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Have been thinking about set poetic forms- sonnets, villanelles,… - Off the Cliff

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Sat Sep 20th, 2014

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12:20 pm
Have been thinking about set poetic forms- sonnets, villanelles, rondeaus, sestinas, even ghazals- which all seem to have originated in other languages that all seem to have more possible rhyme words than English. Someone on the FLL talking about sestinas, says
One issue I had with it, however, was that in a conventional sestina, it's pretty obvious from the start what one is doing; the form is like scaffolding left up on a building and to my eye, dominates the subject matter too much.
That seems to apply to everything but the sonnet. (And the sonnet uses a rhyme scheme that English can handle, because it's not too far from the ballad abab that gave us our notions of what rhymed verse can do.) There's one villanelle- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night- and one rondeau- In Flanders Fields- where the form is organic to the meaning. All the others- yes, the scaffolding shows.

Then again, maybe the sonnet exception is because some brilliant poets used it. There are innumerable lacklustre sonnets from the 16th century onwards, and if that was all I'd read, maybe I'd think the sonnet wasn't suited to English either.

(2 comments | post comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 20th, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
I think it is the brilliant poet thing, as there are a couple of poems by Marilyn Hacker that I was familiar with for years before noticing that they are sestinas. Not something I would have thought possible, but there we are.
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2014 01:36 pm (UTC)
I think it's the length of the sestina that gives it away- length of body and length of lines. Also, as a subvocalizer, I'm very much aware when words are repeated.

There's probably a reason why brilliant poets in English didn't/ don't write sestinas and villanelles but do go for sonnets.

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