space I am not able to analyze the other sonnets of the book. All the sonnets are competing with the others in their poetic style and beauty just like the first sonnet which I have dissected. Gill has brought out great philosophy and ideas through these sonnets. It is not just an infatuation between two couples. Through the portrayal of the great qualities and beauty of the sweetheart Gill reminds the humanity of what kind of a love we need in our lives. He tells in sonnet number 12: “My / love for you is deathless. It is the love that has / no barriers, no color, no age, no lies. It / renders its mantra of the fatal optimism / from the ageless ties.” In sonnet number 13 we see: “My love is neither the tiger / of terror nor to escape. It is the expression / of OM and OM is peace and peace is my / plea as it is of Prophets.”
In sonnet number 6, the suitor takes the ladylove as “solid cottage that shields the / flickering flame of my confidence in you.” In sonnet number 8 the sweetheart is considered as “the thoughtful shoot of live and / let live that spreads a healthy aroma to / provide a decent frill to my faith in you.” In sonnet number 10 the suitor finds “the arrival of Nirvana” when she administers the sacrament of her care to the roughness of his daily fight. The suitor calls her in sonnet number 20 “the moon that dangles low and / large as is the sun that breaks the day and / stars that twinkle to celebrate your / bewildering beauty.” In sonnet number 21 the sweetheart is “the lotus of my cosmos” and the “beams shining through my uncurtained / windows in a warm night embody you.” In sonnet number 23 the suitor takes her as “the flamingo that nestles in the / lagoon of my painful melody, where my / favorite apostles of art dwell.” The suitor takes her in sonnet number 24 as “the integral ingredient for the / ambrosia of peace and the map and / compass for my literary navigations in fast / changing tides.” Thus we find in all sonnets Stephen Gill has used exceptional imageries which unravel a great enticing canvas before the readers. Let me wind up my paper dissecting the last sonnet of the book as I have done for the first.
You’re not afar when I fantasize your
natural trait. Your refreshing face surfaces
from the greenery or the deer frisking
down in a dale. At other times, the soft
puffs of the breeze furnish your relaxed
gait. I watch gold and rose in the sunset to
remind me of your fondness. I share my
psalms with the stars who heed them from
their silvery veils. I receive sorrows from
tomorrow when I do not sail in the sea of
the self where you are my mate always
eager to hear me dwelling in detail.
Stephen Gill says that even when the protagonist or suitor fantasizes the beauty and gentle quality of his sweetheart she is not afar or in the dream world but found quite around him in the natural world. Her refreshing face is mirrored on the greenery. It is found when deer is frisking down in a dale. At other times her relaxed gait or beauty is visible through the soft puffs of the breeze. Her fondness is felt by him in the gold and rose colours of the sunset. The suitor shares his psalms with the stars who heed them from their silvery veils. He receives sorrows from tomorrow when he does not sail in the sea of self where she is his mate always eager to hear him dwelling in detail. How apt and exciting are the imageries Gill has used here! Assonances and alliterations are found in the phrases “face surfaces”, “deer . . . down . . . dale”, “gold . . . rose”, “psalms . . . stars”, “sorrows . . . tomorrow”, “sail . . . sea . . . self”, “where . . . are”, “eager . . . hear”, and “dwelling . . . detail.”
I could only critique closely two sonnets and point out the beauty inherent in them. All the other 29 are, as I have mentioned earlier, brimming with such splendid imageries and other figures of speech. Though they are prose sentences they read like poetry because of the rhythmic words and use of assonances and alliterations. I can very well predict that this sonnet book will become a best seller and bring more and more laurels to Dr. Stephen Gill. I wish my senior brother all success in his poetic life!
Gill, Stephen. Love is the Singer of Life (Sonnets). Ontario, Canada: Vesta Publications, 2016. Print.
Dr. K. V. Dominic, English poet, critic, short story writer and editor is a retired Associate Professor of the PG & Research Department of English, Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, India. In addition to innumerable poems, short stories and critical articles published in national and international journals, he has authored/edited twenty six books so far including four poetry books and one short story collection. Dr. Dominic is the Secretary of Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC), a non-profitable registered organization having more than two hundred and fifty members mainly consisting of university/college professors, research scholars and professional English writers. He is the Editor of two international refereed biannual journals, International Journal on Multicultural Literature (IJML) and Writers Editors Critics (WEC). An edited book on K. V. Dominic’s poetry, consisting of 24 critical papers and an interview was published from the American publishing house, Modern History Press on 1 February 2016 under the title Philosophical Musings for a Meaningful Life: An Analysis of K. V. Dominic’s Poems. Prof. Dominic can be contacted at: Email: email@example.com Web Site: www.profkvdominic.com.