Page 1

CELEBRATING THE SONNET: An eccentric e-anthology

WRTG 4324: Sonnet Writing Workshop University of Central Arkansas Fall 2013

Origins, Reservations, and Results: A Teacher’s Preface

In my first semester as an MFA student at George Mason University I took a Forms of Poetry workshop with the engaging and demanding and expansively well-read poet Peter Klappert, then head of the MFA program. Over the course of the semester, Peter naturally talked about poets he admired, trends he admired (or didn’t), books and journals he admired (or didn’t), teachers he admired, and courses he’d taken himself as a MFA student at Iowa. One course he spoke most affectionately about: a class centered entirely around the sonnet. He recalled his amazement upon learning that a hefty percentage of e.e. cummings’s seemingly eccentric poems are actually sonnets (some admitted, some disguised). The course sounded to me like one that would be very interesting; at that age it would never have occurred to me that you could focus an entire, semester-long creative writing course on one poetic form. Is there really enough material to keep it going? Is there enough of the new to learn and do to keep teacher and students occupied for fifteen weeks? I wasn’t sure, but on account of Peter’s fond recollection of the class, I soon purchased for myself a tidy little paperback called The Sonnet: An Anthology, edited by Robert M. Bender and Charles L. Squier; and I read through the volume at my leisure. That anthology (alas, no longer in print) served as a crucial introduction to the form. Not only were the poems selected absolutely superlative, but they covered an immense range of time periods, with the modern period as well represented as any other. What the book did—as Peter’s class did, by the way—is show me how flexible and exciting a seemingly set-in-stone form could be. I received a comprehensive education in free verse poetics at George Mason, but I also had my taste wet for that unique and thriving phenomenon of free verse poets embracing traditional forms and in the process reinventing them. Fast forward several years to when I began teaching creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas. I was determined to have my Introduction to Creative Writing students try out a few traditional poetic forms; just to see how they liked them

and to balance out my otherwise earnest proselytizing on free verse. No matter what the traditional form I threw at them, be it sestinas or sonnets or haiku or pantoums, I emphasized that most (I say “most” not “all”) of the previously understood “musts” for these forms—the restrictions that generations of young poets either despise or swear a misguided religious-like fidelity to—are not “musts” in the slightest. They are simply commonplaces. Customs not laws. Customs embraced by some poets, ignored by others. Be that rhyme scheme, syllable count, metrical pattern, line length, line number, or some other rule. I informed them that contemporary poets—that is, people like you writing right now for audiences alive right now—often feel forced to give themselves some elbow room, some useful breathing space within a traditional form; they feel the need to reinvent the form in order for it to become a vehicle in which they can make interesting moves and say relevant things. (Anyone who has struggled with the demanding requirements of the sestina, for instance, knows exactly what I’m talking about.) And indeed the best examples of the forms my young students created happened when they gave themselves that breathing space. Several years ago, the creative writing program at UCA initiated a course called Topics in Creative Writing, an umbrella distinction under which different faculty could try out teaching topics not in our usual course offerings but of particular interest to themselves. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime experiment or a chance to test drive a class to see if it’s worth making a part of the permanent curriculum. After teaching a variety of topics over the course of six years or so (novel writing, magic realism, the long poem), I knew there was another topic just sitting there in the back of my brain having waited literally for decades for a chance to come out. What was taking me so long? Why was I hesitating? There wasn’t a good reason except for lethargy and perhaps too the fact that my identity in the Writing Department at UCA is that of fiction writer. (For the simple reason that I’ve published exponentially more fiction than poetry. And finally I’m better at fiction.) Fortunately, UCA’s creative writing program is staffed by people who support each other and encourage each other in risk-taking. You’re a fiction writer, but you want to teach a sonnet class? Go for it!

