Posts Tagged write

How to Poem: How to Write Sonnets

vol2sonnet130websiteSo, it’s been a while, but this series is back, with the finicky world that is the Sonnet. And as if to make matters worse, I’ll be looking at two different types. The Shakespearean Sonnet and the Petrarchan Sonnet. There are more types, there are several types, but unfortunately I am not the great bard and cannot spend my entire day writing sonnets, so I’m just going to be covering the top two as it were.

There are a few key components in a sonnet which is why they are generally pretty fiddly to write. Firstly, they have a strict rhyming pattern which varies based in the type of sonnet you’re writing. They must be fourteen lines in length and each line must have ten syllables in iambic pentameter. They are either split into distinct sections, an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) or three quatrains (four lines) and a couplet (two lines). Sonnets also generally contain a volta, or ‘turn’ which is the point in the poem where the narrative changes. It commonly occurs on line nine, but with the two I have written for this post, they of course don’t.

Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is simple. Iambic – stressing every second syllable. Pentameter – in a group of five iambs (ten syllables).

the MAN is LOOKing AT the WINdow PANE.

There is, as is often the case with poetry, some license that can be had with this. There are plenty of sonnets which have a line of 8, 9 or 11 (or there abouts) syllables. It doesn’t make it not a sonnet. However, it’s generally good form to not have another stressed syllable or it tends to throw off the rhythm of the poem. By no means either is pentameter the only option, it’s simply the most commonly found. Sonnets can be written in tetrameter (four iambs), or even hexameter (six iambs) and still be a sonnet. The only rules which generally must be adhered to are the rhyme scheme and the number of lines.

Volta

A common subject for sonnets is that with the change in rhyme scheme at line nine, the subject also changes or turns on itself. Sonnets are often about a disparity between two lines of thinking, a change of mind or heart and often it’s this vibrant change of form which signifies it. However the volta can come at a different point in the poem, such as with the couplet at the end, or at any point in the latter half of the poem.

Petrarchan Sonnets

Petrarchan Sonnets weren’t created by Petrarch, but rather by various Italian renaissance poets, hence its alternative name: The Italian Sonnet. A Petrarchan Sonnet is split into an octave and a sestet. The octave always has the rhyme scheme:

ABBAABBA

Whereas the sestet’s rhyme scheme varies between:

CDECDE, CDCDCD, CDDCDD, CDDECE or various other formations of Cs Ds and Es, usually starting with CD.

Cottage Frustrations

Take me to a place that I’ve not yet seen.
Somewhere beyond the dull world that I know
to a new place where the street lamps glow,
where traffic is loud and air is unclean.
I’m tired of this nothing where I have been
I’m tired of stillness, of nowhere to go.
I’m tired of stagnancy, nothing to show.
This cottage is empty, and I am unseen.
I’ll pack up my bags and I’ll move away
I’ll run like a deer from a speeding car
And reach my new world, never looking back.
But I could sit here and say this all day
If ever I leave, I wouldn’t go far.
Just the old farm, with the overgrown track.

In my example, I have chosen to use the CDECDE format, and to have the volta on line twelve. In my mind this man is an old farmer, who longs for the buzz of living in the city but knows he’d never really be willing to leave his home and doesn’t really want to anyway.

 

Shakespearean Sonnets

The rhyme scheme for the Shakespearean sonnet is far more uniform than that of the Petrarchan variety:

ABAB
CDCD
EFEF
GG

As you can see, the poem is split into three quatrains and a couplet, rather than the traditional split of the Petrarchan sonnet. The volta is still commonly found on line nine, which is the case in my own example. The couplet is often inset in the Shakespearean sonnet, and acts as a summing statement for the sonnet as a whole. Notably, however, in my pictured example at the top of the, the volta is on line thirteen.

The Reluctant Construction Worker

He walks with his back bent low to the ground,
lifting the bricks and then placing them down,
his trowel on the clay makes a grating sound.
His slow but sure progress expands the town.
The earth beneath him is compacted tight,
he works in the dust, the grit and the dirt,
the soil is baked from relentless sunlight,
sweating, the worker removes his T-shirt.
He closes his eyes, remembers his past,
and looks at the land his work has defiled
he’d thought that those places he loved would last
but, these were the woods where he played as a child.
The work must be done, the foreman commands,
He has no qualms for his worker’s lost lands.

This is the sister poem to the first one, the character being the polar opposite of the farmer in the first one, he is a city working builder who laments the loss of the countryside, but cannot do anything about its destruction. Sonnets are frequently also elegies, or poems about love of one form or another. I tried to stay true to form with my examples.

 

So there you go! I hope someone finds this humble post useful, and if there’s anything you want me to clarify or add, please just ask! I may do another post in the future about the less commonly used sonnet forms. If you’re looking for sonnets which are better than mine, well, just look for Shakespeare’s although I’m sure you already have!

If anyone has a suggestion for a future topic for me to cover then feel free to drop it in the comments!

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How to Poem: How to Write Villanelles

Welcome to the first of a new series which will pop up sporadically about my blog! Some of you may be interested to know I have recently finished a dregree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and looking back over it I realised I have had a load of exposure to a huge number of different poetic forms and prose styles. So I’m going to offer some of that knowledge to my readers. I will do this though two separate series: ‘How to Poem…’ and ‘How to Prose…’ each post looking at a specifical form or style of writing.

Hopefully at the end of each post I will have give you all some insight on how to make up these forms of poetry and prose and maybe you’ll even post response blog posts with examples of your own work!

 

Villanelles

I’m not starting you off lightly. The villanelle is one of the most annoying and tricky poetic forms to imitate, especially if you are trying to make it a perfect example of the form. The issue is the strictness of the rhyme scheme and the refrains you have to use. The poem of course should make some kind of sense, but it should also have the right rhythm and tone as well as adhereing to one of the stricted rhyme schemes in all of poetry.

A villanelle is a nineteen line poem which consists of four tercets (three line stanzas) and one quatrain (four line stanza).

The rhyme scheme is:

A
B
A

A
B
A

A
B
A

A
B
A

A
B
A
A

That’s an awful lot of As and Bs! Each of those has to have the same rhyme, and so you ahve to pick a word sound which is commonly found at the end of a lot of words. Things like AY, OUND, EYE, ED, AIN, ITE, ING, ER and EEP are good because of the sheer number of words which fit into that pattern. But any words where there is a significant limit to the rhymes you could use are things best avoided.

On to the refrains, the first tercet’s first and third lines are repeated throughout the poem. It’s probably easiest to show rather than tell in this case.

A – 1st refrain
B
A – 2nd refrain

A
B
A – 1st refrain

A
B
A – 2nd refrain

A
B
A – 1st refrain

A
B
A – 1st refrain
A – 2nd refrain

So! The first line is repeated exactly on lines 6, 12 and 15 and line 3 is repeated on lines 9 and 19.

So, using this format I have written an example poem. My poem uses OLD and EES as its two rhymes, EES was probably the more tricky to find relevant words which fit the themes of the poem. I chose this particular topic because I’m a bit of an eco poet, I love writing about nature and things like that!

Well this is awkward, there was a poem here, but it’s been published! I’ll post the link to it when it’s up!

I hope there was something useful in this post! If you want to have a look at some better villanelles than mine I’d suggest looking at Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’ or W.H. Auden’s ‘If I Could Tell You’ which isn’t as strict as Thomas’s but is still really good!

I hope I have inspired you all to try out this form, and feel free to leave suggestions on the comments as to what I should look at next.

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