Posted tagged ‘sonnet re children’s games’

Spenserian Sonnet (Still Not Keats)

September 18, 2009

Last night (well, very early this morning), I posted an example of a Shakespearian sonnet, which is probably the most common form of sonnet in English.   Another variation is the Spenserian sonnet, named for Sir Edmund Spenser, (author of the wonderful wondeful Faerie Queene.)

Spenser (1552-1599) was born and died a little before  Shakespeare (1564-1616).   Although their lives overlapped, my very brief research has informed me that the group of Shakespeare’s sonnets were not published until 1609 well after Spenser’s death.  They were apparently without Shakespeare’s permission.   Two were published a bit earlier, but likely also after Spenser’s death in 1599 (also without Shakespeare’s permission.)  (And this was well before the internet.) 

Spenser’s form is slightly more strict than Shakespeare’s.  A more limited rhyme scheme requires the poet to stick to the second set of rhymes of each quatrain in beginning the next quatrain.    This makes for a series of couplets throughout the poem and not simply at the end:

A
B
A
B
B
C
B
C
C
D
C
D
E
E

 

The couplets interspersed in the poem can create a beautiful echoing effect.  However, as in the case of the Shakespearean sonnet, that darned couplet at the end can be a real problem.   (See yesterday’s post concerning the difficulty of ending a sonnet without sounding like you are neatly “summing up” all that came before.)

Even so, a sonnet is a fun, flexible, form. 

A couple of pointers:  (I pass these on, not as a sonnet expert, but as a sonnet lover.)  

The rhymes (and meter) make music.   I believe this music works best, however, if it subtle,  almost a kind of murmuring, rather than a series of “bada-bings.”    (Remember you are writing a sonnet, not a limerick.)

The subtlety can be achieved by using run-on lines; these are lines in which the thought or sentence does not end with the rhyme at the end of the line, but in which the thought or sentence runs over.  This means that these is no pause at the end of each line, unless it is called for by a comma or period.   

 The use of run-over lines requires that some care is taken with respect to punctuation.  (Readers! please follow the punctuation.) 

Additionally, I like NOT to capitalize each new line as I feel that encourages a kind of pausing at the end of the line, and to discourage a more flowing read.   

Spy Games

We played spy games galore in the basement.
Running spy games with the boys, our bent hands
guns, till sweating we lay down on cold cement,
shirts pulled up, chests hard.  Not much withstands
the leaching chill of earth, the deep down sands
beneath a childhood basement, except perhaps
the burn of nipple, the future woman’s
breasts.  Our spy games just for girls had traps–
some of us played femmes fatales, poor saps,
while the leader girl was Bond–0-0-7.
She hung us ropeless from the bathroom taps,
then tortured us in ways that felt like heaven,
the basement bed our rack, what spies we were,
confessing neither to ourselves nor her.

 

(All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson)

 

 P.S.  Check out 1 Mississippi.  (It’s neither Spenserian or Shakespearean, but it will teach your child to count.)