Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Poetry Stretch - Curtal/Curtailed Sonnet

Sorry I missed you all last week. I got caught up in the end of the semester and it was Friday before I realized I hadn't scheduled a post for writing. Mea culpa. I am back and have a number of stretches ready to go to see us into the New Year.

The curtal sonnet (or curtailed sonnet) was invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The poem Pied Beauty is a fine example of this form.

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

The curtal sonnet is composed of a sestet and a quintet. It is written in iambic pentameter, with the exception of the final line, which is a spondee (a foot consisting of two long (or stressed) syllables). The rhyme scheme is:

  • sestet: a/b/c/a/b/c
  • quintet: d/c/b/d/c or d/b/c/d/c 

You can read more about this form at The Curtal Sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a curtal sonnet. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Not sure I did it perfectly, but an attempt.

    But Not Yet Dead

    Trouble comes in threes, a triad full
    Of woe and weeping, as dark rain on moor.
    Loud rilling of a river, over slate grey stones;
    Ancient moon faces puling, and the pull
    Of vixen’s squealing voice calling from tor.
    The laying down of cards, throwing of bones.

    You count them here, fingers now outstretched,
    One, the loss of land, house, acres gone to ground,
    Two, the children, grown, broadened wings wide spread,
    Three, husband ashed and scattered. You left wretched
    But not yet dead.

    ©2016 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    1. Oh, Jane, if the creation of a mood was your attempt, be assured you did it perfectly. Your choice of words creates an anguished medieval world from which there's drawn that thread of hope. j

  2. A Christmas Sonnet
    Our family Christmas story starts with Fred. Fifty years ago
    he hauled a tree 'cross town to us on foot 'cause we didn't have one.
    Said he got it off a lot that surprisingly was open Christmas Eve.
    Claimed there was no problem lugging it until the snow
    began, but even then refused to rest until the deed was done.
    Every Christmas story has one if it's willing to receive

    what they've found to give:
    simple stable, stolen spruce, any kindness that can weave
    its way into the memory so deeply it will come
    to stand in that sparsely furnished room for two and live
    for fifty years, lit by a light that does not leave.

    © 2016 Judith Robinson all rights reserved

  3. Wow, Judith--especially the double, even triple mening of that perfect last line.