Friday, April 11, 2008

A Corona of Sonnets - a Poetry Friday post for National Poetry Month

What could be better than a sonnet? A corona of sonnets, of course. A corona (or crown) of sonnets is a cycle of seven sonnets that are interlocked by theme. The last line of the first sonnet becomes the first line of the second, the last line of the second becomes the first line of the third, and so on, with one caveat: the last line of the seventh and final sonnet must be the same as the first line of the first sonnet. In that way, it circles back to the beginning and in some instances, results in the ability to begin with any one sonnet in the crown and work your way back around.

Creating a crown of sonnets is an ambitious task for a poet. Creating a crown with six other poets is more daunting still, for you have no control over what comes before you, and you have to try to keep to the theme. Also, you have to take the last line of the sonnet before yours and adapt it to work with whatever it is you set out to write. And since we’re talking about sonnets here, which rely on specific patterns of endrhyme, the line you take from the sonnet before you necessarily dictates a portion of your rhyme. You’ll need at least one more line ending in that same sound, and maybe three more (if using the Petrarchan form that starts ABBAABBA instead of ABBACDDC).

Late last fall, the lovely and talented Liz Scanlon asked me and a handful of other blogger-poets if we’d like to participate in a group writing project, creating a crown of sonnets for teens. Some of the other poets had written sonnets before; others specialize in free verse and haiku. This made for a fairly daunting task for everyone involved. Liz took the seven names and conducted an allegedly random drawing for position within the crown, and I was the last to be chosen. Under the rules of a crown of sonnets, therefore, I was bound to use the last line from sonnet 6 as my first line, and the first line of the first sonnet as my last line. It also meant that at least one other line had to rhyme with both of those lines (at least one after the first line to rhyme with it, and at least one before the last to rhyme with it).

As luck would have it, I inherited a first line in first person, and a last line in second person. What was a girl to do? I decided to take my speaker and have them address someone later on (in thought, if not in deed). Without further ado, here is the sonnet I wrote as the final one in the crown:

Through open window, past a well-scarred sill,
on gritty shingles sheltered under eaves,
I take in cool night air; my anger leaves
with every ragged breath that I exhale.
Your words, a thousand stinging papercuts,
lose power underneath the watching stars.
I see your reigning planet, red-light Mars,
horizon-bound and fixed. Your self-made ruts
preclude adventure or a change of course.
Is this the future that you want for me?
A mediocre life filled with travail,
a boxed-in life of sameness and remorse?
I choose to free myself of your debris:
I’m not afraid to leave you in my trail.

cloudscome, one of my fellow sonneteers is hosting Poetry Friday doings today. She wrote sonnet #6, immediately prior to mine, and set me up marvelously with an angry teen and a window sill. To start at the very beginning (it's a very fine place to start), check out Sara Lewis Holmes's sonnet, the one that started the ball rolling. Better still, to get the full flavor of the corona and how it all looks in one place, pop over to see Liz Garton, the woman who started it all. cloudscome has links to the other poetry princesses with whom I was privileged to collaborate.

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