So I did. While excited to finally be doing the class I was also a bit anxious. Could I really fill a whole semester with nothing but sonnet reading and writing without engendering a student revolt? Would my students be willing to try out at least some of the traditional elements of the form? Would others—who I knew revered the tradition—be willing to experiment? Would I myself be able to write decent sonnets? (I hadn’t tried in many years.) Well, I decided to set a certain tone from the very first day. On that first day I introduced them to all the commonly understood musts about the sonnet form, but I also lead them through some of the many different way writers have messed with the form through the ages, almost from the very first years sonnets were written in English. I showed them how Edmund Spenser had combined elements of the Italian and English form to create a hybrid sonnet form entirely unique to him; I showed them an example of the caudated sonnet (a sonnet in which a 6 line “tail” is added on to the conventional 14 lines); I showed them one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s curtal sonnets (a form which though only 10 1/2 lines long exactly obeys the proportions of an Italian sonnet); I showed them twentieth and twenty-first century unrhymed sonnets; I showed them John Updike’s snarky post-modern take on the stereotypical Elizabethan love sonnet; I mentioned the “word sonnet” form popularized by Canadian poet Seymour Mayne, in which each of the poem’s 14 lines consists of exactly one word. I showed them how throughout the years poets have used the sentimental form of the sonnet for very unsentimental subjects, from political satire to social outrage to actual warfare. My point was simple but ambitious: In this class we are going to respect tradition, but we are also going to mess with it. Because that’s how forms survive. I could tell the class was a little dazed that first night. I’d thrown a lot at them. I think maybe I took for granted prior knowledge about the sonnet that some of them didn’t actually have. But when we started writing in our journals during the second half of the class—I made them try out either an English or Italian sonnet and also one of the other sonnet forms explained in the appendix of our textbook (e.g., French sonnet, curtal sonnet)—they all were perfectly engaged. And when some of them read their

budding creations out loud I could tell they were already striking gold. (Here I have to thank Scott Lewis for getting the ball rolling.) Thus we began. The next week featured the first discussions from our textbook readings. (I used several books for the course. The main text was The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, a really solid collection with substantial offerings from across the centuries as well as a very informative and sensitive introduction from editor Phillis Levin. We also read three separate collections from individual poets: Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, first published back in the 60s and since reprinted; Marilyn Hacker’s 1986 tour de force Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons—which for several of the students proved a touchstone for how to manage with this form as a contemporary poet; and Seymour Mayne’s collection of word sonnets Ricochet. Approval for Ricochet was nearly universal. It really spoke to many of the students, especially archibald meatpants and Sarah Jane Rawlinson.) Over the next several weeks we established a useful rhythm of reading, writing, and workshopping. As for the creative assignments themselves, I forced the students to jump through a variety of hoops: sonnets in traditional rhyme patterns, sonnets in rhyme patterns of their own invention, unrhymed sonnets, sonnets that were aggressively inventive in matters beyond rhyme scheme, crowns of sonnets (a sequence of linked sonnets at least seven in number), word sonnets. The students took all of this on quite willingly. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much they enjoyed writing their crowns. Almost to a person, they explored vital emotional material in their crowns, and without doubt the crowns demonstrated some of their very best, most exciting writing. From this class I have found out, as one Facebook friend told me, that “crowns can be addictive.” (This Facebook friend regularly writes crowns comprised of 75 or more sonnets!) I would not have understood that prior to the semester, but seeing how my students embraced the form and writing a couple myself in the span of a few weeks, I now understand perfectly.

