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Poet (and publisher) sued by sonnet subject in South Dakota

By Harriet Staff

Nothing says unrequited-love-with-the-potential-for-legal-intervention better than a good old-fashioned sonnet sequence, except perhaps a sonnet sequence that declares love in vertical letters for a student at the author’s university. According to the Mitchell Daily Republic, University of South Dakota Assistant Professor Edward Allen has been sued by Suzi Grace, a USD student and the subject of his recent poetry book:

In 2006, Allen published a book through Ahsahta Press in Idaho titled “67 Mixed Messages.” The 74-page book is a sequence of sonnets he wrote about a character named Suzi Grace. The first letter of each line on every page spells out “I Love Suzi Grace,” a form which is called an acrostic poem.

[…] Even though Allen used the full name of a USD student he knew and placed the line “I love you, Suzi” in each sonnet, he says in his statement that he hopes the ambiguous sexuality of the book’s main character will make the character’s “fantasies seem less creepy.”

The full quote, from the Ashahta site, is:

One of the things that has been particularly fun and particularly challenging about putting together 67 Mixed Messages has been the project of balancing the speaker’s sexual desire for Suzi with his own sense of sexual ambiguity. The heart of these messages is that they are mixed, that they are spoken in the voice of someone who is pulled so strongly in multiple directions that he is unable to narrow his desires down to the point where he can do anything about any of them—a sort of Miniver Cheevy character, pathetic and comic at the same time, and having some sense of his own absurdity.

Even though most of the sonnets focus on heterosexual fascination, it is clear to me that this sequence could not work without its bisexual undertone. If it were just about a middle-aged man yearning for a woman half his age, the story would sound too much like the ruminations of a borderline pedophile. I think the bisexual nature of the work has allowed me as a writer to take a step backwards and to look at this hopeless relationship from an ambiguous viewpoint that I hope will make the salaciousness of the speaker’s fantasies seem less creepy.

The Daily Republic reports that the suit is, thankfully for all, in the process of being dismissed “on the basis that all issues between the plaintiff and defendants have been resolved.” Find the full article here. Read all about the book here.


Posted in Poetry News on Monday, September 26th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.