Triple Crown, Sonnets by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright — review by Ilka Scobie

The Last Word In Modern Sonnets:

Triple Crown, Sonnets

by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright


review by Ilka Scobie

coverTriple Crown, Sonnets
by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright (Author)
Rene Ricard and JCW (Illustrator)
Spuyten Duyvil (March 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1881471233
ISBN-13: 978-1881471233
$15.00 US pbk | $18.68 CDN pbk | £9.29 UK pbk
112 pages, 6″ x 9″, Poetry

Jeff Wright’s lyrical liberties propel the traditional sonnet on a worldwide dash. Every poem is “Made in…” somewhere —beginning with China. In the second poem, “Made in Hong Kong,” the initial entreaty beckons with musical sophistication: anagrammatic words coupled in a double-beat rhyme scheme.

“Come to me now, unkind whirlwind
Come to me now and unwind, wunderkind.”

In “Made in Naples” a romantic incantation is at once triumphant and forlorn. Adding complexity, Wright throws in the homonym “bow.”

“I watched her take a bow at the slam tonight
One more time, she hit on her true mark
and let fly an arrow to my still beating heart.”

Ever the provocateur, Wright infuses a sly humor in his startlingly beautiful and offbeat imagery.
The forty-eight sonnets of “Triple Crown” are divided into three parts. Some lines repeat but not in the strict order of a conventional crown. Instead, recurring themes and topoi add structural cohesion. This sonnet garland adheres to the sensuous 14-line forms of Petrarch and Shakespeare while incorporating the innovative jump-cuts and punchy vernacular of Ted Berrigan (who Wright studied with).
Emily Bronte is Wright’s muse and consort and is often beside him as he wakes up again and again.

“I woke at the end of a punch line
Emily, by my side, always happy to be alive.”

Elsewhere, Bronte sits on a wasp’s nest, reads Konkueror protocol in a bikini, and is “drizzled with jizz.” Her nether regions are jazzily extolled: “Give me your fur-lined poon.” She even visits the Zinc Bar where Larry Fagin is quoting Chekov and the bartender is carding an underage kid nick-named Piper.
In this anachronistic present built on a literary past, Wright also hangs out with Apollo, Venus, and Astarte as well as with New York poets like Bernadette Mayer, Eileen Myles and David Shapiro. Pan-mythic in scope, Wright draws on Native American and Asian deities as well.

“Speak to me then, Gray Wolf
Let the moon hurl its guts across the sky
Ducks huddle-bobbing on glass river glance
No gate to stay forever shut
Unconsumed by the present I present the now
The Dusters tonight at Mongrel Hall
Let’s get hammered, Thor”

The function of imparting information has not always been absent from poetry. Wright recognizes the deep desire to read for knowledge as well as pleasure. Twenty pages of notes at the end provide the curious reader with lots of information about references in the poems, meandering from scientific terms to Emma Goldman quotes. Fusing geography with lexicology we can find out what many of the place names mean. We learn, for instance, that Cucamonga means “sandy place” in Shoshone.
Infused with beatnik bonhomie, Wright’s enthusiasm animates these pages. Included are his evocative collages, one of which first appeared in Live Mag!, Wright’s eclectic and excellent art and poetry magazine.
Though these sonnets are entitled with exotic locales, the poems resound with East Village élan. A long time downtowner, Wright is equally confident quoting mythology, technology and rock lyrics.
Triple Crown thrusts us into the urbane interior life of a true poet and pioneer, who juggles creativity with the quest for legal tender, romance with reality, and passion with pranks. This is a book to read through in a rush, to appreciate the soul and syncopation — and then at random, to re-read, digest and savor on multiple levels. Like a true post punk troubadour, Jeff Wright provokes and entertains, challenging readers to join his cosmic leap.
Ilka ScobieIlka Scobie is a native New Yorker and long time downtown resident. She teaches poetry in the public schools and writes about contemporary art for London’s Artlyst. She is co-curating a show “ART AM 3” in Soncino, Italy, with her husband, Luigi Cazzaniga, featuring artists including John Giorno, Ugo Rondinone, Alex Katz, Mario Schifano, Martha Diamond, Lola Schnabel and Rene Ricard. She is currently Associate Editor of LiVE MAG!

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2 Responses to Triple Crown, Sonnets by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright — review by Ilka Scobie

  1. Don Yorty

    So great to look over these poems again, and good to see Jeff’s sonnets getting some of the recognition they deserve. There’s nothing wrong with fun and entertainment; it gets you a good seat at that table on Olympus, and here we are with Jeff, a divine sonneteer, many a delightful word trick up his sleeve. Jeff loads every rift with ore. His riff full, thoughtful language is at its funny best in this book. Sensual sounds quick and yet long lasting explosions, bursts of epiphanies in the mind. I’ve enjoyed this review, and I enjoy these poems more and more with every reading.

  2. Bill Considine

    Jeff Wright’s sonnet cycle has bold charm. Line by unexpected line, phrase fast upon phrase, his wordplay is surprising and fun. His scope is the whole earth. Love-dazzled neighbors dance to the music of now and always. It’s a pleasure!