Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Shakespeare

 

William Shakespeare is alive and well and living robustly in America’s Finest City. On Monday, October 8, starting at 7:30 pm, the San Diego Shakespeare Society will present its 17th Annual Celebrity Sonnets. Through readings, comedy, music, song and dance, local celebrities and performers will dramatize sonnets to a Bard-loving audience. The venue is Balboa Park, in the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at the Old Globe Theatre, our city’s most venerable cultural institution. For tickets and other details, go to www.sandiegoshakespearesociety.org. Tickets are also available at the door.

Onstage I will be joined by the likes of Shakespeare Society president Darryl Woodson, who will emcee the program, and legendary actor Jonathan McMurtry, who will be honored for his surpassing acting, which has graced the stages of San Diego. Incredibly, Jonathan has performed in all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays.

Jonatahan’s colleagues and friends will read sonnets — Marion Ross, of Happy Days; Dann Florek, of Law and Order; Sam Woodhouse, San Diego REP co-founder; David Ellenstein, artistic director of North Coast Repertory Theatre; and Charles Janasz and Robert Foxworth, Old Globe artists. Mellifluous singers and nimble dancers will add visual and auditory delight to the evening.

The Elizabethan age was the age of the sonnet, a compact fixed verse form written in iambic pentameter and consisting of three quatrains (four-line clusters) and a couplet (two lines). It was in the Elizabethan Age that the sonnet landed in England and flourished, with William Shakespeare becoming its most luminous practitioner.

Robert Frost once said that writing poetry without rhyme or meter is “like playing tennis without a net.” Writers have long been fascinated by fixed poetic forms that impose a rigorous discipline, whose rhythmical patterns, regular rhyme schemes and limited number of lines force meticulous shaping of material. The Japanese, for example, love to write ultrabrief haikus, cobbled from only 17 carefully chosen syllables. In English, the sonnet has been the most popular and durable short poetic form.

The English, or Shakespearean, sonnet consists of 14 lines of iambic pentameter (five “feet” of unstressed-then-stressed syllables) broken into three quatrains (four-line units) and a couplet and cast in a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. The three quatrains develop an idea or theme, and the final couplet puts forth a conclusion, a summary, an application, a narrowing of focus or even a surprise reversal. The iamb is our most pervasive poetic foot because it echoes the beating of the human heart.

This past May, Alex Sandie, the founder of the San Diego Shakespeare Society, passed away, shuffling off his mortal coil and journeying to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. In Alex’s honor, I have composed a Shakespearean sonnet, which I will sing Monday evening. The final line replicates what Ben Jonson said of his fellow playwright William Shakespeare:

Great Scot!

From Edinburgh came one Alex Sandie,
With his plucky wife, the queenly Janet,
To San Diego, where the weather’s dandy —
The bravest couple to bestride our planet.

2000 ’twas, this Bardstruck banker man
Founded our town’s esteemed Shakespeare Society.
He raised the Bard as high as one man can
By offering events of great variety:

Our student festivals the Prado grace.
Plus readings, trials and many a Shakespeare sonnet.
And the Bard’s birthday on the coast takes place —
Amazing if you set your mind upon it.

Please know, Sir Alex, as we end our rhyme:
“You are not of an age, but for all time!”

***

            On Saturday, October 6, 10 am, I’ll be speaking at the Coronado Library and at 2 pm, at the Ocean Beach Library. Admission is free.