Many people are scared off from writing sonnets, because they associate them with Shakespeare and other poetic giants, but it’s just a tool, like a jar of pepper or a bolt of linen. You can make something wonderful, or you can make someone sneeze. Here are a few examples of the form which are metaphorically wearing funny hats, or at least a rakish wink.
The Glow of Pennsic
The moon was high, the night was close and still
I dragged my feet along my weary way
When I beheld a light behind A hill
That turned the midnight darkness near to day!
To crest the rising slope I did essay
And found that there no flame, no lantern shone
But rather came the glow, to my dismay,
From several ladies, sitting all alone.
The wonder of this sight made me to moan,
“My ladies!” I exclaimed, “This gives me pause!
The wherefore of this marvel must be known!”
One answered me, “The weather is the cause.
We gather here, by humid heat beset,
And we’ve been told we aren’t allowed to sweat!”
Written in August, 2002, after a particularly warm Pennsic. Everyone agreed that if the old adage were true, “Women don’t sweat, they glow…” our camp would have been visible from Neptune. This is a Spenserian sonnet, rhymed abab bcbc cdcd ee.
English Sonnet with Pepperoni and Extra Cheese
A door shone in the darkness; odd, it’s true,
In that it’s not the sort of thing at all
That doors in general are wont to do,
As normally they act much like a wall.
Of course, it was a doorway lighted bright
That truly shone a beacon from within
And pierced the fabric of the blackest night
And guided me, a goal at last to win.
A figure breaks the doorway’s lighted frame,
Her face a mask of tragedy and woe;
As I approached, I heard her thus exclaim:
“You said that you’d be here an hour ago!”
So here at last my tragic tale is told;
No tip for me tonight– the pizza’s cold.
Written April, 2003 in response to a challenge on the P(ennsic)Bardic mailing list. The opening, “A door shone in the darkness” was assigned to everyone, with no further direction. This is a Shakespearean sonnet, rhymed abab cdcd efef gg.
Sonnet for Aunt Lucrezia
I wonder at your skill with words, the wit,
The wicked spark, the honey of your tongue,
To which, alas for them! at once submit
The hearts of virgins, and those not so young.
Yet you will be unmourned, unwept, unsung,
When to your treachery at last awake
The fools! who on your every word have hung;
A heart once turned to granite cannot break.
So never think that I will poison take
To end the pain, nor grieve as lovers do
I shall not drink of ashes for your sake
Nor taste the wine that I have poured for you.
Will you a poignant parting line supply,
Like “Love is lost,” or “Thus wi’ a kiss I die”?
Written for a Valentine’s event, 2004, “Love in the Time of Lucrezia Borgia”. Another Spenserian sonnet, about a scorned woman poisoning her unfaithful lover.
Sonnet on My Absence
Unto Their Ursine Excellencies Fair,
Who rule right well our cherished Barony,
You may have wondered why I am not there
To partner my good Lord in panoply;
For well you know I would not shun the light
Nor turn aside from show or rich display,
Unless it were that tardiness invite
Yet further notice being turned my way.
Nay— For righteous cause I come not hence,
For service, not for base agrandissement;
I toil at your behest, and guard your pence,
And thus this goodly day my morn is spent.
So never think for fashion I am late—
I am betimes, but sitting at your Gate.
Written for a Bjornsborg fall event, October 2008. The fighters were supposed to be accompanied in the procession by their “artisan sponsor”, but I had a gate shift, so my poor hubby walked alone.
Alas! That we should want for gentilesse
And words that carry gender go maligned!
So call me not a “poet” to be kind;
Permit me to be styled a poetess.
Unlovely as the English tongue can be,
Should we not cling to grace where it survives?
Achieve our place by conduct of our lives,
And not in titles feign equality.
Perhaps such terms we would not disavow
If there had been a Christine or Marie
To swell an English breast with dignity,
At least as far as corset bones allow.
For who would blush when named a poetess
Had Shakespeare on occasion worn a dress?
Written August 2012, after an online discussion where it was asserted that the term “poetess” was insulting and somehow inherently inferior to “poet”. This sonnet is rhymed abba cddc effe gg, which is a transitional sonnet structure used by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and others, published in the first printed anthology of English poetry, Songes and Sonettes, also called Tottel’s Miscellany, 1557.