National Poetry Month: Day 15

What’s On This Month

The movies translate the incoherence
of love into the language of cliche,
give us acceptable outlets that
aren’t too outre, turning ‘I would
eat your eyes to touch your
thoughts’ into ‘take this gift to you
I’ve bought’. It’s profitable to depict
love as sanity but the beast it
releases is born from profanity;
longing is the subject of many a fine song,
but ‘hunger’ as the descriptor is
rather less wrong.

Elizabethan/Shakespearean sonnets are the most familiar form of the sonnet to my oft-cited Average English Schoolchild (ie. me) and follow such a simple rhyme scheme that were it not for the usual assumption of iambic pentameter accompanying I would already be beating myself up for not writing more of them. Iambic pentameter (fortunately) isn’t mandatory for the form, and deviations have been made throughout its use in English, and I have no excuse for not writing more of these eloquent self-contained verses.

The sonnet is a kind of self-contained argument: ababcdcdefefgg, or three sets of quatrain and a closing couplet which summarises the argument or concludes it.

During the period in which they were popularised in England they seem to have been used in praise: Shakespeare’s love poems, Donne’s metaphysical ones. The tidy structure and relative ease of reading, however, makes them suitable for just about any subject, and the concluding couplet fits them out perfectly as a kind of extended limerick, making sonnets especially good for humorous subjects as well as the more serious or lovelorn kind.

The word “sonnet” itself effectively means “little song”, and perhaps it isn’t entirely coincidence that the structure of the sonnet works well as a pop song.

Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF


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