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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sonnet for Minimalists

(White Peony, 1950, woodblock print by
Kawarazaki Shodo, 1899-1973, Japanese

By the twentieth century, poets felt free to experiment with the rules governing the different kinds of sonnets in English.

This sonnet follows the Shakespearean form of three quatrains of
abab, cdcd, and efef rhyme, with a concluding couplet of gg rhyme. But its meter goes its own way, completely avoiding the traditional iambic pentameter of five feet, or ten syllables, of short/long or stressed/unstressed meters per line.


From a new peony,
my last anthem,
a squirrel in glee
broke the budded stem.
I thought, Where is joy
without fresh bloom,
that old hearts’ ploy
to mask the tomb?

Then a volunteer
stalk sprung from sour
bird-drop this year
burst in frantic flower.

The world’s perverse,
but it could be worse.

~ Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004), American poet, appointed poet laureate 1992-1993

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