My poetry workshop homework this week was to write a Shakespearean sonnet.
It went nowhere fast until I decided to start my sonnet with the last line of one of Shakespeare’s very own: Sonnet X
For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,
Who for thy self art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lov’st is most evident:
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,
That ‘gainst thy self thou stick’st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.
A Shakespearean sonnet is 14 lines composed in 3 quartets and a finishing couplet. The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg, and the volta, or turn – where the poem changes – is at line 9. Lines are 10 syllables long and use iambic pentameter: there are five “iambs” of two syllables each in every line where the first syllable is stressed and the second unstressed. There are plenty of tricks to keep it from getting sing-songy, and in modern usage, fudging is often allowed.
Once I had my first line, it flowed fairly quickly:
That beauty still may live in thine or thee,
black wiry hair on your lip be plucked clean,
brush brows with glue to frame your face’s marquee,
pinken your cheeks, develop a routine:
read magazines, scrub skin, detoxify,
steam your vagina, eliminate smell
from pits and valleys, shave higher than thigh
exfoliate! rehydrate! learn your spells
and subvert them. Wear blue eyeshade, or not.
Grow a goatee on that whiskery chin,
wear short shorts and heels with nary a thought
to stubble on ankle, calf, knee, or shin.
Beauty’s what you make it, it’s yours alone
to break it, shake it, and make it your own.