I wrote both of these sonnets using the methods I advocated in this post, namely,
- Choose the rhyming words first,
- then count syllables to fit, and
- wait for the iambic pentameter to emerge on future efforts.
My kids today wanted more practice, so they gave me these words:
And here’s the resulting 15-minute sonnet:
I had a dream once where I was a Fly
with six small legs and wings angled just So
and in this dream I landed on a Guy.
he worked in kitchens all covered in Dough
He hit me. I survived. Was this dream Real
I bit him when I landed on his Cheek
I tast of his flesh had such sweet Appeal
but the blow from his hand made me feel Weak
I buzzed around his head and off he Ran
This dream I had was crazy and Bumpy
He tried to catch me in a small tin Can
the old man’s cheek was hairy and Lumpy
I bit him again and then I got Fat
Suddenly I was eaten by a Cat.
And if you read this poem out loud, it will become immediately obvious which lines are definitely NOT in iambic pentameter. It’s also clear that there’s a story that sort of emerges, but that story is compromised (I think) by the fact that the words were chosen first, before the subject of the poem was chosen.
Here’s the second set of rhyming words I was given: doors, walls, floors, calls, pencil, two, smencil (a kind of scented pencil, apparently), blue, horses, monk, forces, funk, cheese, please.
And here’s the 15-minute poem that resulted:
I dreamed that I could walk through maple doors,
dark portals piercing through sweating stone walls.
My feet do not echo on pale pine floors.
But off in the distance I hear the calls
of laughing students writing in pencil,
counting syllables out loud, two by tow.
Strawberry scent — someone has a smencil,
and new colors also, yellow and blue.
From through a window, grass-smell and horses;
from up the stairs, the chanting of a monk,
and all these symbols represent forces
of my mind alone. Students in a funk
expect great sonnets; but first write the cheese—
for the form must be learned, ere it can please.
And this is one of the core concepts of the form, really — one must start with the rules of the form, and work backwards to a completed poem a few times, even if the poem doesn’t make ANY SENSE AT ALL , before the capacities of one’s brain readjusts to writing poetry that makes sense. It takes time. It did for me, and it did for anyone else that’s ever learned to write a sonnet — the first few are terrible, and then suddenly the brain adjusts. It says, “Oh, is this what you were trying to do?” And then it does it.