12: Sonnets for the Zodiac
"In John Gosslee’s debut collection, 12, he chisels to perfection sonnets that masterfully treat the characters of the western zodiac. Lyrically intense, each poem portrays a compelling portrait that breathes new life into an age-old celestial system. With a musician’s heart, an eye for detail, and stunning craftsmanship, Gosslee explores the intricacies of the twelve signs—from Aries to Pisces—while dazzling the reader with his descriptive powers. These are illuminating and memorable poems from a new and authentic voice." —Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2006-2008
"The poet John Gosslee has written a dozen sonnets, one for each astrological sign. His engagement with original patterns in a verse simultaneously free and formal, and containing a certain pervasive tone that might be described as gloomy frivolity, is entirely his own. To read these poems is to submerge oneself in a world of chance, change, and possibility, while never being allowed to forget the limits that reality, the reality of the self and of the literal, imposes on such notions as freedom or utopia ('The world of worlds portrayed in pastel blue'). Gosslee has suffused his verse with a particular humanity and an appreciation for the absurd, even the grotesque, while maintaining a quietly precise sense of modulation and an unerring gaze. Though the rhymes and syntax are somewhat stilted at times, including some archaic contractions and inversions, the original, often startling imagery and rhythms carry the poems through. Some are epistolary, others purely descriptive. All contain touches of exotica: temple domes, ruby pools, almond moonlight, violet blades. There is a medieval, almost Arthurian, quality running through many of the poems. One may find 'poisonous vats and kegs,' catacombs and even a martyr here. Notions of quest, hope, sacrifice and destiny abound... In orchestrating his poetics, Gosslee creates a tricky dialog between the human and the ideal, between what we can and what we can’t control. He accomplishes this with a combination of spontaneity and clearheaded distillation. This is the kind of work that comes around rarely." —Larry Fagin, Professor of Poetics, New School University
John Gosslee is editor of Fjords Arts and Literary Review. He was poet-in-residence for Attitude: the Dancers' Magazine from 2008-2011. As an amateur botanist, he enjoys the tones, fragrances and sounds of the springtime.