It was not a flawless semester, but it was a great one. For various administrative lapses—textbook poems that we should have but never ended up discussing, hurried explanations of various sonnet forms, occasional failures to draw out every member of the class—I blame myself. The students themselves were wonderful. A mixture of graduate students and undergraduate upperclassmen, they were experienced writers and workshoppers and a heck of a lot of fun. It may have been the most joyous class to gather and teach of my entire career. Even before class began every Wednesday night it was full of chatter, and the chatter—and the good humor—kept rolling when we punched in, so to speak. They were a cheerful, even rambunctious group, so willing to speak up and speak at each other that I eventually said offhandedly to one of the grad students one night, “This class is out of control.” She agreed. But, actually, I meant that in the best possible way—if that makes any sense. Teaching the class felt sometimes like riding a wave I could barely control—archibald meatpants didn’t help much in this regard—but, looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. (As I’ve said on several occasions to several students, I’d rather have an over-talkative class than one that just sits there glumly; I’d rather have a student who won’t shut up then one who goes into a personal, tormented wormhole for 50 minutes.) Almost always I left the classroom energized and in great spirits. Most important, I could tell the students were learning a great deal: about themselves as poets, about each other as people, and about the sonnet as a form. Each of them contributed two poems to this anthology. While a few of them held back poems that they first want to see in print in established journals (an instinct I completely understand), meaning that a couple of my absolute favorite poems of the semester can’t be on display here, I think this e-anthology is a pretty fair representation of the class’s creativity. Sara Cervantes wrote some astonishingly powerful, emotionally open and brutal poems; they rank among the most memorable written by anyone, grad or undergrad, in class. You’ll find an example in this anthology. Sarah Jane Rawlinson, after some reservations, embraced the challenge of writing in form and with her typical quirkiness finally made it her own, as her contributions bear out. Allie Brass, especially

in her crown, opened herself emotionally, an endearing and honest personal quality that also led to fine poetry. Scott Lewis, an exceptional graduate student poet, was a leader all semester long and composed great work no matter what the assignment. His poem “Our Chemistry,” included here, is one of my favorites of the semester. Thanks, Scott. Lynn Landis, already a fine poet when the semester opened only got better and better every week. She cagily employed the sonnet form to work on her chosen theme of love in the life of a woman with perhaps too much love history to know what to do with. You’ll notice that theme at play in her poems. Unfortunately, Lynn could not contribute her own personal tour de force of the semester: a poem formed of a grid of fourteen columns each fourteen words long so that one can read down, across, diagonally, and backwards. You’ll just have to catch up with that poem elsewhere. Ah, yes, I remember it well, Lynn! Jessica Summers constantly surprised and entertained us. A very quiet person but an exceptional reader of her own work, she composed a powerful crown detailing her childhood struggles with autism. The two poems included here, however, come from the semester’s final assignment. Mary Mirek, more than any other student in class, truly adored and was inspired by the traditional rules of the sonnet form, yet she also carried out some really delightful experimentation. She contributed a couple of her more lighthearted pieces to this anthology. archibald meatpants, as he said at our endof-the-semester group reading, mostly “dicked around and told jokes,” but he also wrote some really sharply crafted sonnets. He’s responsible for what might be the single most inventive creation of the semester: a sonnet with a rhyme scheme formed entirely of eye rhymes, eye rhymes engendered by the fact that the poem is written in morse code! He also wrote some fine, serious poems, two of which are included here. Candace Baker started the semester complaining about how much she didn’t like or understand poetry but bowled all of us over on her first workshop night by presenting us with some superb pieces, two of my favorites of which are included in this

anthology: sonnets about playing music in which employs not-so-subtle sexual metaphors so expertly they don’t even read like metaphors. Good work, Candace! You have proven to all of us, including yourself, that you are in fact a poet. Wendy Pettingill, meanwhile, wrote poems all semester that displayed exquisitely delicate imagery and fine nuances of feeling. Both poems in this anthology—one of which is an excerpt from a really interesting crown she wrote in which each room of a house speaks—point to those strengths. Chris Hall may have been the most wary of any of the students about writing poetry in a traditional form. He was worried that writing in rhyme might prove just too painful a revulsion to overcome. But by the end of the term Chris had come farther than anyone in terms of seeing the unique value of forms. (Albeit he was very happy his sonnets didn’t all have to rhyme.) To say the least, Chris has led a very interesting life. More interesting I’m willing to bet than you or me or 90% of the people you know. I was glad to see him use the crown assignment to explore one aspect of that interesting past. The two poems from Chris in this anthology come from the final assignment, though, not the crown. All semester long, Lauren Guinn’s work demonstrated both an overt sense of humor and a willingness to take on some dark, humorless aspects of her past. The two poems included here show those two different impulses. Thanks for your courage, Lauren, in sharing with us some obviously painful background. The last poet included here—and one I would really like to step out and recognize—is Cameron White. A really smart undergraduate student with a dazzlingly adept mind, Cameron more than any other student—with the exception of Scott Lewis—embraced the quirky conundrum that a sonnet can be. More than anyone else, he understood and embraced the nuances of the form, both traditional and experimental, and he constantly experimented with a variety of sonnet types. By his own admission, Cameron spent time in other classes composing sonnets when he should have been paying attention. He caught the bug! Thanks, Cameron. It was always a pleasure to have you in my classroom, because you were always so fiercely

