Online Edition: Spring 2007

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Bond Sonnets

Clark Coolidge

by Noah Eli Gordon

Drawing from the lexicon of sexualized international intrigue, Clark Coolidge's Bond Sonnets (available as a free PDF download here) was originally published in The Insect Trust Gazette in 1965. Although these eighteen sonnets, featuring mostly five-word lines, merely hint at the aural, lexical, textural, musical, and referential breakthroughs of one of our most accomplished and prolific experimental writers, they do offer a fascinating counterpoint to much of the later work, and hold their own among numerous 1960s examples of the cut-up's spike in popularity. A footnote in poet-critic Tom Orange's Arrangement and Density: A Context for Early Clark Coolidge reprints an excerpt of a letter from Coolidge that confirms Orange's suspicion of the work having arisen via a procedural operation preformed on an Ian Fleming novel: "The Bond Sonnets was an entirely chance work, generated by a random number system from the pages of (I think you're right) Thunderball." While laconic syntax and semantic interruptions lay waste to any linear or narrative reading, the appropriated diction infuses these sonnets with "the intensity of hard Bond," which is to say, the perfect balance between secret agent and binding agent.