A sonnet is a form of a poem. According to Webster’s:
A sonnet is a fixed verse form having 14 lines that are typically five-foot iambics rhyming according to a prescribed scheme. The sonnet is unique among poetic forms in Western literature in that it has retained its appeal for major poets for five centuries. It seems to have originated in the 13th century among the Sicilian school of court poets. In the 14th century Petrarch established the most widely used sonnet form. The Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet characteristically consists of an eight-line octave, rhyming abbaabba, that states a problem, asks a question, or expresses an emotional tension, followed by a six-line sestet, of varying rhyme schemes, that resolves the problem, answers the question, or resolves the tension. In adapting the Italian form, Elizabethan poets gradually developed the other major sonnet form, the Shakespearean (or English) sonnet. It consists of three quatrains, each with an independent rhyme scheme, and ends with a rhymed couplet.
Anyone who took high school English has come across the Sonnet. While re-educating myself to become a high school English teacher, I was reintroduced to the sonnet and I wrote one for a professor to be handed in with a paper I had to write on King Lear. The professor was actually a published poet (he joked that he sold almost two dozen copies of his book of poetry), so I thought I’d try to pad my grade by including a sonnet with it.
Here is that sonnet:
Come listen professor and you shall hear:
enlightened prose or bland conversation?
Dilettante musings on the Bard’s King Lear,
mindful to avoid your consternation.
Whilst many have opined for the ages
published or unpublished they may yet be.
Though more wisdom’s got from wiser sages,
I still hope to procure an “A” (or “B?”)
But nothing new can be informed to thou,
for having read and understood it all,
I cannot reveal some new sacred cow
in five pages scribbled in old May Hall.
I’ll just say Shakespeare gave us Lear, perchance,
as a sacrifice to the Renaissance!
This sparked a fire in me. I wrote a few more for kicks and the seed of the idea for a website was planted. It was called “A Sonnet a Day.” The self imposed challenge was to write a sonnet every day for a year. The idea, and the website, failed miserably. It wasn’t because the sonnet as a form of poetic expression was unpopular; I just couldn’t keep up the pace. Writing a sonnet aint easy!
Recently, a day of reckoning for that site came. It was time to renew the domain name. I decided to NOT renew and to pull the site down. But I still have 21 Sonnets that aren’t half bad. Where to put them? If you guessed “right here on RobMerlinodotCom,” YOU’RE RIGHT! So without further ado, here are all 21 Sonnets I wrote for A Sonnet a Day.
Sonnet for the Morning of 2010
First morning dawning later than the last
Thank evening’s to morning’s reverie
for bidding farewell to a whole year passed
must be done with dissimilarity.
So we greet this morning of day and year
with ubiquitous and wondrous dread
of open doors and shrill sounds to hear
impish tintinnabulations in bed.
But prodigal offspring must know enough
Hibernating progenitors best lie
in slumber of the night, if wakened: gruff.
Best to leave them sleep with the rapid eye.
Finally waking, pledging “never again,”
At least until Twenty-ten’s champagne!
Sonnet in Response to Dr. H
“That’s not really a sonnet, now is it?”
The preceding sentence could be a line.
But a sonnet’s not a free verse biscuit
To be gormandized, no matter how fine.
Indulging in verse is no easy task
with rules of rhyme, couplets, quatrains, meter.
If the sonnet’s a biscuit, then I ask
refrain from being an overeater.
But should fourteen lines be qualified
as averred poetic requisition
for the sonnet’s rules to be mollified
is brazen, parnassian prescription.
Even when sonnet’s prosodies do roam,
Fourteen lines aint no sonnet, just a poem.
Seminar in American Lit
Emerson, Alcott, Hawthorne, Thoreau
Transcendental thinkers they might have been
For three months of knowing all that they know
one hundred fifty years in reading seen.
Done and undone: philosophies are told
in shaping culture, thought and history
antiquated language, ideas not old
is a romantic, muddy, mystery.
Twenty first century introspection
a phrontifugic, pensive lexicon
what we find from this Concord collection
in American souls their words live on
Not one for intellectual faux pas,
I say “Ne te quaesiveras extra!”
