Week Sixteen: The Haiku Sonnet

Introduction

A unique experimental form born of the mashup of eastern and western poetic traditions, the Haiku Sonnet combines the syllable count and three-line stanzaic structure of the English Haiku with the fourteen-line structure of the sonnet. I first learned of the form –and many of the forms collected for this challenge– from David Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest, but the form appears to be an invention of Chicago poet David Marshall.

David Marshall on the Haiku Sonnet

Conceptually, it’s an attempt to wed two like and unlike forms. To me, the sonnet seems the quintessential western poetic form, defined by the order and rationality of its problem-resolution organization. Depending how you see it, the haiku might be just as organized—haiku certainly have strong rules and conventions. Because haiku can rely, just as a sonnet does, on a sort of reversal—a “volta” in sonnets, a “kireji” in haiku—they may be distant cousins. However, haiku are eastern, and, where sonnets are rational, haiku are resonant. Where sonnets solve—or attempt to solve—haiku observe.

David Marshall – Haiku Sonnets

A Haiku Sonnet by David Marshall

Remembering

I remember winter
now that it’s here—the next word
in a song, a plea

for love you forget
until a character speaks.
Now I remember—

outside this window,
one leaf clung all winter. Wind
set it fluttering

like a hummingbird.
Its sociable flicker was
like life. One day

it flew away, and I thought—
it wouldn’t ever come back.

Requirements of the Form

Structure

– Four three-line stanzas (tercets) followed by two-line stanza (couplet) for a total of fourteen lines

Content

– Written in the present tense
– Syntax may be incomplete to maximize power of brevity
– Refers to time of day or season
– Focuses on a natural image
– ‘Show, don’t tell’ approach
– May contain a ‘volta’ or turn of thought
– Captures essence of a moment
– Aims at sudden insight, spiritual illumination

Syllable Count

– Begins with a sequence of four tercets with a syllable count of 5-7-5
– Ends with a couplet with a syllable count of either 5 or 7 syllables per line

Meter

– No meter

Rhyme

– Unrhymed

Requirements Breakdown

[Line 1] 5 Syllables
[Line 2] 7 Syllables
[Line 3] 5 Syllables

(repeat for lines 4 – 12)

[Line 13] 5 or 7 Syllables
[Line 14] 5 or 7 Syllables

An Original Haiku Sonnet

Among Cottonwoods

The autumn wind blows–
the storms of summer did not
drown the cottonwood.

From the hollow trunk,
monarchs fly away from death
and the coming frost.

They will return when
the soft white snowdrifts of seeds
burst forth in April.

The artist seated
at the roots will have to wait
to carve the soft wood.

Among cottonwoods,
the soul climbs and reaches out.

Links to Online Resources

Haiku Sonnets – David Marshall
Haiku Sonnet – Writer’s Digest

Week Five: The Miltonic Sonnet

John Milton (1608-1674)

The Miltonic Sonnet is named after the 17th century English poet, political writer, and civil servant, John Milton. With the publishing of his epic poem Paradise Lost, widely regarded as one of the greatest works written in the English language, Milton solidified his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time. Milton’s work would live on to influence Romantic poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth.

Photo caption: A wood engraving from the 19th century depicts a blind John Milton dictating his influential epic poem “Paradise Lost” (Fortuné Louis Méaulle / Wellcome Library) 

Milton’s Sonnet

Milton adapted the Petrachan sonnet (named for Italian poet-scholar Petrach) and made the popular form his own. He took the sonnet out of the category of “love poems” and brought it into the world of politics, religion, and social issues. He also introduced enjambments (the technical term used for when a poet carries a line through to the next line), while at the same time removing the space between what was before the first and second stanzas, thus tightening up the form. By removing the volta (also known as a pivot, or turn) after the octave (first eight lines), and varying the rhyme scheme of the sestet (proceeding six lines), he further opened up the form.

A reading of one of Milton’s most famous poems should help demonstrate these contributions to the evolution of the sonnet:

“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”

When 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
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest He returning chide;
    “Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
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
    Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Requirements of the Form

Form

– Fourteen lines
– No spaces between ‘stanzas’
– Lines contain enjambment (see above for brief definition)

Content

– Occasional, political, and religious subjects
– Unlike other sonnets, does not have a distinct volta (also known as a pivot) after the eighth line

Meter

– Iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line, unstressed-stressed pattern).

Rhyme

– First eight lines (octave): abbaabba
– Preceding six lines (sestet): often cdecde, but variable

An Original Miltonic Sonnet

The viral imagine haunted every screen–
A photograph too horrid to ignore:
A pair of bloated bodies on the shore.
In Congress followed yet another scene
Of bickering and washing white-hands clean.
No older than The Virgin when she bore
The Savior that they claim to so adore,
The budding mother wonders what they mean.
As children hungry, dirty, sick and scared
Are torn away and locked in concrete halls
Lay weak with worry, overwhelmed with fear,
The value of their lives is weighed and tared;
As Washington debates the costs of walls,
Who dares to speak of Christ’s compassion here?

Notes on My Original Sonnet

I challenged myself to write a sonnet that was true to the Miltonic themes of politics, religion, and current events, and found in the issue of immigration a combination of all three. The line “children hungry, dirty, sick and scared” was taken from this BBC News article and served as the fulcrum of this poem.

Online Resources


Sonnet Examples – Poetry Through the Ages
Miltonic Sonnet – Poet’s Collective
Miltonic Sonnet – Poetry Magnum Opus
John Milton – Wikipedia