This poem is going to cause a lot of bother, partly because people think it’s tough. It’s not. It’s
really simple, and really thoughtprovoking.
About the form
The poem is a
. Google searches and Yahoo! answers will try to convince you
otherwise, but it
a sonnet. If it looks like a sonnet and it feels like a sonnet, it’s a sonnet.
So what is a sonnet?
Sonnets were most popular as love poems. That’s what will fox some people. This isn’t really
a love poem. Some people will try and work it round by saying it’s a love poem of sorts about
America. It isn’t. A sonnet isn’t always to do with love. They became known in England as a
thing to do with love, but they aren’t always. Shakespeare, among others, is responsible for
this. When Romeo and Juliet first meet, their words form a sonnet. Spenser, Wyatt and others
are mainly responsible for our views about the connection between love and sonnets.
First... look at these sonnets:
These look and feel quite different from E. E. cummings! These poems show how the sonnet
was used to compare women to angels, ask women to release men from their torture; and, by
the final one, Shakespeare, you can see him playing around and mocking these ‘false
sentiments’ which said women had eyes like the sun or walked like an angel. These sonnets
are what fox lesser mortals who think this poem can’t be a sonnet. Some people who haven’t
done their research fail to realise that all sonnet means is ‘little song’ that’s all and there
are just as many about other things as there are love ones. Only, it’s the love ones that stand
out. That’s unfortunate, because it’s left some lesser mortals with the view that a sonnet
MUST be about love. That’s like looking at the pop charts and thinking all music is pop music.
Of course, what doesn’t get into the top 30 isn’t music, right? Classical and Jazz and
underground numbers that just don’t get mainstream popularity they’re not music as well are
However, sonnets are as much, often, about politics. 100 years after Shakespeare, sonnets
were more popularly about other stuff. Yes, there were still love sonnets, like Elizabeth Barratt
Sonnets from the Portuguese
but there were plenty of other types too. My
absolute and utter favourite is
a poem about power and how time lets us forget
even the most cruel tyrant. Other poems that you will need to look at to get a full
next to of course god america i
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Both sonnets. Both about war.
So what do sonnets do?
They take the crazy, overwhelming, nonsensical thoughts in your head that swim around
causing all manner of distraction, and they pen them into a nice, mathematical, rhythmic,
structured shape. Imagine thoughts as a field full of hundreds of cats. A sonnet takes those
crazy cats and puts them in a tidy, organised, neat little pen. No craziness. No distraction.
Not only that, sonnets are
hard to write. First you need a rhyme scheme
ABABCDCD EFGEFG in this case. So you need to find words that make sense and
rhyme too. Always hard. Then you need to make sure you express it in a regular amount of
syllables often 10. So you have to make all the other words fit in 14 10syllable lines that
rhyme. Then you have to think of the stresses so that words go deeDUM deeDUM deeDUM
deeDUM deeDUM. So, you can’t say ‘father’ which is FAther. Or AMericA or even
amERICa because that doesn’t fit.
E. E. Cummings keeps some bits and gets rid of others. He keeps the 14 lines. He breaks it
into an octet (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines) which was traditionally a problem or an argument
and a solution or response. He keeps the rhyme scheme, even breaking up ‘beautiful’ to do
But he gets rid of the regular syllable