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Notes on the Sonnet form

We are reading poems in Sonnet form for our summer issue. So far, many submissions seem to echo or mimic Shakespeare in his archaic form. The definitions offered on the submissions page are the basic definitions, but in the hands of a skilled poet, the form can be altered somewhat. We are looking for artistry more than the rigid adherence to the form. That’s not to say the abandon all the rules, but to say that learn the rules so well that you can bend them to suit the needs of the poem. I offer you an article by Annie Finch, “Chaos in Fourteen Lines,” and a few sonnets that can help you in creating your sonnets. This article by Annie Finch cites several modern sonnets. Please, pay careful attention to creating a powerful “volta” in your sonnet.

The one modern sonnet that I would like for you to read isn’t available online and is copyrighted. It is “Therapy” by Kim Addonizio from her poetry collection Tell Me.

In this journal, we prefer poems that technically skilled yet are accessible to a broad audience. Personally, I prefer poetry that resonates emotionally yet retains a logical coherence. In the end, an average reader wants to connect to your poem, and it’s not likely to happen if the poem is obscure. So, clarity of expression is critical. Since the internet is an open medium, I want the poem to reach some isolated soul in a distant land to read your poem and connect with it, be comforted by it, and be inspired by it.

Having said all that, I want to emphasize that we are looking for a variety of styles and themes including traditional style. This post is here to let you know that there are options besides the common styles and themes. Here are the guidelines for submissions.

If We Must Die
— Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

–Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Prompt April 30 2020

Here we are at the end of April. Today is the last day of this National Poetry Month challenge. I hope you have enjoyed these prompts and had as much fun writing poems as I had creating them.

I will keep it simple today. Write a good-bye poem with an optimistic outlook.

Just a reminder about submissions. The summer issue will feature sonnets. Check out the submission guidelines, consider submitting, and spread the word.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 29 2020

Eavan Boland is one of the foremost female poet voices in Irish literature. Sadly, she passed away on April 27, 2020. I love her poetry because she speaks in an urgent voice to express the female experience. There are many other reasons to admire her poetry, and you can find out more about her by just googling. As a small tribute to her, I am quoting her poem Quarantine written circa 2008. It is a fitting commentary for the current times.

— Eavan Boland (1944-2020)

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.
(Read the rest on Academy of American Poets)

Write a poem inspired by something in this poem. It doesn’t have to be about the pandemic. There is so much more you can discover about relationships and humanity in the poem. Find your groove and write.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 28 2020

Bee in action detail

Hello poets and readers, I hope you can stand one more prompt about the shelter-in-place situation. I came across the following poem while doing research about sonnets. This poem by William Wordsworth shines the light on a paradoxical truth. Sometimes, constraints can be liberating. We put the real constraints on our mind, and somehow external constraints can set the mind free.

Nuns Fret Not
by William Wordsworth (1807)

Nuns fret not at their convents’ narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ‘twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
should find brief solace there, as I have found.

See if you can write a poem in any poetic form of your choice.
As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 27 2020

Photo by form PxHere

Folks, the time has quickly passed, and the countdown to May has begun. Most of us are still sheltering-in-place. Are you dreaming of your next vacation? Of course, the entire world isn’t going to open overnight. It will be perhaps a year or two before things return to pre-2020 normal. But just imagine, if you were free to go anywhere, where would you go? Is your dream destination a tropical island, a safari, climbing mountains, camping, or perhaps glamping in the wilderness? Write a poem about a vacation you are looking forward to.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 26 2020

Photo by Kirill Pershin form PxHere

Apparently, many people are reporting the increase in the number of dreams they are having during this pandemic. Not only are they experiencing more dreams, but dreams are also becoming more vivid. As for me, I always have vivid dreams, so this phenomenon piqued my curiosity. I found several news articles where experts are weighing in. Here is one of them.

Also, from Today Website:

Weekend TODAY’s Peter Alexander recounts a weird dream he recently had. Then, Harvard dream researcher Deirdre Barrett explains why some people, like Peter, are having vivid dreams during the global coronavirus pandemic. She says some reasons may include sleep deprivation and waking up naturally after a dream period.

So, here’s the prompt for you. Have you had any unusual dreams lately? Either use your own dream or use one from looking up other people’s dream reports, and write a poem about it.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 25 2020

Photo by form PxHere

In the current atmosphere of uncertainty, it is natural to be anxious. People can tolerate different levels of uncertainty in their life. What are you doing to tolerate it in your life? This short poem by Emily Dickinson speaks to this uncertainty.

In this short Life that only lasts an hour (1292)
–Emily Dickinson

In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much – how little – is within our power

Write a poem that addresses the actions that you or someone you know is taking to keep life moving in a way that keeps anxiety at bay.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 24 2020

Photo by form PxHere

A tercet is a group or unit of three lines.  It could be a three-line poem such as a haiku, or it could be a longer poem consisting of several tercets. The three lines of a tercet often rhyme together. Terza Rima is one of the most challenging forms of a tercet. It is composed in iambic pentameter and employees the following rhyme scheme “ABA BCB CDC.”  As you can see from the following poem by Robert Frost, this rhyme scheme has the effect of linking the stanzas together in a rhythmic fashion.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Write a poem using tercets. Don’t worry about getting the form right.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 23 2020

Today’s prompt is simple, or is it?. Write a haiku. Rules of Haiku writing are simple. Not so with creating the deep meaning in a stunning manner.
Here is the definition from the Academy of American Poets.

A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.

Here is one great example from the famous haiku master, Matsuo Basho.

A field of cotton—
as if the moon
had flowered.
– Matsuo Basho
Translated by Robert Hass

Here are two “computer error message” haiku. I am not sure of the source of these.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

As usual, you can post your haiku poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.

Prompt April 22 2020

source unknown

April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It is the anniversary of the birth of the environmental movement in 1970. For decades before Modern industrialization and inefficient automobiles caused poor air quality and smog. Industrial waste piled up. The health effects of this polluted environment went unnoticed for a long time. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring was published raising concern for living organisms and the link between the environment and public health.
The question we have to ask ourselves is that have we done enough to protect the environment? Try to express your concerns and ideas for the future of Mother Earth in your poem.

Remember, the prompts are optional. If you want to write about anything else, go ahead.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to if you need the password.