What has happened to literary journalism that something like this gets published in a national paper? John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 14—a poem on Christ’s violent attack on the self’s evil heart that brings about salvation—tells us, Roz Kaveney writes, “That the struggle to determine what we think so often takes place in liminal states.”
How does Kaveney arrive at this interpretation? Peering cunningly into the “liminal state” of the dead poet himself, she associates the “rough” meter of the poem with Donne’s “struggle” to determine what he thought. “He clearly felt that he needed to make it clear that some things are more important than strict form or rhythm. When souls are at stake, his soul in particular, what price correctness?” Clearly. And just so we’re clear: “To put it another way, as a contemporary poet, which matters more? Saying clearly what you mean to say, what you think of as important, or strict adherence to rules?” How about we drop that “strict” and say both? After all, you can’t say anything meaningful that’s formless.