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Thread: Sonnets (Being Technical?)

  1. #11
    WF Veteran Bachelorette's Avatar
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    That's a good way of putting it--it's variations within the form while still essentially being a sonnet.

    But take the villanelle, for example. Elizabeth Bishop wrote a poem called "One Art." (Link: One Art- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More) Some might call it a villanelle, in that it's very similar in structure to, say, Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." (Link: Do not go gentle into that good night- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More). But it doesn't follow the "rules" of a villanelle; the last lines of each stanza don't repeat word-for-word exactly the way they're "supposed" to, like they do in Thomas' poem.

    So, at what point does "variations on a sonnet" become "no longer a sonnet", or villanelle, or whatever? That's when things get tricky. Like I said in my earlier post, you can call any 14-line poem a sonnet if you want, but let's say it doesn't rhyme, or it's in free verse and just happens to be 14 lines long. Is that, then, a sonnet? It's just like the fact that lots of poems are in iambic pentameter, but they aren't sonnets, because they're too long, for example, or they don't rhyme (which I think is called blank verse, if memory serves).

    That's why I think, going back to candid's original post, you can't take definitions in poetry too terribly seriously. There may be certain rules observed by certain writers, but those rules can and ought to be broken. In my opinion, what you're trying to communicate takes precedence over form any day. And while I don't doubt that you can probably learn some things from writing structured poetry, I think it's pretty much a dead art today. I mean, is there really any reason to write sonnets or sestinas or whatever these days, other than as an intellectual exercise, just to see if you can do it?

  2. #12
    You cannot lump sonnets together and seek one definition of the discipline. Shakespearean, Italian, French, Spencarian etc. etc. all have at least subtle differences and in some cases GREAT differences.

    For sake of an example I'll give a few particulars of the Shakespearean Sonnet as it is the one I am most familar with.

    Yes it is limited to 14 lines. Yes it is written in iambic pentameter but aside from the metrical foot ... it must follow a rhythm as well. Stressed and unstressed syllables must be established and followed throught the poem. This is best described as da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM. Once you have your syllable count and your rhythm you can proceed to the development of your Shakespearean Sonnet.

    Now, the 'change' or 'volta' comes at the 9th line. The first two stanzas set up pattern, the 9th line volta ponders the first two stanzas or offers a contrasting view or questions them. The last two lines (a couplet) offer resolution, define the entire disposition or 'close' the poem.

    If you NEED to label a sonnet, a limerick, a haiku, a triolet or any other long accepted discipline, then YOU need to examine your threshold for the discipline. Do you want it to be recognized as a specific style, structure or form? Can you accept a beautiful poem if it varies? Can you enjoy an offering by another if it does not suit your particular definition of a particular form?

    In closing, a very easy search of 'poetry forms' will lead you to thousands of pages of views, opinions and perceptions. Choose a few you like and write so that it is pleasing to you then offer your work up to whoever shall ...............

    fp
    Last edited by feralpen; August 21st, 2011 at 01:10 PM. Reason: typo
    I once read the back of a box of saltines. The grammar, spelling and punctuation were all perfect. The contents, however were a little bland for my taste. ~ feralpen


  3. #13
    it does not matter if you have a turn or not in the last two lines of a sonnet as long as you have the right meter and rhyme pattern. if you don't use the right meter and rhyme as required in a sonnet, you are not writing a sonnet, you just write a poem with 14 lines. by the way, the sonnet you are talking about is the Shakespearean sonnet. there is another form of sonnet we seldom use.

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Bachelorette View Post
    That's a good way of putting it--it's variations within the form while still essentially being a sonnet.

    But take the villanelle, for example. Elizabeth Bishop wrote a poem called "One Art." (Link: One Art- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More) Some might call it a villanelle, in that it's very similar in structure to, say, Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." (Link: Do not go gentle into that good night- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More). But it doesn't follow the "rules" of a villanelle; the last lines of each stanza don't repeat word-for-word exactly the way they're "supposed" to, like they do in Thomas' poem.

    So, at what point does "variations on a sonnet" become "no longer a sonnet", or villanelle, or whatever? That's when things get tricky. Like I said in my earlier post, you can call any 14-line poem a sonnet if you want, but let's say it doesn't rhyme, or it's in free verse and just happens to be 14 lines long. Is that, then, a sonnet? It's just like the fact that lots of poems are in iambic pentameter, but they aren't sonnets, because they're too long, for example, or they don't rhyme (which I think is called blank verse, if memory serves).

