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  • Christine Delea

Summary Sonnet: Poetry Prompt

Use today's poem, "The Fall of the House of Usher," by Reed Whittemore, as your inspiration for this week's prompt.


This prompt has two parts. Feel free to do just one.


Part One: Choose a well-known piece of literature or a movie and summarize it in a poem.


Part Two: Use a sonnet form for your summary poem.


Whittemore used the Italian sonnet form (also called Petrarchan) for his rhyme scheme and the stanza form of English sonnets (also called Shakespearean sonnets). His sonnet has a tail (also called a coda), an extra line at the end. Unlike more formal sonnets with a coda, Whittemore's coda is just five words. The most obvious way this sonnet differs from most sonnets is its lack of a strict meter (most often iambic pentameter), or even consistent syllables in each line. This poem has 14 lines (plus the tail) and a volta (the change in tone or a turn in thought), two characteristics of traditional sonnets.


Italian Sonnet Rhyme Scheme: ABBAABBA CDCDCD or CDECDE

English Sonnet Rhyme Scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

Curtal Sonnet Rhyme Scheme: ABC ABC DBCDC

Spenserian Sonnet Rhyme Scheme: ABAB BCBC CDCD EE


Whittemore's poem both summarizes the Poe short story perfectly, while also making us laugh. Part of the humor comes from the rhythm of the poem, which does not follow a discernible pattern. Of course, summarizing something famous usually becomes funny naturally, so don't stress too much about making your poem humorous.


You can also do what Whittemore did, and take bits and pieces from different sonnet forms. There are a lot of sonnet forms and lots of poets creating neo-sonnets all the time.

Sonnets are hard to resist, so jump in and have fun!







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