Ruminations from the Arizona Room is a series by Dr. Elizabeth Oakes, a former Shakespeare professor, a spiritual writer, and an award winning poet. A Sedonian of four years, she will share the thoughts that arise as she sits in the literal Arizona room in her home as well as the metaphorical “Arizona room” that is Sedona.
By Elizabeth Oakes
(October 16, 2017)
Anyone can write a sonnet! Shakespeare wrote 154, which would have made him one of literature’s greats if he had never written a play. You can do what he did: explore your life, as the form itself seems to unlock emotions.
The sonnet has a set rhyme scheme, but those rhymes will carry you along. There are 14 lines, with lines 1 and 3 rhyming, 2 and 4 rhyming, then lines 5 and 7 and 6 and 8 rhyming, then 9 and 11 and 10 and 12. Then the last two lines rhyme. Here are the words that end the 14 lines of “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”:
Without thinking about what the whole line will be, put a word that relates to an issue or concern in your life at the end of your first line, then a rhyming one in line 3, then line 2 and a word that rhymes with it in line 4, all the way down to the last two lines, which rhyme with each other.
Then write the whole line, aiming for ten syllables per line, which will often turn out to be iambic pentameter without your trying. Just write the words as they come to you. You’ve heard iambic pentameter all your life; it’s the sound of your heartbeat.
Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets comprise his autobiography. In them, he details his love for a “dark lady,” his jealousy of a rival playwright, his attraction to a younger, aristocratic man, his experience of aging, his relationship to the divine – just about everything, actually.
You could write your own series. Pretend you’re using a feather quill pen instead of a computer!
If you feel so inclined, please share your sonnet in the Comments section below.