Sonnet L’Abbé | XLV


They want a voice that performs its wry ownership of literary pedigree,
that airily scatters namedrops into a liturgical giving of finger. Matthew
Arnold elaborated on the flawless logic that hears genius wherever
genius abides: those first-rate men seriously thought, they seriously
felt, and their musicality demonstrates their sincerity … although these
days, a straight presentation of bare sentiment isn’t white, the same
whiteness filter, their discriminatory presumption, slides over fullcolour
whiteness that doesn’t obsequiously back their genealogy. Can
I get an amen? Editors at venerable publishing houses want
preeminentness or wunderkinder, maaaybe blackness discreetly
softened into lyric-not-invective, a vogue like Langston Hughes’ or
Zadie Smith’s. How gracefully Claudia confided her being mad!
someone effused to juries. I’d write cheeky kowtows to literary lions
and university insiders in skylark-happy strains, adding touches of
knowingness—not of prejudice’s affects, but of the oppressor’s burden
—to witty, blithe metaconfessionals, if the absence of what’s outlawed,
my unliterary shrill, didn’t fuel this composition. I blurt embarrassing,
inappropriate speech; curators, annoyed by the nervousness my twitch
inflicts on company, make notes to selves not to get L’Abb  for shows;
where’s that suretongued frontman Snicket? These workshops aren’t
for venting abuse; they’re not therapy! bellow instructors—men who
back up against the asses of young proteg es, declaring softcore fresh
and gritty. To be fair, when I was idealistic and thought race could be
uninvented through winning, I insisted on my sameness; I thought if I
just could write the joyless blockbuster of truth, explaining once and
for all wrongheaded privilege’s unreliable lead, I’d get kissed by blond,
athletic former bullies gobsmacked by my phrasing. There, I’ve done it
again. Disqualified my brand. The sonnet market expands—indigenous
haters, grudging fellows, understand.


Author’s Bio

SONNET L’ABBÉ is a professor at Vancouver Island University. Her chapbook, Anima Canadensis, came out with Junction Books in 2016. “XLV” is from L’Abbé’s upcoming collection, Sonnet’s Shakespeare, in which she overwrites all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Sonnet’s Shakespeare will be published by McClelland and Stewart in 2018.