Three Unruly Sonnets

The Shakespearean Sonnet

A sonnet's length is plainly specified,
And, as you'll see, is strictly fourteen-line -
A measured strength that few dare undecide
For that would quite pervert the thing's design,
Which none should ever seek to undermine
However hard they twist its basic plot
Or pattern of its noble rhyming-scheme,
For fear they somehow tamper, like as not,
With Love, the sonnet's most recurrent theme.
A pair of quatrains over: now, with luck,
A scrupulous, iambic set of six
Pentameters will wrap it up (Oh fuck,
Here's line 13 already: such a fix
A sonneteer must often struggle with).
The very last line waits to take the pith.

The Petrarchan Sonnet

Still, there are other sonnets to be paged -
And those who swear by this (Petrarchan) plan,
Which, though it is no different to scan,
And of a common length, is subtly staged
In two distinctive movements which are gauged
At first to raise, to ruffle, rattle, fan
The simple passions of the common man
Until, the foolish fellow quite enraged,
It tries instead to make him feel assuaged.
Now, soothingly, the sonnet changes gear:
The octave over, its alternate rhyme
Is altered, and a sestet - grave, austere -
Resolves the anxious mood (Oh shit a brick,
Another gremlin's stitched me up this time!)
Petrarchan sonnets have no final kick.

The Unrhymed Sonnet

A sonnet some complain is out of court
Refuses to observe the rhyming rule,
Its dissonance designed, perhaps, to cause
Disquiet in the gut. A jilted heart
May be a proper topic. Whether you'll
Persuade yourself that such an effort ought
To be considered kosher, given status,
Depends on taste. A sonnet has its laws,
As England has. Some feel the sonnet's art
Is sacrosanct, that, frankly, one is deaf
If proud to be irregular, a fool
Eschews the rhyme (Oh damn and double-blast,
A furtive scheme's emerged; its apparatus
abcdbaecdf
bgefgd
came sneaking past!)
And here is line 16. That makes me smart!

From the book Send-Up