April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. The momentous historic event is being commemorated with events around the world, most of which involve the performance of Shakespeare’s plays.
But Shakespeare’s poetry also deserves to be celebrated. The Bard wrote 154 sonnets, which are considered superlative examples of the form.
Local author Vern Barnet, in an act of literary bravado, has written his own 154 sonnets in imitation of Shakespeare. He will discuss his book of sonnets, “Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire,” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Westport Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 118 Westport Road.
“In the era in which Shakespeare wrote his sonnets, there was no Facebook or Twitter, and it was quite acceptable to show off your literary talent by writing sonnets to ‘friend’ people,” Barnet said. “Using the sonnet in order to carry on a love affair is something that is not often done these days, but I have done that. I’ve written sonnets as a way of communicating the development of my relationship with others.”
Barnet’s sonnets are more than mere love poems, however. They are a treasure chest of wisdom taken from the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. Drawing on his impressive background as founder of the World Faiths Center for Religious Experience and Study Inc., Barnet has filled his sonnets with references to Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic mystics. All of Barnet’s references are explained in the copious footnotes, which are a delight to read by themselves.
At the event Saturday, Barnet will discuss “How Shakespeare Wrote My Book — Even though He Died April 23, 1616” and there will be videos of several local actors such as Alan Tilson and Frank Oakley III reading Barnet’s sonnets. The audience will able to vote for the best recitation for a chance to win cash prizes.
To learn more about “Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire,” visit cres.org/sonnets/blog.htm.