Syllabic Sonnet Day for 2013
Today is Syllabic Sonnet Day; a day put aside to celebrate English language sonnets that are syllabically constructed and shaped. The shift from a metrical to a syllabic sonnet is a subtle one. When reading a syllabic sonnet it might not feel all that different from reading a metrical sonnet. This is because, I think, the two different approaches can produce overlapping results. I mean by this that a sonnet which the poet constructed syllabically might also be metrically consistent. By that I mean a line of ten syllables can also be a line of iambic pentameter.
The shift has more to do with the focus of the poet when shaping the sonnet. For the syllabic sonneteer it is the syllable count of the line which is the primary factor shaping the poem; plus other factors such a rhyme scheme and grammatical structure. For the metrical sonneteer it is the steady rhythm of the iambs that is the primary focus.
An interesting consequence of this shift of focus is that the tendency for the syllabic sonneteer will be to have a line count that is determined by the syllables and will rarely deviate from that ten syllable count. There will, naturally, be exceptions, but the weight will be on the ten count. The syllabic sonneteer has the option, through using various types of feet substituting for the iambs, to vary the line length in terms of the syllable count as long as the metrical count remains the same. Again, this is a subtle difference, one that might not be apparent at first.
Personally, I have found a syllabic approach to the sonnet to be rewarding. It creates a flow that is more conversational. When this is combined with a traditional rhyme scheme the effect is, to my ear, musical in the way a recitative is musical.
So let’s take a moment to honor the Queen of English language poetry forms; the sonnet in all its permutations.