This zine is rad. Pure radness - is that an adjective? It is now. Rust Belt Jessie’s Reckless Chants no. 19 was my introduction to the author’s writing style, but really to the author’s lifestyle, to the places haunted, to the songs liked. Sonnet Reducer is RBJ’s songs though, punk poetry. The title, the cover, the concept and the execution all make me read these poems to the tune of very fast downstrokes and an anthemic voice calling out these sonnet lines. It’s fun. It reminds me of The Ramones, them in their leather jackets, sneakers and short songs, these in their 14 line uni-form and each one named sonnet (Battle Sonnet, HedgeSonnet, Bad Sonnet Everyone’s Fault). I wrote about pins and buttons back in December and how they are a badge, and I read these poems and they are like a pin on your jacket, they have that same spirit, they can speak for you, in a way.
The other thing I really like about this zine is that RBJ announced the idea for this project just before Chicago Zine Fest and all of a sudden it’s done. Super bold. It’s a thing, not simply an idea. Bang Bang Bang, just like that. Was inspiring to see it come together through tumblr, and even more inspiring to read. Bold and nostalgic in a good way.
I don’t want to print excerpts from this without permission, but the introduction is great and sets the tone. You think sonnets and you think punk and it’s like, nope. But the introduction talks about that clash, and made a lot of sense to me.
**here’s the intro, it’s cool with Jessie**
Susan Sontag once wrote: “if I had to choose between the Doors and Dostoyevsky, then - of course - I’d choose Dostoyevsky. But do I have to choose?” When I first read that quotation, I thought of a journal entry I wrote in 2002, wherein I said: “I love Shakespeare and the Ramones. People want me to choose between high and low culture, but do I have to choose?” If i had to choose between the Ramones and Shakespeare, then - of course - I’d choose the Ramones, but the great thing is that I don’t have to choose.
This zine lives in that split between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture (which is a false dichotomy, anyway, but I digress) - sonnets (which are often considered a pretentious form of poetry) about punk stuff, stuff like mosh pits, drinking on rooftops, battle vests…and the Ramones.
I got into writing sonnets about nine years ago, when I became obsessed with Edna St. Vincent Millay. Prior to that, I mostly avoided specific poetic forms, most of my poetry was free verse. When I tried my hand at sonnets, I found that there was freedom within the form. There’s a kind of freedom in fitting your thoughts to the form of the sonnet, just as there’s a kind of freedom in writing songs in that punk rock 1-2-3-4 style.
All philosophical ramblings aside, this zine was fun as fuck to write. In a different journal entry, this one circa 2007, I wrote about “probably being the only person who has a mohawk and also writes sonnets.” I may not be the only one, but I’m not just anyone…
I got my time machine. Got my poetic dream. Sonnet Reducer, ain’t no loser.
RBJ (March 2014
Portrait of the artist with epic mohawk atop a throne of rubble