paying attention. And thanks for being so willing to read. The poems included here from Cameron demonstrate his characteristic humor and word play, qualities that were evident across everything he wrote during the semester. With regret I report that two students in the class aren’t represented here because they never sent me the poems that they had previously indicated they wanted to include in the anthology. I should also warn readers that I included a couple of my own sonnets. As I always do in my writing courses, I took on for myself every challenge I presented to my students. The poems here included are the results of those challenges. (The first is the first poem in a crown I wrote—one that explores the stories of minor, almost forgotten, saints—and the second represents one of my attempts at structural experimentation with the sonnet form.) But I must say that I think the students, almost without fail, wrote better than I did. One final aspect of the semester that I should mention is that in their final portfolios I made every student include a reflective paper about the sonnet form itself: what for them as poets proved most interesting and/or most challenging and/or most rewarding about writing sonnets. I made them reference a certain number of poets from the textbooks. I’m happy to report that almost to a person the students concluded the semester with a fantastically enhanced appreciation for the form—and for the idea of writing in forms to begin with. It certainly is true, as many of them indicated in their paper comments, that having to adhere to limitations can actually increase a person’s creativity. Several of the students wrote favorably about the discipline of a fourteenline structure, of the poetic decisions and ingenuity that limit forced on them. (Scott Lewis, for one, throughout the semester referred to the sonnet as a fascinating puzzle, a kind of game he really enjoyed playing. And one that seemed to naturally fit his creative instincts.) Finally, again almost to a person, they all wrote about how glad they were to find out that the sonnet form, whatever its limitations, is not only about rules. It can also be about breaking the rules. Thankfully, they took that first day’s advice to heart! I was so intrigued by my students’ comments in their papers that I included an excerpt

from each of them in this anthology. Perhaps the excerpts will throw light on the students’ poems, but if not at least they show exactly how earnestly and intelligently this group thought about the sonnet. A teacher can’t ask for more.

John Vanderslice Associate Professor UCA Department of Writing December, 2013

The Poets

Candace Baker Allie Brass Sara Cervantes Lauren Guinn Chris Hall Lynn Landis Scott Lewis archibald meatpants Mary Mirek Wendy Pettingill Sarah Jane Rawlinson Jessica Summers John Vanderslice Cameron White

Candace Baker Grazioso Massage

Allow your fingers to travel the major scale down my back. Curl them; make them morph to the octave of my skin until it has reached its sharp fortissimo.


Now, let your tips vibrato and rub over, hack and manipulate the G-flat but not so thin flesh that begs for more beyond the ledger.


Please add your elbow. Animatedly knead me lower so I can ‘mmm’ and ‘ahh’ from within. Work out the minor scales and spasmed shoulders.


Let your knuckles churn and play the broken chord inside me; like a clarinet symphony.

Don’t Stop

Sonata de Clarinet Forte, flopping phalanges to fill the formed holes. rhythms and runs come from the reed, rocking the room around you. Lurids and legatos; the ligature closing to make screeches. Squawking

as scales move out the bell, the beat plays and chimes to a stop

simply to start again, adding a musette when the time’s

right. Mezzo melodies dance down forming a duet

Spit s l i d e s from the bell in slurry slivers when you create enough. Quick choreography; your fingers coquettishly slithering down the shiny body of black or burnt brown (or buff

when it was mine). The tempo taken by the tip of your foot makes a “Pitter Patter” take over the toneless breaks.

