Squaring up to the Sonnet

Here are two contrasting sonnets. The first by local Canberra poet Suzanne Edgar looks at the sonnet in traditional form … in the well-dressed format (with rhyming scheme abab cdcd aeae ff) and I must admit I do like the traditional – the well dressed woman with a subtle surprise to her name. We are too often told to think outside the square so it is nice to recognize the delights that are within and I love that first line … a light flavor without being too descriptive.

INSIDE THE SQUARE Suzanne Edgar (see footnote below)

A sonnet is a squarish-looking thing
Steady on its feet and neat, compact,
Not flighty like a bird upon the wing
or stealthy burglar startled in the act.
Sonnets always wear their hats and gloves’ –
conservative is not a tag they shun.
They never flirt about with loose-lipped loves,
avoid the wayward line and careless run,
but still they have their forceful little fling
which often turns assumptions upside down
permitting fourteen lines to dance and sing.
So if you meet one, do hold back a frown.
With even beat to captivate your ear
The sonnet will outlive the sceptic’s jeer.

Of course it is also nice to look outside the square. Paul Hetherington, another local poet, has done exactly that in his definition words below. Perhaps the casual sonnet can be more expressive allowing the street poet to exhibit quite uninhibited music. I guess it all depends upon your own personal taste and whether you think it scores more when a disciplined tune.

CASUAL SONNET Paul Hetherington

The casual sonnet
entrances because
it has the ease
of modernity
and none
of the old strictures.
It is free to embrace
the unknowable music
that the street vendor hums
and has the grace
of an outdoor cat
groomed by sunlight,
its manners

This is basically two sentences broken into the mandatory requirement and to be a little different the “volta” is after six lines and not eight.

Poets are always trying to create something a little different. Don’t you think they are naturally outside the square sort of people?

Footnotes …
INSIDE THE SQUARE was first published in Kevin Brophy & Judith Rodriguez ed,  The 155th Sonnet by the Melbourne Shakespeare Society/ Hit & Miss Publications, Melb 2010; then in Suzanne Edgar’s The Love Procession 2012.

Paul Hetherington is an associate professor at the Canberra University on the team of the International Poetry Studies Institute.

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