    That's why I think, going back to candid's original post, you can't take definitions in poetry too terribly seriously. There may be certain rules observed by certain writers, but those rules can and ought to be broken. In my opinion, what you're trying to communicate takes precedence over form any day. And while I don't doubt that you can probably learn some things from writing structured poetry, I think it's pretty much a dead art today. I mean, is there really any reason to write sonnets or sestinas or whatever these days, other than as an intellectual exercise, just to see if you can do it?
    It has been some time since you posted this, I apoligise for not replying earlier, the rcent new post drew my attention. Vocabulary is always changing, meanings change grossly so sometimes it is difficult to see any relationship between a modern word and the Latin or Anglo Saxon one it derived from without knowing the intermediary stages. The concept of writing within closely restrited boundaries is, however, one that is common to all those literary traditions in various forms. I feel there is good reason for this, it stimulates the mind and verbal capacity. When people say "You have to know the rules before you break them" I think that an awful lot of people then dissmiss, or at best learn, the rules, without applying them. Why should they when the goal is to break them? Think of it like some other skilled ability, playing the flute, or premiership football, before you can play a Motzart Concerto or a Wembly Cup Final you will spend hours going round bollards and making long distance passes, or playing scales and doing 'technicals'.

    Anglo Saxon poets composed long works and performed them in an oral tradition using alliteration in set orders and places. Latin uses suffixes to denote a words grammatical place in the sentence, so it is possible to construct very regular hexameters.

    In modern English hexameters don't work, the heroic couplet was an attempt to imitate, and the predesossor of the iambic pentameter. There are other formal structures, but iambic pentameters is by far the most popular, it works beautifully in English, splitting naturally an holding two ideas in the line so often, it may have had its origins in Latin and formal learning but it is English through and through. There is a sort of reaction against the prescriptive methods of the first half of the last century and earlier, the trouble with reactions is that they tend to throw the baby out with the bath water. Knowing something does not simply mean knowing about it, it means using it, exploring it, until it becomes second nature, that's the way to know sonnet writing. There are several variations, shakesperian, Wordsworth etc., named after their originators. Having explored these you may decide you are at least the equal of these poets and develop your own variation, I do hope you are successful if it comes about that way.
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  5. #15
    Hey Olly Buckle,

    I was going to respond to Bachelorette's comment about the Sonnet being a "dead art" but your own comment is more recent.

    Anyway, I don't think the sonnet is dead. Some of us still compose sonnets and try to stay within the rhyme and meter boundaries.

    In my own opinion, even an average Sonnet, is an exceptional work of poetry.

  6. #16
    Some of us still compose sonnets and try to stay within the rhyme and meter boundaries.
    I reckon it is as challenging , but more fun, than the sudoku
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  7. #17
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
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    If it has 14 lines and you say it is a sonnet, it is a sonnet. 8+4 is the old fashioned way, but nowadays 14 lines is enough, and free verse is acceptable. If you want to know about verse forms, including the full range of sonnet styles http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/ is the place to go.
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  8. #18
    The sonnet had an uneven journey through the centuries and overall it is a vastly underrated literary form. It has the potential to be on par with the short story but mysteriously it had undergone some declines. Whatever conventions Petrarch had brought into vogue were largely followed by Shakespeare ---but his greatest contribution was that the sonnet can also be considered as an independent unit with its specific thematic concern. Many of his sonnets have a charm of their own and are considered masterpieces along side other sub-genres like the ballad, the ode and the lyric. We can cite sonnets 29,30and 116 as examples of this brilliant use of the genre to its potential. Among other poets who wrote sonnets, the most impressive have been Keats, Shelley and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but surprisingly, the sonnet had disappeared in English literature in the later periods.
    Of the modern poets, Pablo Neruda has written more than 100 sonnets. He also applied some modern advertising tropes to great advantage and we see a significant revival of the sonnet.
    The following three sonnets may be considered in this context:

    When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
    I summon up remembrance of things past,
    I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
    And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
    Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
    For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
    And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
    And moan th' expense of many a vanish'd sight;
    Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
    And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
    The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
    Which I new pay as if not paid before.
    But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
    All losses are restor'd, and sorrows end.
    William Shakespeare

    Lift not the painted veil which those who live
    Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
    And it but mimic all we would believe
    With colours idly spread,-behind, lurk Fear
    And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
    Their shadows, oer the chasm, sightless and drear.
    I knew one who had lifted it-he sought,
    For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
    But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
    The world contains, the which he could approve.
    Through the unheeding many he did move,
    A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
    Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
    For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.
    ---Shelley
    Fable Of The Mermaid And The Drunks re.Pablo Neruda
    All those men were there inside, when she came in totally naked.
    They had been drinking: they began to spit.
    Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
    She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
    The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh. Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
    Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears. Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
    They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs, and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
    She did not speak because she had no speech.
    Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
    her twin arms were made of white topaz.
    Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
    and suddenly she went out by that door.
    Entering the river she was cleaned, shining like a white stone in the rain,
    and without looking back she swam again swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.

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