As we worked with the sonnet form through the semester, I saw how intriguing it could be to create one; you could either write a sonnet following a rhyming pattern or you could write one without any rhyme at all and it would still be considered a sonnet. That became the most interesting characteristic about sonnets for me. Candace Baker

Allie Brass

joyce i settle into my seat, eyes toward the stage, her throne her voice plucked the breath from my lungs and i am captivated, gently hung on every silver sensuous tone mine is not a heart easily won but her sound is one of mezzo lust and even in Romeo’s trousers her eyes say trust me, darling, i’m the girl you want the first act flies by in a flurry of furious declarations of a love i know will be unfulfilled i try desperately to hang on as my time with her dwindles, my patience spent and i drift into the night, heart filled

italy 2008 you had your reasons for that night in palestrina when i hesitated, frightened, unready but not knowing that a convinced “yes” is still a “no” twisted arms lead to regretful carnal acts that can’t be explained away in the eyes of the much-too-curious from then on i wore a stamp (SLUT) i had not earned while you bragged to friends about sixteen-year-old pussy

There was something about [Marilyn Hacker’s] image of “trousers / enjambed with mine” that caused me to pause and realize how much more modern her poetry was. These were not the tired sonnets of longing young aristocrats. These sonnets were alive, full of tension, and they looked and sounded much more like the free verse poetry I loved. The rhymes weren’t so obvious or cheesy, and there was a naturalness that enthralled me. Allie Brass

Sara Cervantes


Push my body to the ground watch me hit the wall on my way down kick me in the back from my room into the next and down the steps into yours. My clothes will slide off my folds the fat I store my sadness in is your catalyst for laughter the runway as you pull out and land, and come. I’m allowed to stop moaning. When I told you I blacked out you whispered, Don’t tell Dad, so I keep another secret ‘till tomorrow, our next game.

marching on five and one half years are just enough to know who you are with someone lying in bed beside you touching fingertips and toes, eyes and arms locked in that perpetual unhappiness drawing you further away from the person you were meant to become, waiting on the subtle realization that you could have been somebody else.

Sonnets, especially sonnets written by contemporary poets, have guided me into a freedom with this form. Once confined to my own knowledge of free verse, I now have an independence in structure because I have learned how this form and the elements employed in this form can emphasize a poet’s intent. Sara Cervantes

Lauren Guinn

Nothing is the same A little orange bottle changed everything. Smothered my memories, replaced them with nightmares. Strangled my hope, replaced it with fear. Extinguished my sanity, replaced it with desperation. But absolutely worst, stole the one thing I needed most.

Murdered my mother, and in her place left this loathsome carcass, this limp sack of shit.

Gone Again

A quiet drip-drip-drip builds in the air. Releasing softly gentle waves still with each grateful drop. Lofty strands. Curl-uncurl. Dancing down gentle whirl. Meeting ‘round. Finally together, joying caress, gathering number forever joining. No longer ignored. Her beautiful strands clog the drain again.

The most challenging thing that I have discovered about sonnets is how I am constantly challenged to be a better poet; this was unexpected to say the least. Having to constrain myself has made me think about every line, sometimes every word that I use in hope that I can make each word count. If you add on top of that the skill it takes to be challenged by lines or meter or rhyme, it makes you not only work hard for just fourteen lines but see how far you will go in your editing and imagining process. Lauren Guinn

Chris Hall Trust Kept Villainous green eyes stare through the blinds at the innocence playing on the floor. Colors from a box pour into the drawing of a cat. The bloodshots see a couple nap now he has time to adore the little figure on the floor. In trust a girl keeps on with the drawing of the cat. A tussle in the leaves is a tell for the eyes to leave. To slow as a bat fell closing in peace this disinnocence tale.


