A Series of Unfortunate Sonnets

So here we are, at the end.

This project taught me I am terrible at writing sonnets. But, I do like to think that they became better with each one.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, I remember what it was like to first find and read these intriguing novels: When I was a kid (I was tiny), my siblings and I went to the book bus every Friday after school. The book bus (aka, the mobile library) visited our small town from two til’ four, although only the size of an average bus, had an amazing collection of titles, and was always very busy. We would walk across the road from school and settle into the cushions at the back of the bus, reading until Mum picked us up. We would then trudge through the door at home with our piles of books and collapse on the couch and read until dinner-time.

The best way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Anyway, I quickly realized that the best place to find all the best books at the book bus was the returns box, and I would often linger next to it, sorting through everything until I found a cover that caught my eye. And this is how I came upon Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. 

The books peaked my curiosity, and I quickly rushed through them one by one, until I had reached the tenth one, and had to wait for the last three to be written and published. Oh the agony of waiting.

These books were mysterious, melancholy, moving, and manic (at times)! Nothing like I had ever read before!

And now, upon my first true reread (I have not reread the entire series all in one go), I endeavour to write A Series of Unfortunate Sonnets: one sonnet written for each book. The sonnets will probably be rubbish (you could even say unfortunate), but nonetheless, it will be an experiment of my creativity. With thirteen chapters + a letter to the editor (explaining how to get the manuscript for each book), within thirteen books + follow up, a fourteen lined sonnet seems like the fitting form to adopt.

The Bad Beginning

Tis’ a tale of three unfortunate souls
Who realize too young that life’s just not fair.
Their home and parents were reduced to coals
Now orphans, named for poet Baudelaire.

Violet – inventor, hair in a ribbon
Young Klaus is the bookworm, glasses and all
And Sunny the baby, it is written
Loves to cook and bite, for she’s rather small.

A man named Count Olaf is the villain
With a crooked house and a tattooed eye
Plans to steal the fortune of the children
By wedding hapless fourteen year old Vi.

They do escape, for now, but as you know
This small triumph will turn into fresh woe.

The Reptile Room

You have been cautioned to put the book down
Maybe you should forget this poem too.
Find a sonnet that brings smiles, not frowns.
Find something better (anything!) to do.

The Reptile Man. Had snakes of all kinds –
Ones that cuddled, stunk, ones that were hairy!
The perfect guardian one could find,
Oh poor Montgomery Montgomery –

Of course met his timely death, a plot of
Olaf’s. Once more the orphans were orphaned
Gone the days of coconut cake and love.
Tragic as his death was, heed this caution:

As the orphan’s looked back at the glasshouse,
“There’s no end to this sorrow” muttered Klaus. 

The Wide Window

If I was to drink for each line with a  
Warning, a drink for Vi’s hair in a bow,
A slug for a word definition (so bourgeois –
A fancy french word for common folk now)

A drink for the times Josephine was scared.
And a drink for each grammar correction.
A shot for every grown-up who cared
But was heedless, despite their affection.

A swig for each evil deed overcome
And one for evil Count Olaf in disguise.
One for each literary reference. Some
More booze for each time there is a surprise.

Then my dear Mr. Lemony Snicket,
By page four I’d be drunk as a cricket. 

The Miserable Mill

No warm food or bed, no love or safety,
It is not a surprise they find themselves
As child slaves, even Sunny, the baby.
Maybe just put this book back on the shelves. 

A room without windows, bad casserole
An evil optometrist in kahoots
With Olaf. But what’s their plan and their goal?
He’s dressed as a lady! In beige and boots!

Klaus is hypnotized, his glasses are bent
They wish for one another’s expertise:
Violet is to research, and Klaus to invent.
Dr Orwell is hacked up like the trees. 

And PTSD begins to settle
For children’s minds are not made of metal. 

The Austere Academy

A boarding school, alas, it’s not Hogwarts,
The Baudelaire orphans find themselves at.
Sleeping in a shack riddled with all sorts
Of nasties – crabs, mould, maybe a gnat.

In the dim tombstones hallways they make friends
With triplets, but there’s two, not three, sadly.
Luminous paint, sleepless nights, dark descends.
The Quagmire triplets help them gladly.

The two triplets are kidnapped, at the end.
But a clue they leave, finally something!
As they were researching Olaf they penned
The VFD: a hint of which to cling. 

What do these letters mean? Where will it lead?
If they find the answer – will they be freed?

