Compose either a “Petrarchan” (Italian) or “Shakespearean” (English) sonnet based on the photograph writing exercise you completed during the Grecian Urn week. The metrical base of your lines should be in iambic pentameter.
While I will certainly reserve a few points for pure achievement, I’m largely interested in seeing evidence of a genuine attempt to honor the form, structure, and meter of the sonnet. While sonnets can seem rather simple on the page, they are actually quite difficult to do well.
You sonnet should have an original title that reflects its subject or theme.
Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet: a 14-line poem, usually consisting of two stanzas – one of the eight lines followed by one of six. The rhyme scheme of the octave is usually “abbaabba.” The rhyme scheme of sestet is usually “cdecde,” but can vary in its order. Use iambic pentameter.
Shakespearean (English) sonnet: a 14-line poem consisting of four stanzas – three quatrains followed by one couplet. The rhyme scheme is usually “abab cdcd efef gg.” Use iambic pentameter.
Iambic pentameter: Meter is a way of “measuring” the length of a line of poetry.
English poetry generally relies on a so-called accentual-syllabic meter, meaning that we both count the number of syllables in a line AND note where the accented syllables occur in the line. An iamb is a shorthand way to refer to a relationship between two syllables in which the first syllable is unaccented and the second syllable is accented. So, iambic pentameter is a fancy way of saying that a line of poetry contains five iambs.
A way of thinking about the rhythm of an iambic pentameter line can be expressed:
di DUM di DUM di DUM di DUM di DUM
Here is an example of a line of iambic pentameter from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130:
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
We might render this line iambically as
my MIS tress EYES are NOTH ing LIKE the SUN
As we’ll discuss in class, only a few lines of any sonnet are in perfect iambic pentameter, but it remains the base meter of the poem. I would like you to have at least five “perfect” iambic pentameter lines, but elsewhere try to keep the syllable count to 10 or 11 per line.