All Bob Can Do Every Friday Going Home Is Jump Knuckleheads Lying Mixed Nervously On Paved Quadrants Resembling Speedways Tailgating Under Vicious Waif Xenophobes Yelling "Zigzags" Apologies Bob

During the course of the class I was introduced to what at the moment has become one of my favorite poets. I have always been a fan of war poetry. It gives a great insight into the feelings and stresses of the men writing it. The poems are like a time machine more than just a written account. The poems usually try to capture the feelings along with the detail. So as you read it, it is almost like the years are gone and the words are the same fresh words just written about emotions or people. Time is not a factor. I got into war poetry when I was in high school, an old man that I worked for flew in the Pacific during WWII and he let me read some of his. I had never really heard of Wilfred Owen, which surprised me because I knew of Siegfried Sassoon. Well, Owen grabbed me, and I have now studied him and learned a lot. I am glad we went over him; he puts such details in his works. “Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,/ As under a green sea, I saw him drowning./ In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,/ He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning,/ If in smothering dreams you too could pace.� (PBS 192) Perfect descriptions of the light shining through green gas and drowning in the air, it is just so detailed. Dulce Et Decorum Est is just a great example of how to include strong details, along with emotions. This was the most haunting piece I read all semester. The sonnet form was a double sonnet which I thought was a bit pushing it. However, I eventually liked the idea. Putting two sonnets together gives you a lot of room to make a story and show more of the detail. Chris Hall

Lynne Landis

My Yard Guy

He mows my lawn, this old guy named Jim, I think. Not sure why.

I pay, though it’s a lie to say the cash is enough for him to come back, act on

whatever urge encourages an old man to care about a girl, who’s not a girl anymore, who

lives alone and can’t live up to her own expectations and prefers the hurt to the need to let go, to purge

the shit, the loss she’s hanging on to. He feels sorry for me. I understand why.


Winter claims the snowy yard while inside warm lips nimble fingers decadently claim my resolve.

I have found my greatest inspiration from the poets who have shown me that a sonnet can beautifully exist beyond a rhyme scheme. I have found that it’s often the use of simple words that give me the most opportunity to create a rhyme scheme that works well. It’s amazing when, like [David] Wojahn, you can embrace such interesting rhyme schemes. . . . However, for me, simplicity is often key. The use of internal rhyme, or near rhyme, is an interesting addition of sound within a sonnet. For me, that’s what a sonnet, what poetry itself, is all about. Sound. Lynn Landis

Scott Lewis

Our Chemistry We tighten the straps around our faces. Petty Officer First Class Getz, blonde hair cut meticulously as a White House hedge, snickers and tells us his cock is hard for this. He’s ready to see us choke on his pride. Assembled as rigidly as green plastic figurines standing at parade rest, Division 4-6-8. Before us a masked man dressed in space suit white drops three capsules into an old oil drum. The air turns into a piss and pollen colored fog. Getz holds a cue card at eye level; “Masks Off!” We pledge allegiance till we gag and gush a river of sewage that tastes like a Syrian kiss.

In the short lyric space of the sonnet, I think the notion of relationships are paramount. This is definitely something that I attempt to establish in all of my sonnets. . . . In as certain sense, writing sonnets might be compared to writing compact poetic essays. Sonnets require more than picturesque flashes of imagery (except perhaps in the case of word sonnets). They fill just enough space to contain a focused and reconsidered thought. They intend to move us through a particular moment where any shift in context signals an evolving view of the subject at hand. In longer sequence, sonnets may function to convey a broader narrative, as in Marilyn Hacker’s Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons. But they tend to have something urgent and immediate to tell us. Scott Lewis

archibald meatpants your first breath was not a cry beneath fluorescent flood lights bright as stolen halos you found yourself hauntingly, confusingly alive.


4th of july i65 south straight line and burning down the center lane past the lion’s den billboard, an unlit slash of black standing in the empty twilight. bottle rockets kill the moon. the sky, scarred red bleeds white sparks warning signs, green like counterfeit bills. the gunpowder smoke lingers in my mouth like barbed wire.

I mostly just spent the semester dicking around and making jokes. archibald meatpants

Mark Mirek

The 14 P’s of Success: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Performance; Plus Pathetic, Passive, Phobic; Possibly Psychotic, Personalities

Ode to Johnny Depp

Oh, how delightfully eccentric you are! An exquisite mind, one I find quite sublime, One to break the limit, and extend quite far Mimicking barbarous tendencies and lives of crime.

