Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs

Image of Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs
Release Date: 
October 5, 2015
Quirk Books
Reviewed by: 

It may not seem as if sonnets and pop songs would go together, but Didriksen proves quite well that they do. Partly out of his own skill, and partly because pop songs and Shakespeare's sonnets both deal with common themes of love and loss and trust, the 100 sonnets in this small and charmingly unusual book are something close to brilliant.

The conceit of the collection is that they're the unpublished sonnets Shakespeare wrote for between acts in his play, and that they were circulated for hundreds of years unofficially until they landed with studio execs and inspired large numbers of hit songs from rap to pop to R&B to rock.

And it's so much fun to read. Alternating between chuckle-worthy clever adaptations of the songs themselves, sometimes using direct quotes at exactly the right moment, and sly references to more known Shakespearean works that wind up sounding like the bard is referencing himself, the sonnets are clever and snappy and unique. Part of the very small new category of Shakespearean remakes of popular culture with the Star Wars-as-plays books, they manage to both elevate a subject that's often discarded by scholarship, and bring the often over-intellectualized sonnets down to an easily understood common level.

It's a brilliant overturning of English major subject matter, turning it into something as consumable and funny as the esteemed Bard's works were likely meant to always be. The book manages to skewer the stuffiness usually associated with sonnets, while also poking fun at the sometimes ridiculous situations highlighted in modern popular music. This book is a gift to English classrooms, and should be used in every one as an introduction to form poetry that young minds can easily grasp.

Since the book is small, it's a quick read, but it's not cheaply made; it is beautiful, with Shakespeare-appropriate fonts, nice thick pages, woodcut and vellum details, and under the dust jacket, a snippet of sheet music for one of the poems inside. The whole package, its aesthetics and content, is a fun and charming addition to any bookshelf, and a welcome bit of lightness compared to most poetry collections.