Monday, 22 November 2010

I Did It! I Wrote a Sonnet!

Some of you know that I have very recently started to attend a Creative Writing class. Last week's homework was to write a sonnet. A proper, Shakespearean sonnet.' 4-4-4-2'. abab, cdcd, efef, gg.

So,  "Go away and write a sonnet", she said.

She gave us exactly twenty minutes' worth of explanation, a few pointers where to find examples and one of her own, which she admitted, was not perfect.  One line was not a perfect pentameter!

I ask you! How could she!

Ever since I left class last week I have been in a tremendous tizzy. Firstly, I lacked an idea. Write a sonnet about what? Love, a philosophical question,  a special object ? You have to start with an idea for a subject, otherwise you're stuck from the off.

I tried roses, love and philosophy not growing so well on my compost. I got as far as a first line for the first quatrain.  Then I tried out various techniques, like a whole lot of words that rhyme with roses or rosebushes, petal, scent and blushing brides, mildew, mulch and manure.

No mileage in that. I can grow roses, but not their poetic equivalent.

I read reams of sonnets. The more I read the more I knew I could never write one.

I asked Jinksy for help - you know the annoying blogger whose blog is riddled with poems, all her own. She sent me one of hers, a perfect example of the art, telling me how easy it is. I can tell you I was sorely tempted to pinch it and pass it off as my own. 

I could always feign illness and miss the class, hoping that teacher would have moved on to a nice, easy, short story, or maybe the definitive novel of the 21st century by the next lesson. I might have stood a chance with them.

It was that clever blighter, good old Stephen Fry, national treasure and avuncular polymath, and The Ode Less Travelled, who unlocked the poet within and helped me to give birth to my very own first sonnet. I imagined his fruity tones reading the chapter on sonnets and setting me an exercise, very kindly supplying the subject too. Apathy.

And would you believe, it worked. It is a dreadfully bad sonnet, a lot of rubbish, actually, (no, you do not get to say it isn't), but although it is definitely rubbish, it is rubbish in sonnet form. 

To choose our rulers we have won the right,

To stand up and be counted, one by one,

To fight against oppression with our might,

And brothers all, we did what must be done.

In modern times, the voters do not care

To vote, electoral apathy wins,

We moan and rail against our rulers’ fare

But we do not use the polls, for our sins.

I too am one of those who do not use

The polls, my right was taken from me when

I chose to live among an alien muse,

Her law being mightier than my pen.

But what’s the point, why should we vote, (for shame!)

Nothing would change, rulers are all the same.


  1. friko - i think it's brave to ascribe your thoughts to rules and to try and squeeze your creativity through the tube of their restriction. astonishingly i think you've achieved - success!!! steven

  2. Congratulations--I'd say this is pretty darn good for a first try-out. I'm looking forward to reading more!

  3. steven
    Raining Acorns

    I told you not to praise this rubbish! It's embarrassing.
    All I managed to do is get the strict form right, iambic pentameters and 14 lines with the rhymes in the right place.

  4. 'I chose to live among an alien muse...'I like that as one attempts to balance civic responsibilities.

  5. Since I know little to nothing about poetry, I can't offer anything by my own truth. I like it and I'm glad you got it figured out.

  6. Friko, I remember learning to write sonnets, and I wrote reams of them when I was young. It was all so easy then. Now my long-past-middle-aged brain struggles to churn out a coherent sentence, never mind a poem.
    Good for you.
    I also love the "alien muse" part, and I can assure you "electoral apathy" exists everywhere. It's a topic only too seldom rendered in sonnet form. We could do with more of those.
    Shakespeare only called it as he saw it, and that's what you have done. I'm proud of you for trying, instead of pretending to be sick. When you reach the Great Novel part, I'm sure you'll excel. You can put lots of mildew, mulch, manure and roses into a novel. :)
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  7. Okay, I'll be good. I won't tell you that I think you are one brave and talented women for producing a sonnet. I won't applaud your topic or wonder about your alien muse, and I certainly will not tell you it isn't rubbish. There.

  8. Congratulations on your completed sonnet, Friko. It's a bold move for which you should give yourself credit. I look forward to reading more. Just write in the way that you are inspired to write by your alien muse.

  9. Giggling over the concept of Apathy being a good subject for a sonnet.
    Also, I'm impressed! I've tried to write them before and they are difficult.

  10. I went to school now and again between the ages of 7 and 11 where I bearly learnt to read. I couldn't even tell you what a verb is, so if you say it's a sonnet I believe you.

  11. I never was good at following instructions . . .

  12. i think you did a fabulous job with your first sonnet....clap clap clap...

