January 29, 2006
A poem form based on the sonnet
ABOUT THE FORM OF THE FEBRUARY WRITING PROMPT
Don't let the word "form" distract or scare you away from trying this month's prompt. Any time we ask on the site for a poem in form, the number of submissions drops. I understand that. I never liked formal poetry as a writing "assignment" - still prefer to read free verse - but I recognize that writing in a form with rules can be an excellent exercise. I use form as a way to begin a poem when I feel blocked.
I based this prompt form on the sonnet. You use quatrains (4 line stanzas) and you must use end rhyme. That rhyme may follow the typical English sonnet ( A B A B) or any variation (A A B B or A B C A or whatever)
Let's look at a sonnet by Shakespeare to start - I have spaced the quatrains (though William would not) and marked the rhyme.
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
[the sonnet SHIFTS here]
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee--and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate;
[and here it turns again]
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
The English (AKA the Shakespearean) Sonnet contains three quatrains (4 lines), each with an independent pair of alternating rhymes. Both a shift and a turn occur respectively before and after the third quatrain. There is a basic meter (the syllable beat of the line) which is usually iambic and usually pentameter (five stressed syllables) - but, unless you are very English, Shakespeare, formal or suffer from OCD, you may ignore that aspect. In fact, you may have 1, 2 or 3 quatrains, but must have the couplet at the end. So your poem can end up being 6, 10 or 14 lines.