Note Number… 75…Help! — I’ve Got Sonnetitis…


Shakespeare…(in case you didn’t know)

I’ve just finished my first term at Exeter University, studying for an MA in Creative Writing. It’s been brilliant. Last week I had to submit my first assignment —  250 lines of poetry and a supporting self-reflexive essay…and before you say anything the word is ‘self-reflexive’ a subtle difference from ‘self-reflective’.  The latter meaning looking back on what you have learnt and how it has shaped your work; the former meaning, how your learning will influence your future work, i.e. how you will go forward. Not sure I actually followed the premise exactly, but I gave it a go. (I did a bit of reflecting and reflexing I think…it was hard to avoid).

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But, to get to the title of this blog. One of the last taught seminars of the term for the poetry module, was all about sonnets. It was an eye-opener for me I can assure you. I had always tried to stick rigidly to the rules of a sonnet. That is to say, fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and the Shakesperean or Petrachen style (or other if you’re so inclined). If you want to know more about these look here. Sonnet. There are many other sources on the Internet if you want to read more, but I’ve just given you a Wikipedia link.

The thing is…the modern sonnet has opened up a much looser interpretation. In the seminar, we were told to experiment with the form, to the point that, as long as there are fourteen lines in the poem it was pretty much a sonnet. The rhyming dosen’t matter so much, you can be lax with the ten-syllable rule etc., Well, you can imagine, this opened up a whole new world of poetry writing for me — a whole new world of writing in fact, because once I started on the sonnet, I couldn’t stop. Now EVERYTHING I write comes out as a sonnet — even flash fiction! It won’t last though. Next term I’m taking two prose writing modules so that should soon cure the Sonnetitis.

I thought, I would share one of my sonnets with you here, it’s from a selection I’ve written about Cornish holidays in the 1950s. Enjoy.

Rock Pooling

Tee-shirt and shorts, old sandals bite my toes

Bucket in one hand, net in the other

I challenge rocky boulders in the cove

excited to see what I’ll discover.

Pools of water sit like tiny mountain lakes

I hunker down beside one, examine

what hides inside the miniature world,

weeds, empty shells and a broken toy.

I move cat-like, searching for an hour,


enthusiasm waning, I spy a lurking crab

I slip, stumble over the belligerent rocks,

and lurch to seize a skeletal leg.

Balance lost, I fall and graze my knee

but watch, content, as the crab scuttles free


Rock Pool