The Ersatz Elevator

New home: 667 Dark Avenue
Light is out, dark is in – in the Penthouse
What’s in and what’s out is an odd world view
Mr Squalor is nice, but not his spouse.

Esme only cares that orphans are in.
But the elevator is suspicious
Is Olaf hiding down there in the dim?
Climbing down the shaft is too ambitious.

The Quagmires are locked in a small cage.
To save them the Baudelaire’s are too late.
A secret passage goes on for an age,
It leads to their old home – why? is this fate?

A secret beneath their feet all those years –
How could this adventure not end in tears?

The Vile Village

It takes a village to raise a child
They say. A village covered in black crows
Named V.F.D. With rules that are not mild.
There is no end to the Baudelaire’s woes.

A couplet they find, and know it’s a clue
From the Quagmires, trapped somewhere in town.
This book is riddled with bolts from the blue,
Causing the orphans to puzzle and frown.

A mysterious man who holds secrets
to the ever elusive initials.
We are still asking: who is this Beatrice?
Birthday tears from the child in the middle. 

As we know, joy and fun misrepresents
A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The Hostile Hospital

Lost in a barren wasteland, dry and hot.
A suspicious shopkeeper, and false news,
Unanswered telegram, has Poe forgot?
The lone Baudelaire’s are looking for clues.

They are hired by an old archivist – Hal
In a library that holds the answers
To all of the secrets no one will tell
Risky decisions, lies, taking chances.

What is noble? And is is good to lie?
How does one stay good, honest, and pure
When one is only trying not to die?
They thought they were good, now they’re not so sure.

Stowaways they are now, hiding in fear
In the trunk of Olaf’s – what will they hear?

The Carnivorous Carnival

It begins in darkness, you understand
Surrounded by curiosities, and
Travelling far across The Hinterlands –
A place famous for it’s stretches of sand.

Curious Caligari carnival
Home to a hunchback, a contortionist
An ambidextrous, with low morale.
And a psychic, who’s wholly dishonest.

A two headed person, a wolf baby,
A jealous girlfriend, a pit of lions,
Coffee stains, an archival library,
It ends with a suspicious alliance.

A secret revealed, but hope they daren’t
Will the mountains hold one living parent?

The Slippery Slope

Sunny is taken, others forsaken,
They must think fast to avoid sudden death,
Was a close call, unless I’m mistaken.
There is no time for them to catch their breath.

The meeting of a mysterious scout
Turns out to be worthwhile. Behind the mask
is Quigley Quagmire, there is no doubt.
Answers he has to assist with their task.

A sad sight it is, it’s burnt to the ground.
These headquarters are no longer safe.
The baby is one no more they’ve found,
She eavesdrops and cooks, ignored as a waif.

Where’s the last safe place and The Sugar Bowl?
To find all the answers is now their goal.

The Grim Grotto

A sorry sight it is, sopping siblings
Slowly sailing along the Stricken Stream,
(It is swift and soggy due to false spring)
Searching for the Sugar Bowl, and it’s scheme.

Alas, ahoy! Aquatic periscope!
At last some affable associates,
Anticipating answers and hope.
Each, an avocation and able wits.

For fungi fascinates Fiona,
Phil is no fool with food. Widdershins too.
Forsaken! Was is all a persona?
Fear finds them, and something worse than the flu.

An enigma leads to an encounter,
With Kit, an equivocal chauffeur.

The Penultimate Peril

The meeting of another Snicket, Kit
Adds mystery to the Snicket story.
Who are these siblings, and are they legit?
They all have low hopes: Memento Mori.

She gives them a mission: to be flaneurs,
To watch each guest of the hotel closely,
They will be ignored as a concierge.
They find more questions than answers mostly.

A hotel that is a giant library,
An evil plot, an unfortunate death,
A trial, an end that is fiery.
A tragedy that’s as sad as Macbeth.

And so they go, to an unknown shore,
For the last safe place – it is safe no more.

The End

The end of The End is oft detested
For there are no answers, no solution
To the obscure questions suggested
What did you expect? A resolution?

Mr. Snicket has done his job truly
An honest account of the children’s woe
He warned us the tale would be gloomy
As they buried their good friend and their foe.

So, to readers who are disappointed
See the ending as it’s supposed to be:
The book within the book is anointed.
Dear reader: in your mind you’ll find the key.

But you’ll find one secret is uncovered:
Elusive Beatrice, Snicket’s beloved.


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