Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

sonnet 61 shoes February 17, 2012

Filed under: Poetry,projects — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:54 pm
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When we were in Paris last March, I found a shoe sale. I ended up buying a pair of black leather wedge shoes (for just 12 Euros!  John said, “How much?  Why don’t you buy the brown pair, too?” lol) Now, I don’t really believe in plain black anything, and those wedges seemed to me to be a black board just waiting for something to be written upon them.

So I looked for some fine tipped, permanent opaque pens.  I couldn’t find them anywhere within 100 km, so bought the Sakura pens on eBay direct from Japan, and waited for the day when inspiration would strike.

The day has arrived!

My plain black wedges are plain no longer! They sport the complete Petrarchan sonnet Canzoniere 61, in Petrarca’s original Italian. You might remember that this is the poem I translated for Grace Awakening.

Where there are inadvertent spaces (like where I needed to even up a line, and where the next word didn’t fit) I added roses. For each line of the sonnet I switched colours.  I completely free-handed these, and I was quite delighted that the entire poem fit EXACTLY between the 2 shoes!  Lucky fluke, eh?

I am quite contented with the result, and even more content that I did manage to get the project done before a year was up!


Canzoniere 61 the final translation July 14, 2011

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:16 am
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Earlier in the week I led you through the process of translating Petrarch’s Canzoniere 61. I thought I’d share with you the final version that is going to press in Awakening Dreams.  There have been a few words changed up to improve consonance and punctuation has clarified meaning.  As well, line 2 was altered as it didn’t end on the correct beat (iambic rhythm) in the draft.


Most blesséd be the day, the month, the year,
And blesséd be the hour, the moment when,
I found this place, and saw my sweet torment.
Her lovely eyes completely tied me here.

So blesséd was her breath as I came near,
That Love entangled me within her scent,
Against his arrows left me impotent,
And bound my heart to hers. So, thus endeared,

Sweet blesséd voices call my lady’s name,
And weave her glorious beauty in my verse.
My sighs, my tears, and my desires contained,

Most blesséd are the papers I disperse,
To share the thoughts that bring me fame,
The thoughts of her that are my blissful curse.

Translation (c) Shawn Bird

Not only did this moment capture Petrarch, but it captivated artists through the centuries who imaged the moment that Petrarch describes in this sonnet, and painted it as they imagined it.  The painting on the left is the actual moment of meeting in St. Clara’s in Avignon.  I have been in what is left of this convent chapel, as you can see from the photo below.  If it really looked like this artist has captured it, it is really very sad to see the ruins that it is now.

The picture on the right shows a lot of the symbolism represented in the poem.  Laure is represented by the laurel tree in the background, cupid (aka Love) has fired  his arrow at Petrarch and it has struck him in the heart.  Laure is presenting him with the laurel wreath that represents his literary success.  (He was crowned Rome’s Poet Laureate in 1341).  Petrarch himself frequently played with Laure/laurel the woman/fame metaphor.  What is interesting in this painting is that Petrarch is shown as an old man, while Laure is shown as a young woman.  In fact there are only 6 years between them.  (He was born in 1304, she in 1310).  Perhaps it represents them at their deaths?  She was 38, and he was 70.

Petrarch and Laura

Here I am in the ruins of St. Claire convent, standing pretty close to where the artist set the scene on the left, by the looks of things.  I just found the painting this morning, and this similarity kind of gives me chills.  There is no roof. It is an open space garden and performance area now.

Shawn at Ste Claire Convent (Theatre des Halles) Avignon France


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