Friday, September 15, 2017

A Cold Spring Sonnet

Time to try another set poetry form - one that I've never been very good at, but I think it's still worth a go. I'm going to try a traditional sonnet.

Sonnets are 14 line poems with 3 quatrains (4 line stanzas) followed by 1 couplet (2 line stanza). They use a rhyming scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. 

That rhyming pattern's not so very tricky, but what makes them hard (if you do them properly, anyway) is the iambic pentameter. Basically, iambic pentameter refers to the stress pattern in the lines, which give great sonnets their sing-song quality (and when it is mishandled, leaves the poem sounding deadened and clunky). The metre goes:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

(where DUM is the stress syllable, obviously!)

The five "feet" in each line is what gives rise to the pentameter part of the name ("pent" for "five").

Probably the best-known traditional sonnets are Shakespeare's or perhaps Donne's. The first four lines of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 illustrate the point:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

The feet in these lines flow smoothly and enhance the heartbeat rhythm of the poem, driving it forward.

So, without further ado, here is my attempt at a traditional sonnet ... Cold Spring Sonnet.

Here in the chill-fingered mainland's end,
the rain falls daily and the cold winds blow.
The birds that sing for love do not ascend,
but hide out in the bushes with their beaux.

Oh, roses bud, and wattle shows its face -
the grass is overgrown and seedpods fly.
But mammal blood finds only sour grace
caught in the sullen sulking of the sky.

The breath of winter trails still round our feet,
while northern cousins wake to pearly sun.
The island further south is getting sleet -
Folorn, we ache for warmth, and still find none.

September! Spring in nothing but the name:
Each year we hope, but each year just the same.

- Kathy, 15/09/2017

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