Sonnet Sequences – Part One

Vast herds of sonnets roam over the plains of literature. Where are they migrating to? Will the weakest be picked off by predators? One amongst them may be the pride of the herd. And what bonds them together? This month, I would like to touch upon the different types of sonnet sequences.

Although I’ve tried to write double sonnets and even triples, I find I usually do not want to invest that much time on one subject or theme sufficiently to invest in writing more than that. I often want to get on to the next idea or follow some new inspiration. But for you, this may be just the inspiration you need.

So, let’s look at the different ways of grouping sonnets together.

DEFINITIONS

Multiples of sonnets are specialisations of a sequence of poems. A sequence is any number of poems organised in some ordered way. This may form the basis of a collection or pamphlet. For example, “The World’s Wife” by Carol Ann Duffy.

Many sequences of sonnets have dealt with themes of loss or love. They can focus on a time, place or a journey. Sequences also offer the opportunity for an extended narrative. Here are some of the different types of multiple sonnets:

  • Double Sonnet – Two sonnets coupled by a theme. May be used to illustrate multiple viewpoints of the same argument or multiple stages in one event. There is an example of one at: Hinged Double Sonnet for the Luna Moths by Sean… | Poetry Foundation
  • Triple Sonnet or Triptych – allows increased levels of meaning or argument beyond dichotomy or dilemma. May be used to illustrate multiple viewpoints of the same argument. An example of a triple sonnet is at: Triple Sonnet for Discord Statuses – The Poetry Society: Poems
  • Crown or Corona of Sonnets – A sequence of typically seven sonnets where the last line of a sonnet is used as the first line of the next. The final sonnet ends with the opening line of the first.
  • Sonnet of Sonnets – A sequence of fourteen sonnets.
  • Sonnet Redoublé or Heroic Crown – One line from each of fourteen sonnets forms the first or final master sonnet of the sequence of fifteen. There are several examples at: Heroic Crown of Sonnets – Every Sonnet (poetscollective.org)
  • Sonnet Sequence – Any number of sonnets organised in some ordered way. This may form the basis of a collection, for example, “Sonnets from the Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning chronicling a love story.

As well as multiples of sonnets there are also fractional forms as follows:

  • Curtal Sonnet a poem in a similar proportion to a sonnet, e.g. 6+4 instead of 8+6.
  • Caudate Sonnet – a sonnet augmented by a coda or a tail, e.g. a half line followed by a couplet

In next month’s blog, I’ll talk about linking these sequences, increasing coherence, and narrative starting points.

Sonnet Sequences

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