Tobacconist’s Shops

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the decline of the local butcher’s shop. Tobacconist’s shops are in a similar decline – due, of course, to the fact that smoking is, seemingly, in its death-throes. I was looking in the window of one of the few surviving tobacconist’s shops recently, and the rather bizarre assortment of objects I saw there inspired the following poem.

It was only after I’d completed the poem that I started asking myself whether it could be described as a sonnet. It gives the appearance of being one, at first glance, as it’s composed of 14 lines of (mainly) rhyming verse. I was fairly sure, however, that it didn’t fulfill all the technical requirements of a sonnet, and a consultation of The Oxford Companion to English Literature confirmed it. A sonnet is defined as “a poem consisting of 14 lines of 10 syllables, with rhymes arranged according to certain definite schemes, of which the Petrarchan and the Elizabethan are the principal”. In my poem, while most of the lines converge around 10 syllables, only 5 of them are exactly 10 syllables; and my rhyme schemes do not conform to either the Petrarchan or the Elizabethan models. So my poem could be best described as an “approximate sonnet”, or “almost a sonnet”. These technical definitions are a matter of no consequence for me, in any case. As long as the poem expresses my thoughts and feelings in a harmonious way, then I’m happy!


Solitary survivors, tucked away,
inconspicuous, in ageing arcades.
Surreal range of devices on display:
pipe-cleaners, grinders, rollers, “Rizlas”,
“Zippos”, lighters, in glinting array.
Memories of “Gauloise” and “Gitane”;
erotic cachet of French “chic”.
Pungent as garlic; harsh, acrid reek.
“Park Drive”, “Consulate”, “Embassy”, “Pall Mall”.
Moody B-Movies; Bogart and Bacall.
A spurious concoction, it all now seems.
Ersatz glamour; celluloid dreams.
A notice is hidden, behind rollers and mills.
Its bleak declamation: SMOKING KILLS.


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