Monday, April 11, 2011

Another Sonnet? So Soon?

Sonnets are not an easy poetry form for me to work with, because they require both rhyme and meter (rhythm). Rhyming is hard work for me. I was raised on heavily rhymed poetry, starting with nursery rhymes and proceeding to Eugene Fields and Robert Louis Stevenson. I was in junior high before I discovered that not all poetry had to rhyme. I was further stunned to learn, contrary to what I had been taught, that free verse (which is what teachers used to call all unrhymed poetry) was not an elaborate ruse visited upon us by  "modern" (i.e., early 20th century) poets but had a proud heritage in this country courtesy of Walt Whitman.

As a result of these discoveries, I stopped writing rhymed poetry for a long time, freeing my pen from the tyranny of a rhyme scheme. After I stopped writing any poetry except the very occasional extremely light verse, I wrote only rhymed poetry. Go figure.

I am still uneasy with rhymed poetry (as you will see later this month) and often feel like a second-rate greeting card writer when I tackle it. Of all the rhymed forms, I struggle the least with sonnets. Sonnets are limited in length (only fourteen lines) and depend as heavily on the meter as they do the rhyme scheme. There are many classic sonnet forms, each with its own rhyme patterns. For the record, the sonnet below (as well as the one a few days ago and the ones to come) is written in the Shakespearian or English style. (As longtime readers know, I love Shakespeare. Besides being a whale of a playwright, Shakespeare was also no slouch as a poet, leaving us over 150 sonnets alone.) In a Shakespearian sonnet, the rhyme scheme is ababcdcdefefgg. When it comes to sonnets, I am still working on what is known as the volta (or "turn"), which marks a change in subject matter mid-sonnet (from small picture to large picture, for example). 

Today's sonnet is a taste of what is to come not this week but the one after this one. After today, I am heading to the land of pantoums, a curious structure that Kate of Haiku-ca-choo! introduced me to some weeks ago.

So why a sonnet today? Because today is Warren's 57th birthday and this piece, which I penned a few weeks back, was written very much with us in mind.

Happy Birthday, my dear Warren!


Sonnet for Warren

Who knows what might have come of this had we
but set aside all caution, prudence - thrown
our fates to the wind, and let fortune be
our guide in years to come.  Later, windblown,
we might then assess the damage done, or,
instead, count the stored memories we'd set
aside to stoke our hearts at cold times. For
lack of something - courage, perhaps - we bet
instead on other paths, other routes to
what we thought the future should have held, not
realizing what it would take to true
up the lines Fate had drawn but we'd not sought.
These later years seem doubly sweet to taste
for rescuing hearts, souls, and lives from waste.

1 comment:

Terri said...

My belated birthday wishes to Warren. I find your sonnet absolutely lovely and it shows great respect for the form. I shall spend my weekend grading sonnets written by college sophmores...and they do not always manage to marry the subject matter, the length, the rhythm, or the rhyme.

As for free verse, I think it was T.S. Eliot who said that 'free verse is like trying to play tennis without a net'. It can be done, but who would want to.