Sonnet: A Brief How-To

by Andrew Lazo

I love sonnets, all the more due to how Malcolm Guite has single-handedly sparked a sort of formal revival amongst many of my friends and fellow Muslings by pouring forth such excellent examples of late. So yesterday whilst on a school bus full of flappy-birding freshmen, I decided to put their fogged-up windows to good use, scratching out the first couple lines of the sonnet you find below. A buddy of mine wrote one too, and a little poetic rivalry broke out, right there amongst the teenagers, who actually listened and even cheered.

“Miracles and wonders,” Paul Simon rightly says.

My dearest friend and conspiratorial Muse Becka, upon learning of my plans to pen such a thing, showed me a sonnet by Billy Collins about just this same thing. But I refused to read his till mine was done, sure I’d shrivel in shame.

So now you have it, and off I go to Collin’s poem, and thence to traipse my glad and wondering way through this Guite or that as my just reward for momentarily coercing the coy and sonneteering Muse into lending a helping hand.

Sonnet: A Brief How-To

So count to ten. Again now, fourteen times,
make sure your accents move to un-stress stress,
“a-b, a-b” sets up your other rhymes,
Repeat in two more sets to write the rest

of three quatrains. See? Not much to this frame,
yet in this marching, ordered group of words
composing might prove like some madding game
at once to cage and yet let loose your birds.

And here two thirds of what you want to say
has crawled across your page in ant-like ink,
so grope now for a wise and witty way
to craft a couplet, singing all you think.

And thus you write your sonnet, line by line,
To solve a riddle of your own design.


Andrew Lazo is a teacher, writer, and sought-after speaker on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Read more from him at his website:

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