Friday, 8 October 2010

Sonnet Challenge

Here's a little competition, just for the fun of it (nobody seems to want my prize giveaways, anyway).

I am suggesting that we write a Sonnet over the next few weeks, put it up on our blogs and *give each other a laugh / *move each other to tears. (Delete as appropriate).

As I'm sure you all know, a Sonnet is - strictly speaking - a poem of 14 lines, with a fairly (but not always) rigid rhyming structure, often using couplets, but not necessarily in 'A' 'B' 'C' order. Below is a sonnet by Milton, commenting on his own blindness, with helpful 'A's and 'B's to show where the rhymes fall (as if you couldn't tell just by reading it).

If you are going to do it, please link it with this post, just to let others know where the hell you got the affrontery to write one and put it on display in the first place. That might make them feel better about doing it themselves. I promise I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Meanwhile, here's Milton's effort:

When I consider how my light is spent (a)
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, (b)
And that one talent which is death to hide, (b)
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent (a)
To serve therewith my Maker, and present (a)
My true account, lest he returning chide; (b)
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?" (b)
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent (a)
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need (c)
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best (d)
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state (e)
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed (c)
And post o'er land and ocean without rest; (d)
They also serve who only stand and wait." (e)


  1. I think I may, (a)
    I think I might,(b)
    In the house stay, (a)
    And write a sonnet tonight.(b)

  2. I think you should, (a)
    (for good or ill), (b)
    I think you could, (a)
    I think you will! (b)

  3. And I may try to write as well(a)
    Though what to write I do not know (b)
    I cannot rhyme, I cannot spell(a)
    But for all that it's worth a go (b)

  4. My word verification for the above was budaembr

  5. Tell me Tom are you quite mad?
    To think that I might write something fine
    My Sonnet skills are exremely bad,
    Maybe improved after a bottle of wine?

    Haha - funny ( the concept, clearly not my prose)

  6. So far so good,
    but only four,
    I think you all
    should write some more.

    (This is all beginning to sound like a Rupert Annual...)

  7. “Tis difficult”, the bear intoned,
    “to write a sonnet, that’s for sure,
    a pretty piece and finely honed
    that is of fourteen lines - no more.
    I am, of course, more than aware
    that readers soon become quite weary
    of rhyming couplets Rupert Bear
    puts in his books to make them dreary.
    But what child knows - and what child should? -
    with all those pictures painted bright,
    the meaning of ‘Enchanted Wood’
    or why it’s daylight in the night?
    I’ve reached the thirteenth line, and so
    I’ll shut up now. You have a go”.

    (I got thinking about those annuals...)

  8. I shall contrive to write a sonnet
    putting on my thinking bonnet
    sharpening a good goose quill
    hoping thereby to fulfill
    fourteen lines of grace and beauty
    (I hope you do not find me snooty
    when I say, "Oh, Rupert Bear,
    I have no plans to follow there!")
    "Too late!" you cry - what do you mean?
    Surely my couplets do not seem
    just to have been knocked off quickly,
    creating rhythms rather sickly
    because I've done the best I can
    in trying to make my sonnet scan.

  9. That's a good warm up, Share (I think I might start calling you Cher). The trouble is, it has now reminded me of the Viz comic cartoon character called 'Billy and his Magic Arse'. Have you ever seen 'Viz'? Anyway, his poetic catch phrase is: "It's not magic all the time - only when I talk in rhyme!" Of course, it is never magic.


    Autumn is here. Cats crouch and doze
    indoors. Too windy out, too grey,
    for pleasant wanderings. I close
    the curtains early on the play

    of rain on drumming windowpane,
    and light the lamps, and pour some wine;
    recall a year ago: the wane
    of summer, and my dad's decline:

    his final autumn... But I did not know,
    and had I known could not have turned
    the wheel back on itself, the flow
    of seasons widdershins, or learned

    in any other way how death
    waits patiently in every breath.

  11. That was truly lovely, Cat. Thanks for that. Why didn't post it on your own blogsite for more people to read? (not too late...) Anyway, it's an inspiration to me, and I would be happy if my effort came anywhere near what yours has inspired.

  12. thank you, Tom. i didn't know this was what would emerge when i responded to your 'sonnet challenge'. in fact, when i realised what was forming, i hesitated to put in on your blog, thinking it might be too sombre. i'm glad you didn't find it so. i did actually start out to write something lighthearted about my fore-bear, Pooh; but - as is often the case - the poem took over and wrote itself. i've always loved Autumn, and its liminal sense of combining death and fruitful life.

    apropos of your 'challenge' - it might be rather exciting to start a poetry blog - mightn't it?

  13. You could try starting a poetry blog, Cat, but I think it might attract the wrong sort of readers. Poets, for instance.

  14. Harsh words, Tom Stephenson. I am offended.
    Wrong sort of reader. (Cher.)

  15. I meant the wrong sort of poet, Cher.

  16. There was a young man from Nantucket (a)
    who handled twelve rats in a bucket (a)
    Then in walked a.... (K)

  17. hmm. you could be right. but i reckon that in everything the ratio of dross to gold is 95% to 5%... somewhere in the heap there's bound to be a few treasures. or am i thinking of litter trays?

  18. um... in the interest of correct English, i meant, of course, to write: 'there are bound to be - ' not 'there's bound to be - ' i can only say that this morning started rather early...

  19. I'm beginning to understand why you spent so long in the wilderness, Cat.

  20. Someone on the letters page of the LRB mentioned Raymond Queneau, who wrote ten sonnets with the same rhyme scheme and scansion, where each line from any sonnet was interchangeable with a corresponding line from any of the others, with the result that it would take innumerable lifetimes to read them all. Now, that's the sort of smart ar.. poet that we don't want!

  21. Quite right Cher - they can eff off as far as we are concerned, eh?