Here’s today’s NaPoWriMo prompt – and oh, it’s a sonnet!

Today, I challenge you to write a sonnet. Traditionally, sonnets are 14-line poems, with ten syllables per line, written in iambs (i.e., with a meter in which an unstressed syllable is followed by one stressed syllable, and so on). There are several traditional rhyme schemes, including the Petrarchan, Spenserian, and Shakespearean sonnets. But beyond the strictures of form, sonnets usually pose a question of a sort, explore the ideas raised by the question, and then come to a conclusion. In a way, they are essays written in verse! This means you can write a “sonnet” that doesn’t have meet all of the traditional formal elements, but still functions as a mini-essay of a sort. The main point is to keep your poem tight, not rangy, and to use the shorter confines of the form to fuel the poem’s energy. As Wordsworth put it, in a very formal sonnet indeed, “Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room.”

That’s a lot to achieve in a day, especially a Saturday, so I’ve gone back and dabbled with one I tried earlier this year, iambic pentameter/Shakespearean. It probably needs more tweaking – but here’s today’s version.


A ship in harbour, cradled, creaking, warm,
its ropes secured to twisted wooden staves –
we shelter from the darkening winter storm
and rock upon the whispering, slumbering waves.
A candle’s glow lights up the cabin walls
and flickers in the circle of our love;
as we link hands the evening shadow falls
and seagulls cry in rigging high above.
They cry that this is not their way to live,
that trackless ocean waits to show us more,
that danger, joy and sorrow it will give
when we set sail for distant, unknown shore.
The harbour gate yawns wide as we slip free
to seek adventure on the open sea.