Nicholas Korn is the author of The Wild Sonnets, a poetry project that includes 400 sonnets spread across four volumes (so far). Readers can follow his work on Instagram or register for his weekly newsletter to receive a new poem every Sunday. The Wild Sonnets: Volume IV (301-400) is being released on January 18. In this interview, the Northern Kentucky writer and music composer talks about his poetry project and unpacks one poem, “Wild Sonnet #388.”
The mission statement on your website mentions your interest in both “tradition and trend.” What is it in the sonnet tradition that inspires you, and which poets have helped to shape the work you’re doing now?
I have always had a great love and respect for classical forms. They have a way of seeing the world in mythic proportion while structuring the experience with a sense of balance and music. As for my influences, Shakespeare heads the list, followed close behind by Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Emily Dickinson.
Where do the sonnet ideas come from, and what makes them “wild?”
I approach the writing of each Wild Sonnet in much the same way that Shakespeare’s characters arrive at their soliloquies: An actual or intellectual event has just taken place, and they assess and associate their way to a personal conclusion. The structure I’ve created for the Wild Sonnet form is two stanzas of seven lines, each capped with a rhyming couplet. The rest of the poem is meant to have a freely associative flow, and that’s why I regard these as being “wild.”
You post to various digital media to share Wild Sonnets with your readers. What platforms are you currently using?
I think the digital tech of today and the exponential reach of social media offer an unprecedented opportunity for the artist. I post one of the 300 previously published Wild Sonnets on Instagram every day. As for my newsletter, Wild Sonnet Sundays, I share a recently completed work with my readers and include personal notes on the poem and a link to my own audio recording. To a lesser extent, the Wild Sonnets are also on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.
Let’s discuss one of the poems from your new book, “Wild Sonnet #388.” The speaker seems to question whether pain must fundamentally change the self.
With this poem, I wanted to challenge with the notion that one is either emotionally distant or vulnerable and broken. The voice of the poem suggests a composure which feels everything deeply but has a core understanding of the self that can withstand the brunt and brevity of things. We are often stronger than we know.
As I read this sonnet, I’m really drawn to the final lines: “Both dark and light, and in the middle might / Burn twice—with desolation and delight.” There’s such satisfaction to each word falling into place. Can you share your thoughts on the value of reading your poetry aloud?
The sound of a poem is important to me, and I pay particular attention to the construction of every line. These are very compact works, and I know that when reading the text the mind wants to hear how it sounds. And when hearing me read it aloud, you want to see how the words come together on the page. That is why the Digital+Audio editions of The Wild Sonnets books have links beneath each poem to my recorded reading.
You’ve published a new collection of 100 poems for the past four years. What is the writing process that makes this possible?
I have a steady regimen of writing a single stanza every morning. I get up pretty early, often at 4 a.m., to do the work. At two or three Wild Sonnets a week for 52 weeks, that brings me by year’s end to the 100 I’ll include in the next collection. Even as I release the fourth book this month, I’m already working on the new poems for the next volume.
What do you hope readers take away from The Wild Sonnets?
I only add a Wild Sonnet to the sequence once I think there’s something in it that’s magical, meaningful, and bit mysterious. As for the individual books, there’s a wealth of work in each, and I invite the reader to open anywhere and read at random. These are collections you can wander through and discover something wonderful on every page.