Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Month of Poetry #2: A Shakesperean Sonnet

I'm still playing around with set verse forms - which is unusual for me, and thus a good challenge - and today I tried my hand at a traditional Shakespearean sonnet.

The sonnet is a verse form that has always intrigued me partly because it looks hard. (As a free-form poet, most set verse forms look hard to me :-) Sonnets have 14 lines, typically divided into an octet (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). Usually, the first stanza poses a question of some kind which the second stanza answers.

The sonnet has several recognisable rhyme patterns, from the Petrarchan or "classic", which rhymes in the pattern abbaabba/cdecde, to the better-known (in English) Shakespearean pattern, which rhymes ababcdcd/efefgg. I quickly discovered, as I started to try to construct one, exactly why Shakespeare, the author of over 150 beautiful sonnets, diverged from the Italian rhyme pattern - because the classic pattern is really fricking hard to write in English! The modified Shakesperean pattern lends itself much more easily to the vagaries of my native language, and so that is the one I persisted with.

So here is my attempt at a Shakesperean-form sonnet. Next challenge, when I get my courage up, is to have a go at a sestina...


Beyond the borderlands of waking thought
Are creatures swimming in the buried deep.
On their backs they carry all that's fought
Away in daylight; all that makes you weep.
Are they ribbons of the overload, ragged strings
Of sounds and smells not processed, not brought in?
Are they heavy-snouted, slimy fear-grown things?
Are they truth, in their heart-stopping din?

Born in darkness, they force-own the night
Red in tooth and claw and silent scream
Lingering, they slink away from light
Tainting dawn with their most frightful meme.
They are the terror sealed within the heart
Freed by sleep, to play their bloody part.

- Kathy, 2/2/13

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