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Poetry Prompt 9 – Sonnet


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Poetry Prompt 9 – Sonnet 

 

 

Let's Write an English Sonnet! 

 

There are fundamentally two types of Sonnets: English and Italian. The English Sonnet has about the easiest definition of any poetic form. It's 3 quatrains and a couplet; that's it. But, oh what magic can flow from that combination, for it's like Goethe said, "Mastery appears in limitation of form, and order alone can give us freedom."

 

The history of the Sonnet stretches back to roots in Medieval France, but later Italian poets made it well known throughout Europe. In the 16th century, English writers began to experiment with how the older form was constructed, and by Shakespeare's time, the new shape was perfected.

 

So, as easy as the form actually is, the freedom for the poet lies in using the quatrains to establish and then develop a theme. The couplet comes in at the end to verify, refute, celebrate, or destroy the message of the poem. It's all up to the sonneteer, and it all comes down to a 'pivot point.'

 

Think of it like listening to a piece of music. If the composition were all happy and breezy, the music might fail to connect with the listener. However, if the composer introduces a change in tempo, a slip into a minor key, then the happy-go-lucky original theme is suddenly placed in context, and the hearer knows there is depth to the composition.

 

With the Sonnet, this 'change of key' (the pivot point) usually happens with one of the quatrains.[1] Let's look at an example in summary form. Shakespeare's Sonnet 44 breaks down like this:

 

- 1st quatrain: If thoughts were flesh, nothing would keep us apart.

- 2nd quatrain: Then neither land nor sea would stop me from being with you.

(pivot point)

- 3rd quatrain: BUT, thought is thought and elements are elements.

- couplet: So I must pay tribute to my flesh as the earth, and my tears as the water; both keep us apart.                     

 

 

Or, here's the same type of breakdown for number 58:

 

- 1st quatrain: God forbid I tell you what to do.

(pivot point)

- 2nd quatrain: SO, let me suffer without blaming you for who's trying to kiss you.

- 3rd quatrain: I have faith in your character; you'll do no wrong by me.

- couplet: Waiting may be hell, but not as much hell as accusing you.  

 

 

In Sonnet 55, he waited until the end for the break:

 

- 1st quatrain: You'll outlive history and monuments in my poetry.

- 2nd quatrain: Not war, nor rebellions, nor coup d'état shall burn your memory.

- 3rd quatrain: There will be room for you in the future despite all the death and hate in the world.

(pivot point)

- couplet: SO, until judgment day comes, you will live here, in lovers' eyes.                       

 

 

I hope you can come to see how much potential and flexibility the Sonnet offers; the possibilities seem endless for capturing emotions in a narrative style.

 

You have all the tools to write your own Sonnet: you've practiced with the quatrain (a 4-lined sentence of verse, rhymed a-b-a-b, and having 10 syllables per line), and the couplet (a 2-lined sentence of verse, rhymed a-a, and having 10 syllables per line), so feel empowered to try your own. Do not be intimidated by the useless notions that Sonnets must be difficult, or that they are antiques, for the form can easily accommodate any modern notion or vocabulary. It's just a structure, so start building on it, and have fun.      

 

 

The prompt: write one English Sonnet about your first love. Remember, we are looking for the pivot point, so if the love ended sadly, contrast that with a moment of brightness; if it was joyous, contrast it with a moment of doubt that it might not last, etc., etc. You get the idea.

 

 

(As an aid, I have written a small piece on basic rhyming technique. It can be found here: https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/blog/513/entry-15424-rhyming-is-fundamental/

   

 

 

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[1] The shift can happen at the start of any of the quatrains, or be delayed until the couplet for maximum effect.

Edited by AC Benus
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I Want to Believe

 

I'm keeping it cool,

doing what we're told,

Not making waves,

buying what we're sold.

Marching in step,

while they thieve,

Trying to do what it takes to believe,

Even though we know that we're deceived.

I want to believe.

I feel that need,

In the myth that we are free

But we're bought and sold

So often

Do we still have a soul?

Edited by jamessavik
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I'm really excited that you decided to take the challenge! You do my poetic heart some good

 

Noooo... Thank you! for taking the time and effort to come up with these prompts!

