Poem Spark May 19-June 5 – The Sonnet

Greetings fellow poets!

Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S., and I woke up thinking of one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings: “next to of course god america i . This marvelous little poem is a sonnet, albeit a modern interpretation of the form. Poets.org has an excellent page on the sonnet– Poetic Form: Sonnet.

Here’s the short version explanation of the form from that page:

Petrarchan Sonnet
The first and most common sonnet is the Petrarchan, or Italian. Named after one of its greatest practitioners, the Italian poet Petrarch, the Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two stanzas, the octave (the first eight lines) followed by the answering sestet (the final six lines). The tightly woven rhyme scheme, abba, abba, cdecde or cdcdcd, is suited for the rhyme-rich Italian language, though there are many fine examples in English. Since the Petrarchan presents an argument, observation, question, or some other answerable charge in the octave, a turn, or volta, occurs between the eighth and ninth lines. This turn marks a shift in the direction of the foregoing argument or narrative, turning the sestet into the vehicle for the counterargument, clarification, or whatever answer the octave demands.

Shakespearean Sonnet
The second major type of sonnet, the Shakespearean, or English sonnet, follows a different set of rules. Here, four quatrains and a couplet follow this rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. The couplet plays a pivotal role, usually arriving in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas, often creating an epiphanic quality to the end.

Modern Sonnets

. . . Stretched and teased formally and thematically, today’s sonnet can often only be identified by the ghost imprint that haunts it, recognizable by the presence of 14 lines or even by name only.

And here are your examples for this week:

Robert Lowell History

Edna St. Vincent Millay What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)

e.e. cummings “next to of course god america i

Your task this week is to write a sonnet. Don’t worry about paying strict attention to the form, rather, take liberties with it, as does cummings. Instead of looking at the sonnet as a form that restricts your words, use it to control what you want to say. You may be surprised. As always, have fun and be creative!

2 thoughts on “Poem Spark May 19-June 5 – The Sonnet

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