Behind the handsome exterior, reigns a psycho, A villainous mad-man, in search of kind heartedness And Candy, and a certain ship that flows On rocky seas. An adventurer that’s such a mess!

A savage, psychotic writer, thrilling creation In relation, a gentleman and corpse for a bride, Hands for scissors, seamed together in mutilation As a simple scientist, Sleepy Hollow, a flaming pumpkin ride!

With narrow dreadlocks, Jack Sparrow takes all the credit As his best role, “A pirate’s life for him,” proves merit.

Some of my favorite sonnets that stay true to the original form include the classics like “Design” by Robert Frost and Shakespeares “If I Profane Speech” from his famous play Romeo and Juliet. . . . These poems to me exemplify what the true sonnet form should embody, and what writers should strive for when it comes to writing their own sonnet works. Mary Mirek

Wendy Pettingill

Attic You never needed me in the first place but here I am, crammed with the junk that you’re too sentimental to part with. Cardboard boxes filled with: photos of happier times, Christmas decorations chewed on by rats, expired canned goods that you meant to donate, and your son’s first crib (that was recalled due to safety hazards) You only come to me when you need something but those needs grow fewer and farther between. Tools forgotten despite this house’s obvious need for repairs; don’t you want to reminisce? That’s all I do, nostalgic for better days. Forced to watch this old house wither away.

Catch and Release

Silver scaled fish are calling out, singing my name at the riverbed. Here I lay, surrounded by river flowers, falling in love with thoughts of fish swimming around my head. My dirty knuckles clench as I grip river rocks, sand, and broken glass in my bloody hand, my heart stutters and does a little fish flip as my darling trout swims up to land His eyes meet mine, but I dare not cast a line out. For what trout could love someone so indecisive, who catches their heart, only to release it? With a little pout he sinks down, confused. But hurting him, I just can’t do. I did offer my battered palm, hoping that he would stay He could’ve loved me, but like everything else, eventually swam away

As a person dives deeper into examining the sonnet, it can become confusing on what the form actually is. “The easiest thing to say about a sonnet is that it is a fourteen-line poem with a particular rhyme scheme and a particular mode of organizing and amplifying patterns of image and thought� (Phillis Levin). And while this is technically true, what I find most intriguing is that it is also not entirely true. Consider the Curtal sonnet: it is a specific rhyme scheme, but only eleven lines in length. Then you have poets such as Marilyn Hacker who create entirely new rhyme schemes, by adding twists onto the classic Shakespearean and Petrarchan rhyme patterns, or abandoning them all together. On the surface, the sonnet appears to be all about following the rules, but it is also about bending and breaking them when necessary, in order to make the sonnet work for you. Wendy Pettingill

Sarah Jane Rawlinson to e.e. You are in, love with words, and, stops themselves. playful, but. exact. Appealing to; intelli gence not over-edu cation: looking at you Eliot you anti-semitic fuck, er: but this is not about, my crazy expatriate. You are all I never knew I wanted, to be. And I’ ll renounce T.S. As my main two-ettered broet, ifyou’ll have me. I am in, love with words,and,stops; themselves.

Pieta The professor was a man who gave no fucks. charming misanthrope with a subtle lisp serving only to somehow make him more distinguished. And I’ll see him in Starbucks in a baseball cap, which may challenge, but doesn’t take away this air. He told the story once of the man who took a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pieta, destroying the craft of reverence. Now they have her behind a glass. He said he understood this impulse, to lash out at the kind of art life can never imitate. Ostentatious marble, just asking to be rubble.

Having constraints can open up the imagination. . . .If they are embraced they can also free the poet of habits that can be just as limiting as form can. The sonnet is a particularly fascinating form because while it is controlled, it is also flexible. The poet can bend it if necessary without causing it to lose its impact, or she can accept the challenge of the strict form, which can also be a valuable learning experience. Sarah Jane Rawlinson

Jessica Summers

Migraine there is a storm brewing. a trumpet sounds off in the distance the alarm to hit the bunker because the lights are about to go out. even stars turn into shooting comets as the world spins around me to a myriad of taiko drummers thumping growing louder, LOUDER still. my vision fades into nothingness and before my mind follows suit, i wonder if this is what it’s like to die. will the ground be enough to catch me? i remain uncertain. even concrete seems softer, silent compared to the screaming in my head.

