Subversive Sonnets

These “subversive sonnets” overhaul the traditional sonnet form to address a range of subjects, from the tenderness of love to the terror of rape, punishment, torture, and murder. Mordecai has an unfailing ear for voices, for the music that sings and laughs and laments the stories of family, clan, and tribe. This is Pamela Mordecai’s fifth collection of poetry.

“This is a remarkable book of sonnets which are subversive in wonderful ways.”
The Caribbean Writer

“Like Pamela Mordecai’s other work, Subversive Sonnets is clever, witty, insightful and linguistically acrobatic. Never one to shy away from difficult themes, Mordecai employs the sonnet form to sing more than ‘little songs’. There is organ music here too as thematically she moves between the bottomless deeps and praise of heaven’s wonders. A courageous, affirmative, and– yes– entertaining read. A wise, highly crafted and satisfying exploration of life deeply lived in all its infinite refractions and life as we’d like it to be.”
–Olive Senior, author of Dancing Lessons

Subversive Sonnets is an astonishing achievement. Beautifully gloved in the materiality of everyday things and not-always everyday places, these poems yet push the reader towards speculative realms of gold, where real places also become mind places and homes of deep feeling. Mordecai readily takes us from the finely personal to wider grief for North America’s, the Caribbean’s, and all our sins, from the saucily bawdy to political fury and horror at a New World turned bitterly, bitingly old, or from a joyous bounce to subsequent personal loss and collective agony that can become skin-crawlingly terrifying. These sonnets are the achievement of years of a poet’s wisdom.”
–Timothy J Reiss, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, New York University

Subversive Sonnets is sweet, acerbic, scintillating, and sassy. If you want to be right, you can’t go wrong in reading these verses that modernize the sonnet, putting it in service of mischief, not only meditation. Mordecai has assembled a collection that is arrogant in its dazzle and provocative in its sizzle. Here’s the real poetry, folks: thought given discipline and then set free to sing and/or singe.”
–George Elliott Clarke E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature, University of Toronto


Publication Date: October 2011

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-894770-94-1
Page size: 5.5″ x 8.25″
112 pages

eBook ISBN: 978-1-927494-24-0

Photo of Pamela Mordecai

Pamela Mordecai writes poetry, fiction and plays. Her collections of poetry are Journey Poem, de Man: a performance poem, Certifiable, The True Blue of Islands, Subversive Sonnets, de book of Mary: a performance poem, Up Tropic, and A Fierce Green Place: new and selected poems. Her first collection of short fiction, Pink Icing and Other Stories, appeared to enthusiastic reviews in 2006, and her first novel, Red Jacket, was published in 2015 and shortlisted for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Award. Her writing for children is widely collected and well known internationally. El Numero Uno, a play for young people, had its world premiere at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People in Toronto in 2010 and its Caribbean premiere at the Edna Manley School for the Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2016. She lives in Toronto.

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