But for Thoughts of Spring
I see my garden in the wintertime
poking up through its frigid white shelter
sprigs of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
foreshadow Spring Eden’s helter skelter.
Awaiting solstice compost’s volunteers
and planned progeny of my plantation
this annual gelation of the years
beneath that blanket: God’s pale creation.
Winter hibernation has its profit
for the weary, would-be cottage farmer
no need to clear January’s mantle off it
Hyperborean days forge on, warmer.
These hibernal days would be a bitter thing
But for thoughts of Spring, but for thoughts of Spring.
Doing the same thing again and again;
This is how I feel when I’m loving you.
Some say that this is how to be insane.
So then madness is what I love to do.
A touch, a whisper, secret stolen looks:
These are things we share almost every day.
While laying prone, sometimes reading books
or dancing and singing the night away.
The sameness of familiarity
does not imbibe delirium’s wrath
for through the years I’ve endeavored to see
the endearing sum of true lover’s math.
For if loving you is lividity
bring on this lucid loving ecstasy.
Refreshment complete, a casual toss
from the vessel, the vessel’s been removed
to be lost in the sea, but not a loss,
current’s fickle gesticulations have proved.
A sure journey through sea and rock and sand
fracturing original purpose, yet
carving new treasures to be plucked on land
a pearl or jewel for an abstract set.
Fodder for shoreline’s flotsam and jetsam
to be scattered in the chaste, coastal breast
collected, coveted, set and then some
transformed, transcendent, naturalized, best.
The vessels may have come from near or far
to be polished gems in my sea glass jar.
A Sonnet for Coffee
Vanilla Cappuccino: daily drink.
Without its waking, warming mellow charm
I’d be irritable and tired I think
A drowsy morning causing undue harm
The aroma is vital, inviting
to help enhance each Promethean quaff
the first sip, life-giving and exciting
my rapturous face may yet make you laugh
But mere invigoration does not make
this nectar’s prominence in daily life
the ritual does surely help to make
alleviation of dour morning’s strife
Delicious flavor or modest routine
I can’t live without my morning caffeine.
Whether to run and jump or finger paint
Legos, dolls, crayons or a tea party
Maybe ride the Big Wheel until you faint
Living in the moment, full and hearty.
A snack, a drink, some lunch and then a nap
Soon to be followed by more reverie
Daily discovery without a map
Just being only what you want to be
And then at bedtime we will read a book
To cap the evening time supper and bath
As I tuck you in, the angelic look
Preceding the nightly tickle and laugh
Oh there is nothing on earth more alive
Than a fine daughter at the age of five
A Sonnet for my Knee
Fractured lateral tibial plateau
and I am walking on crutches again.
Free movement is something I will not know
for months as I agonize through the pain
Walking freely ought to be presupposed
not fettered by two extra wooden limbs
Limited movement asks the question, posed:
What makes us succumb to our body’s whims?
Three months by this injury imprisoned
might make one develop fey qualities
the future natural gait envisioned
keeps me from slipping into insanity
And come the springtime I will surely see
the regained favor of a healthy knee
Wildcard Weekend Sonnet
City State gridiron warrior game
Two days of contests to win or go home
While my wife thinks watching it all is lame
Not far from the HDTV I’ll roam
I will cheer for my home town favorite
And for players and plays that will excite
I will hope to win cash, a little bit
If my pool predictions may come out right
But once it is all over, win or lose
On to next weekend’s contests I will look
And winners and losers I’ll try to chose
For increasing the value of my book.
Some proclaim the long, torrid road to hell
Is paved with bettors on the NFL
The Task at Hand
A sonnet a day I said I would write
A monumental , laborious task
A constant goal and dare within my sight
A potent force of will is all I ask
An entry to realms of literati
An endeavor to procure minor fame
An invitation to poets’ parties
An amusing poetic parlor game
But all these things, if they be true or not
The satisfaction of a thing well done
May be all there is hoped for to be got
Heck, at least the exercise can be fun
Finding inspiration around the clock
Is the sure prevention of writer’s block
Sonnet for the Hot Dog Truck
Ancient Grumman wagon, body by Ford
My home away from home, my famous truck
Quality of my wares, I give my word
The best hot dogs are no matter of luck
It is the care of the preparation
The deft and mindful grilling of the bun
That makes them famous throughout the nation
And makes going to work a lot of fun
But now the truck is gone to be run by
Another hotdogman, I hope he’ll make
His hot dogs as lovingly as did I
So he’ll be a true dogman, not a fake
Once a Hotdogman, you always are, see
We are a small and proud fraternity!