Mother’s Misery somewhere along the way either she realized that time was fleeting or her calloused heart stopped beating. regardless, she had changed that day;

it was too difficult to say when her little treasure lied upon the sheeting. she had cried for a reprieve from the dreaded meeting with her creator, whom she’d never sought to pray.

“was this karma or retribution?” she wondered as the world around her was shaken, plundered into cold, clammy hands with no remorse.

yet she stood motionless, a captive rat silent as Death made his course to her daughter’s side, waiting til’ the line ran flat

As I sat in class, I learned that sonnets were a lot more than “just” Shakespearean, or “just” limited. Yes, there were a list of specific guidelines, but even on the first day we were told that the true beauty of the sonnet was that it didn’t have to be limited. We didn’t have to be conventional. For the first time in my life, I felt that poetry was freeing. I mean, think about it. Sonnets have the ability to unleash a world of possibilities in just a small amount of space. That might seem restricting for some, but I seem to remember an old saying that went along the lines of “good things come in small packages.” In that same respect, sometimes the most beautiful, poignant imagery can be accomplished in as little as 2-3 lines. Jessica Summers

John Vanderslice

Street disasters

Attila the Hun entered France in 451. Remember that. Genevieve lived in the City of Light, which was barely lit and could hardly be called a city anymore, more like a garrison abandoned by war-wracked, Goth-haunted Romans. Genevieve went into a convent at fifteen—c. 435—heedlessly ready for a life of silent prayer and merciless mercy; but she was called out of cloister in 451 by Attila, who had battered his way to Orleans and was itching for a bit more, here or there. Or where. Little Genevieve gamboled the streets: Stay indoors. Hide from the thieves. Don’t lift a sword or throw a pot like last-resorting prey. Better to pray to God to take them away. Attila didn’t sack Paris that day (or ever). But why should he, anyway? Rome fell in 410; the apple was taken away.

Fucking sonnet!!!

Four hundred fingers in a glass fucking photographs of baseballs wadded-up tourniquets & pizza rinds his dead-end piebald odyssey fingers in the air a slick-slipped mind inarticulate rubbers a drink, a disk a subtle articulation caterwaul

Cameron White

Feeding the Fireplace The letter I penned, fragile in fire, will lend itself a burning feeling as it blends within the orange glow, defends its relevance, the guilty masquerade. If ever I send a real missive to you, It won't be to mend our broken hearts, but to pretend at growing up.

We'll suspend our growth on a pyre and rend our youths from floor to ceiling. We'll tend our gardens and reap what we sow, hoping never to contend with the innocent parade. The letter's ink wends through oxygen stew to fend for itself and for broken parts: A dying trend in a chipped tea cup.

Skeleton Orchestra

She used my ulna as a violin bow, my bone marrow the resin for her wretched instrument, my body's carbon decay the last element in the vanquishing of her foe.

She used my radius to play the xylo: though the flailing tissue was an impediment (boy, I hope she appreciated the sediment) her hands flail faster, faster; they glow.

She used my body for her own and I was never one to protest for what are we but bodies born to seek to steer through water and stone to reach within cavernous chest and, at transformation's end, to mourn?

The sonnet form is engaging on a number of level as a writer of poetry. First, the fourteen-line limitation provides an additional challenge for what is already a short form of artistic expression. Second, the volta provides an opportunity for nuanced (often contradictory) emotional experiences to exist within the same poem. Lastly, the structure of the sonnet, whether by rhyme scheme or division of lines, creates a metatextual element around the poem that constructs the poem’s identity within a particular context or framework. Cameron White

Bye! Thanks for checking us out! Now go write sonnets!!!

Celebrating the sonnet  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you