Title: 1000 Sonnets
By: Tim Atkins
Publisher: if p then q
1000 Sonnets (not literally- its closer to 100) is an experimental collection of poetry that challenges the very meaning of the term “sonnet”. Sonnets are traditionally quite difficult to write, with a standard line length and rhythm structure depending on whether the sonnet is in the Italian style or is Shakespearean. Tim Atkins embraces this 14 line structure, yet also turns it on its head.
Atkin’s sonnets (named after their number in the collection- “Sonnet 1” and so on) are pieced together with words and ellipses into immediate, stuttering poems. The reasons why Atkins writes in this way is a constant challenge for the reader. There are some clues, such as references to physical illness (eg. “kidneys…….breakdown”) and instances of science combined with spirituality. These could indicate that Atkins is denoting the mechanism of illness; or they could be entirely coincidental.
Imagining how Atkins’ poems may be read aloud adds another layer of mystery to the sonnets. In my head I experimented with sounding the plentiful ellipses as pauses and as beeps. Maybe this aspect of play is part of appreciating the poems fully.
There are few literary references in the collection (apart from the sonnet structure) which suggests that the sonnets came some a raw place inside of Atkins. Perhaps a place that is infertile for mere imitation.