 

I've never thought of writing poetry that was constrained by any stylistic format. I have in the past, before these exercises, only written what I felt like and then calling it poetry. But now, I feel like I am able to appreciate the beauty of poetry through its structure and how creativity thrives regardless of constraints and perhaps it is creativity even more so to be able to express the same sentiments in spite of those constraints :)

 

But sonnets are beautiful. Perhaps I'll revisit this form again :)

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I love sonnets. I dreamed of writing some when we were still at the beginning of poetry prompts. Thank you AC for explaining everything so well again.

 

Here's mine.

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I love sonnets. I dreamed of writing some when we were still at the beginning of poetry prompts. Thank you AC for explaining everything so well again.

 

Here's mine.

Thanks for taking the challenge! I'll leave some comments (and praise!) on the posting itself. Plz check it out.

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Noooo... Thank you! for taking the time and effort to come up with these prompts!

 

I've never thought of writing poetry that was constrained by any stylistic format. I have in the past, before these exercises, only written what I felt like and then calling it poetry. But now, I feel like I am able to appreciate the beauty of poetry through its structure and how creativity thrives regardless of constraints and perhaps it is creativity even more so to be able to express the same sentiments in spite of those constraints :)

 

But sonnets are beautiful. Perhaps I'll revisit this form again :)

I hope you do try your hand at sonnets again! And your message is a great about about poetic structure, but plz don't think of them as 'constraints' lol! Any form may take a while to master, but once done, there is real freedom of expression. It'd be like writing a story without the rules of grammar, or knowing if it's supposed to be a novel, play, or pop song.

 

Thanks again, and start practicing four-lined sentences for your quatrains! :thumbup:  

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I was mulling over the theme and found that I had to write either an emotional poem with faked emotions or an honest poem that somehow lacks emotions. I decided for the latter.

 

So Long Ago

Very nice. Is the pivot-point delayed until the couplet?

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  • 5 months later...

After writing the ballade, I felt this was almost too easy. But I held back my impatience, worked on it and even though it's simple enough, I feel this is actually how I felt all those years ago.

 

https://www.gayauthors.org/story/puppilull/puppilullspoetryprompts/13

I realize you are saying something profound here - you are no longer the student of the Sonnet, it is now one of your tools of expression. I think it's time for champagne corks! :wizard:  :wizard:  :wizard:  

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Ha, ha! I realize now how my post sounds! I was referring to my poem and that it just came to me a bit too easy. That made me suspicious that I had been lazy and taken the easy road. I mean a poem about love can turn banal quite easily. I don't believe for a second I've mastered the sonnet, but it does suit me better than the ballade. It was perhaps the stark contrast between the two that kind of threw me.

 

But I'll pop some bubbly anyway. Can't go wrong with champagne!

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Ha, ha! I realize now how my post sounds! I was referring to my poem and that it just came to me a bit too easy. That made me suspicious that I had been lazy and taken the easy road. I mean a poem about love can turn banal quite easily. I don't believe for a second I've mastered the sonnet, but it does suit me better than the ballade. It was perhaps the stark contrast between the two that kind of threw me.

 

But I'll pop some bubbly anyway. Can't go wrong with champagne!

In my review I mention a certain type of poetic sensuality that I say I associate more with love between men. I love it in your poem, and don't think you are 'acting like a man,' just a free person exploring it freely. Perhaps that is part of why women do not write about it as much as men - a feeling of erotic expression being off limits. Perhaps your exposure to how Gay men specifically want to explore it has freed you a bit, and I personally think it's a good thing. That's an amazing poem.   

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Your words make me blush a bit.

 

As for the freeing bit, I think you are right. As I get older, I access my sexuality more and more in a way that makes it possible for me to express myself and my thoughts and wishes. It is taboo for women, even in Sweden, to be open about actually liking sex. It's only supposed to be love. To me, these are two different things, even if I believe the first is better when the second is there. Still, sex by itself can be great and beautiful. Reading and writing in here 'using' gay men as a cover, I can explore and not have it get too close. That's a challenge when writing poems, since I want to be true to myself and the readers when writing those. Other stories may be fiction only, but I want the poetry to be me.

 

Acting like a man... Ha! I sometimes feel I have the outlook of a man in many aspects, so I wouldn't be surprised if this shines through.

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  • 2 months later...
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