Introduction to Poetry Billy Collins I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
Sonnets • Form of a poem, originated in Europe, mainly Italy • “Sonnet” derives from the Occitan (romance language spoken in southern France) term sonetand the Italian word sonetto, both meaning “little song” or “little sound” • Typically contains 14 lines • Follows specific rhyme scheme and structure, depending upon the type • Presents a problem with a resolution • English (Shakespearian), Italian (Petrarchan)
Italian (Petrarchan) • Named after fourteenth century poet Petrarch • Typically refers to “unattainable love” • Depict the fantasized as a model of perfection • Two parts that form an “argument” • First, octave (two quatrains) forms the “proposition” or the “problem” • Followed by a sestet which proposes a resolution • Typically the 9th line contains the “turn” or “volta” which signals the move from problem to resolution • “Volta” is often signaled by the tone, mood, or stance of the poem • Rhyme scheme: A B B A, A B B A (octave) • Sestet is often different: c d e c d e, c d c d c d, c d d c d d, c d d e c e, c d d c c d
Example of Petrarchan Sonnet • On His BlindnessWhen I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one Talent which is death to hide, Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, least he returning chide, Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd, I fondly ask; But patience to prevent That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need Either man's work or his own gifts, who best Bar his mildeyoak, they serve him best, his State Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed And post o're Land and Ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and waite. ---- John Milton Rhyme scheme?
English (Shakespearian) • Shakespeare wrote 154 • 14 lines • 10 syllables per line • 3 quatrains of alternating rhyme and a couplet • Rhyme scheme: A B A B C D C D E F E F G G • 3 quatrains introduce the problem • Couplet = resolution • Iambic pentameter: • Pentameter = 5 beats in a line • Iambic = unstressed, stressed • When I do count the clock that tells the time
Example of Shakespearean Sonnet • Sonnet 18 • Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?Thou art more lovely and more temperate:Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,And summer's lease hath all too short a date:Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,And often is his gold complexion dimmed,And every fair from fair sometime declines,By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:But thy eternal summer shall not fade,Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st, So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Sonnet Dante Alighieri Ye ladies, walking past me piteous-eyed, Who is the lady that lies prostrate here? Can this be even she my heart holds dear? Nay, if it be so, speak, and nothing hide. Her very aspect seems itself beside, And all her features of such altered cheer That to my thinking they do not appear Hers who makes others seem beatified. ‘If thou forget to know our lady thus, Whom grief o'ercomes, we wonder in no wise, For also the same thing befalleth us, Yet if thou watch the movement of her eyes, Of her thou shalt be straightaway conscious. O weep no more; thou art all wan with sighs.