The sonnet

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Introduction to the sonnet and other fixed forms of poetry.

Text of The sonnet

  • 1. Poetic Forms & Genres
    The Sonnet & Other Fixed Forms
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres

2. Fixed Forms
A poem in fixed form is controlled as to its length; and it may have other restrictions as well, such as particular rhyme or metrical schemes, or line-lengths, or the repetition of lines.
Fixed Forms include the limerick and the haiku
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3. Haiku
A 17 syllable poem divided into 3 lines, the first consisting of 5 syllables, the second of 7, and the third of 5.Modern example:
Rain turns creator
all the dandelions explode
like supernovae
(Michael Hartnett)
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4. On to the Sonnet

  • The word comes from the Italian word sonetto, meaning a little sound or song,

5. Originated in 12thC Italy based on old folk song stanza 6. First recognisable sonnets associated with Courtly Love 7. Petrarch 1304-74 8. Sir Thomas Wyatt 1502-42, Henry Howard 1517-47 9. Shakespeare, Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney: Elizabethan SonnetSarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
10. Other Sonnet themes
Religious sonnets: John Donne, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins
Political sonnet Shelley England in 1819
Society Wordsworth Upon Westminster Bridge
War- Owen Anthem for Doomed Youth
Sonnets popular in most eras but NOT the Neoclassical era
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11. Sonnet Patterns
a poem of 14 lines in iambic pentameter, usually set out as one stanza, and following a complex rhyme scheme
the sonnet is the ultimate stanza, an enclosed place of words alive with currents of energy and places to rest. (Annie Finch)
a small square poem...a box for your dreams. (Don Patterson)
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12. The Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet

  • Octave AFirst Quatrain

ASecond Quatrain
TURN (Volta)----------------------------------------
SestetCCCVariations for sestet
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13. On First Looking into Chapmans Homer(Keats)

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
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14. Unholy Sonnet Mark Jarman

After the praying, after the hymn-singing,
After the sermons trenchant commentary
On the worlds ills, which make ours secondary,
After communion, after the hand wringing,
And after peace descends upon us, bringing
Our eyes up to regard the sanctuary
And how the light swords through it, and how, scary
In their sheer numbers, motes of dust ride, clinging
There is, as doctors say about some pain,
Discomfort knowing that despite your prayers,
Your listening and rejoicing, your small part
In this communal stab at coming clean,
There is one stubborn remnant of your cares
Intact. There is still murder in your heart.
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15. The Volta
Some critics connect the Volta with general tendencies in art, nature and maths e.g.
Fibonacci sequence and Golden Ratio (8:13)
Achange of mood or tone about two thirds into a poem, piece of music or painting?
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16. Petrarchan Variations e.g. different rhyme schemes for the two quatrains:
Gwendolyn Brookss The Rites for Cousin Vit:

Carried her unprotesting out the door
Kicked back the casket-stand. But it cant hold her,
That stuff and satin aiming to enfold her,
The lids contrition nor the bolts before.
Oh oh. Too much. Too much. Even now, surmise,
She rises in sunshine. There she goes
Back to the bars she knew and the repose
In love-rooms and the things in peoples eyes.
Too vital and too squeaking. Must emerge.
Even now, she does the snake-hips with a hiss,
Slaps the bad wine across her shantung, talks
Of pregnancy, guitars and bridgework, walks
In parks or alleys, comes haply on the verge
Of happiness, haply hysterics. Is.
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17. The Shakesperian Sonnet

  • AFirst Quatrain

18. B 19. A 20. B 21. CSecond Quatrain 22. D 23. C 24. D 25. (TURN-------------------?) 26. EThird Quatrain 27. F 28. E 29. F 30. GConcluding Couplet 31. GSarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
32. e.g. Shakespeare Sonnet 66
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry, -
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimmd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplacd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgracd,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalld simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that to die I leave my love alone.
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33. Shakespeare Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
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34. Spenserian Sonnet: abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize!
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name;
Where, whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.(Spenser, Amoretti 2)
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35. Meredithian Sonnet: 16 linesAbba, cddc, effe, ghhg
George Meredith, from Modern Love (1862)
By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand's light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangely mute, like little gasping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.
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36. Curtal Sonnet: like Petrarchan but proportion of 6:4 instead of 8:6
Pied Beauty, Gerard Manly Hopkins (1877)

Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple colour as a brindled cow;
For rosemoles all in stipple upon trout that swim
Fresh firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced
Fold, fallow and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim
He fathers forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.
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37. The Sonnet-BalladGwendolyn Brooks (1949)
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lovers tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He wont be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitateand change.
And he will be the one to stammer, Yes.
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
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38. Other Sonnet Variations

  • Caudate (tail) sonnet: a sonnet of any type, followed by an extra co