I wish I’d lived in the nineteen fifties
When the world, like TV, was black and white
I’d bask in my supposed clemencies
And I’d always be sure that I was right
I would have me a wife like Donna Reed
She would bring me my slippers and my pipe
and a cold martini: It’s all I’d need
With my hat and my suit, I’d never gripe
But what we think about those simple days
Not necessarily reality
They have faded into nostalgic haze
serious imagined frivolity
Twenty first century: I can’t leave her
Because life aint like “Leave it to Beaver.”
I have always liked the word “endeavor”
It’s something everyone should always strive
It’s just like “try,” it just sounds better
A word that will make you feel more alive
Attempt, assay or give it a try
take a dare, venture, even undertake
all these are words, but please don’t ask why
when you pick up the gauntlet still sound fake
But do not strive for anything in vain
If you find you are not up to the task
to struggle and fail may cause undue pain
An effort, a gamble is all I ask
Make the word “endeavor” your fickle friend
And if you don’t succeed, try, try again
Iambic pentameter, my dear, is
only seven syllables. Timeless plays
and dialouge which could only be his
lived then and future past and present days
Whether speech or to stand upon its own
to further the tale or bewitch a maid
or pay tribute to the plot that’s been shown
what there is to say’s already been said.
But what is a form, mere formality
or some thing more conceptually thought
if thinking thoughts had thought mortality
or still perhaps more form than thought had brought
So playing games with words and form shall be
a punt to present when thoughts come to me
A Sonnet on Sleeping Late
When I’m lying in my unconscious bliss
Prone and prone to continue in that state
wondering of morning wonders I miss
not caring of weekend tasks being late
The sensory indulgence of a dream
leave waking a less opportune ideal
though greeting the morning it would seem
would serve to make the fantasy less real
Some think to slumber the morning away
is a lackadaisical enterprise
to withdraw from the offset of the day
argues neglected hours should make one rise
To the soul that weekdays rise at five
my Saturday slumber keeps me alive
A Sonnet for my Dog
Eighty pounds of fur and teeth and fury
once a minuscule soft brown teddy bear
your new family passed shelter’s jury
and we took you, precious pup, home from there
Once home, you became the family pet
and shared showered affections from us all
and you grew up with us, like a child, yet
still being the little girl to us all
A dog’s more than a subordinate beast
or mute fixture in the family home
She’s a brother, sister, best friend at least
devoted companion who likes to roam
So Bailey girl, this one is just for you
My constant, stalwart, canine Enkidu
Martin Luther King
He is known for saying “I have a dream,”
his courage and conviction were his tools
What he fought for was common sense, t’would seem
common sense did not execute the rules
And in dreaming millions shared his vision
and fought and walked and died to help proclaim
the simple truth, met with much derision:
maybe everyone’s dreams are all the same
the sheer logic of this argument
was not understood quite the same by all
the notion of a dream that’s permanent
was feared by fearful folk who brought his fall
But having dreams is a powerful thing
so said the Doctor Martin Luther King
Election Day Sonnet
include the inducted right of suffrage
amongst many civil abilities
votes must be cast without any umbrage
Representation is the very core
of representative democracy
and if we want our just franchise and more
voting should be everyone’s policy
But many folk will choose to stay at home
on this significant election day
for often it’s hypocrisy to roam
amid the glad hand political fray
Politics is sanctimonious, sure
not ripe to stray from voting’s sacred lure
This is the first line of my next sonnet
This is the first line of my next sonnet
quickly followed by the second line
the third line has those two stacked upon it
the fourth one, last in the quatrain, is fine
In the fifth line we continue the thought
and with the sixth go on supporting it
by the seventh line the sonnet ought
to let the eighth wrap up the gist of it
But the ninth line begins to contradict
the tenth continues contrary ideas
line eleven nears the end of the script
of line twelve’s concluding panaceas
By line thirteen it is finally time
for fourteen to be the sonnet’s punchline