Untitled Sonnet II

Untitled Sonnet II was first published in a collection of poems not surprisingly called Untitled Sonnets, all written by Spencer Holcomb to highlight familiar sonnet forms[1] using familiar sonnet themes. It’s republished here with the permission of Vandermoore University Press.

In Shakespeare’s day[2] it may have been the thing

to give your darling love a rose or ring,

but I am here to share with you my stand:

a rose by any name is just as bland.[3]

Now know what a man of any measure knows:

the simplest rube can pluck the simplest rose.

Why not pluck a Phoenix’s burning feathers?

Asphodels[4] from Hades’ burning heathers?

With greatest passion greatest lovers prove

in greatest fashion plates of earth they’d move.

Find love and love will love its being found;

sustain that love on otherworldly magic’s ground.


Spencer Holcomb (1963-2014)[5]


[1] This particular style is the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet, known for its three quatrains of alternating rhyme and its couplet finale. This collection by Holcomb was panned by many of his critics as utterly sophomoric–at least in comparison to the free verse poetry for which he was better known.

[2] Holcomb ironically uses the conventional Shakespearean sonnet to eviscerate the conventions of love and courting.

[3] An allusion to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene II, lines 46-48) in which Juliet states “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

[4] Here, asphodels refer to the flowers said to have grown in the underworld of Greek mythology, yet it’s imperative to mention that Holcomb—in a letter written to his husband in preparation of his own death in 2014—requested Asphodelus ramosus as his funerary flower. Moreover, Asphodel, That Greeny Flower by William Carlos Williams was said to have been among Spencer Holcomb’s favorite poems.

[5] Spencer Holcomb, accused of orchestrating an underground railroad for North Koreans to South Korea, was executed in Pyongyang on April 1, 2014. His remains were never recovered, but his cenotaph can be admired in Chattanooga TN. A bust in his likeness may also be seen in the nearby Hunter Museum of American Art.

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