  13. Well done! With a lovely twist in the final couplet!

  14. I admire you for manipulating words to form a sonnet. I won't tell you it's perfect but I will tell you that I admire your gumption!
    And the theme of your sonnet is echoed throughout the democratic world. Sadly.

  15. Fabulous job for a first try... speaks well of what us voters do and not!

    Strange timing, I commented earlier on another blog, I had been looking up sonnets - both Italian and English to learn more about them, because I was thinking of trying a go at one... The blog I ran across was basically a year of sonnets. (If I remember, can find it again, I'll share it with you. I think I could not follow for some reason.) Have always liked the 'Old English styles' and thought it would be a challenge to try my hand at one.

  16. I have marked my X against this. It certainly wins a vote from me. Bravo!

  17. I liked your sonnet, which made me laugh, but not as much as I enjoyed reading about your struggle. But then again, the struggle is all the fun of writing, isn't it?

  18. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.
    - John Updike
    Enjoyed reading your post and admired your first sonnet.
    Thank you for stopping by.
    Wünsche Dir eine gesegnete Adventszeit,

  19. How does it not succeed? At all? I disagree with you. It offers what many sweet poems over the centuries have done, which is to present a topic in form that goes down a little more easily because it's in that form. I think your sonnet works, in the sense that the end is a revelation, at the very least! You gave us your disclaimer, and while you wish to control our responses, I will not be controlled by you, I say! I like it.

    Perhaps one day you will write another sonnet that you feel is good, and I look forward to that. But as an exercise in learning the form, this works, and I smiled at the end. Isn't that worth something?

  20. Congratulations on completing (for me at least) an impossible task.

    And you choose a topic very close to my heart; although I agree voter apathy is everywhere, and the leaders names may change but essentially they don't - I do always vote and get cross if my team loses!

  21. I do not fancy myself a writer and if I did, poetry of any kind would be at the bottom of the list of forms to try. So bravo.

  22. Congratulations. Politics and poetry are indeed strange bedfellows.

  23. You can even wax lyrical about politics !
    Well done !!

  24. Yay! A sonnet! I love Stephen Fry's book about how to write poetry - he just manages to communicate how while still sounding like he's chatting away. Hope you enjoy the creative writing course. I used to run one. I could tell some stories about that ...

  25. Well, I for one could never write a sonnet so can certainly not be a critic and besides, the last two lines in your sonnet ring so true, that is what I will take away and remember!

  26. I'm glad you made it through the agony of writing this sonnet for your class. Arghhh, The pressure! I liked it!

  27. Even though rooted back in history, this piece of yours brings life as it is nowadays into light - deeply impressed a bow from me and a wish for a good Wednesday as well.

    daily athens

  28. At my age I would be too cranky and
    egocentric to take a creative writing
    class from some youngster, letting
    them have the power to red pencil
    things because it was not written
    as they would have done, if they

    So I clap with one hand for the
    grit you have, and the interest
    to take Poetry seriously; but gosh,
    some of us are poets in spite of
    rules, forms, mandates, and
    red pencils, and are damned proud
    of it.

    But as to the iambic pentameter,
    and your first sonnet, I have to
    say that there is all Friko fire
    and no insipid weepy lines
    and romantic notions, and
    I dig your message, and feel
    the same way. You are brave
    as well as talented, and always
    remember: One person's rubbish
    is the breath of life to someone

  29. By gum, you did it! Listen here, I don't consider it nearly as bad as you seem to think. In fact, I'm tremendously impressed by the form and the subject. I'd be willing to bet that Mr. S. himself never ever wrote a sonnet about voting. But Friko did!!!!!!

    Well done, clever friend.

  30. Not bad at all, Friko. And what a GREAT last line! Well done.

  31. I was warned not to say I liked it-----but I DO!!!! This should be must reading prior to all elections. Congratulations on a sonnet well done.

  32. You deal with an alien muse better than most natives do

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral



  33. Friko, I could not possibly write a sonnet, and send you compliments on taking up your teacher's challenge...and succeeding.

    I very much like your topic. Funny, but when I read the topic, it did not occur to me that you were going to write about elections. I was thinking other other expressions of apathy, if there could be such a thing as that.


  34. you seem to be the human version of the Energizer bunny - nothing stops you. (Do you know who that is?)
    Very sorry for your fall, but thank goodness nothing worse was broken. Your coccyx, for instance. Now that might have stopped you blogging....

  35. Your sonnet sounds pretty darn good to me – I would never try to create one – that would be way over my hear - I like your subject matter.


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