Monday, March 21, 2016

Anticipating Poetry Month - write a sonnet!

Happy Spring! 
March is usually a bust in Wisconsin, but we have something to look forward to: April, Poetry Month

Author Culture celebrates all forms of writing--let's talk sonnets today with my guest, Jane Osypowski.

Simplifying the Sonnet

My heart was broken, smashed by the first boy I loved when I was a freshman in college. Knowing that nobody in the history of mankind had experienced such devastation, I wrote and read volumes of poetry. It was during this time of angst that I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Collected Sonnets. Her lines: I cannot say what loves have come and gone,/I only know that summer sang in me/ a little while, that in me sings no more. (Sigh.) Her metered rhythm and beautiful, sad words were my solace. I fell in love with this poetry form.

When Marilyn Taylor was Wisconsin’s state Poet Laureate, she promoted form poetry, particularly sonnets, and showed how to have fun writing them. Inspired, I wrote one that made it into the WisconsinPoets Calendar the following year. My goal today is to play Marilyn and show you that sonnets are fun and easy to write!

First, sing a little song to get the rhythm of your lines: ta DUM ta DUM ta DUM ta DUM ta DUM. This is called Iambic Pentameter. When you are comfortable with the way it feels, play with lines that carry that same beat. At this point, don’t worry about rhyme or stanzas or even tying the lines together.  Just let the rhythm and words flow.

There are a number of types of sonnets, determined by the end of line rhyme pattern. Today, we will look at the English or Shakespearean sonnet, where end of line pattern is: a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-e-f-e-f-g-g. The last two lines would bring the whole poem together. Another way is to look at the first twelve lines as presenting a conflict and resolving it in the last two.

Here is a "cheat sheet" examining the different types:


Italian/Petrarchan                    English/Shakespearean
            a                                              a
            b                                              b
            b                                              a
            a                                              b
            a          conflict                        c
            b                                              d
            b                                              c
            a                                              d          conflict
            c                                              e
            d                                              f
e                                              e
c          resolution                    f
d                                                          g          resolution
e                                                          g          Note: Shakespeare indented this couplet

Spenserian                               Frost                                        Variation

            a                                  a                                              a
            b                                  a                                              a
            a                                  b                                              b
            b                                  c                                              b
            b                                  b                                              c
            c                                  d                                              c
            b                                  c                                              d
            c                                  d                                              d
            c          conflict            e                                              e
            d                                  e                                              e
            c                                  f                                               f
            d                                  g                                              f
            e                                  f                                               g
            e          resolution        g                                              g

Notes on Sonnets

Curtail Sonnet
            Shortened version = 10 lines

Caudate Sonnet
            Lengthened sonnet with extra couplet at the end

Sonnet Sequence
            A string of sonnets containing related or similar subject matter

Reverse Sonnet
            Reverse rhyme scheme -- i.e., maybe open with rhyming couplet

Crown of Sonnets
7 sonnets, each one beginning with the last line of the preceding sonnet, with the first line and the last line of the crown being identical.

Iambic Pentameter
            da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
            Note: Many modern sonnets abandon rhythm.

            begins just before the Resolution (closing)

Hint: Work 10-syllable lines with rhyme scheme – try to perfect meter later.

Below is my poem from the 2010 Poets Calendar. I hope that you have fun and try to write your own sonnet. Please send it to Lisa,, or me at and we’ll showcase a sample of them on APRIL 20. 

P.S. Don’t forget to celebrate National Poetry Month in April.

Wise Guy
(a/k/a The Man in the Moon)

A copper full moon rises in the sky,
pours out a stream of light across the lake.
Tonight its boldness beckons, “Come outside,
absorb what’s left of summer now, and make

memories to carry you through the times
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share