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What could be better than a sonnet? A corona of sonnets, of course. A corona (or crown) of sonnets is a cycle of seven sonnets that are interlocked by theme. The last line of the first sonnet becomes the first line of the second, the last line of the second becomes the first line of the third, and so on, with one caveat: the last line of the seventh and final sonnet must be the same as the first line of the first sonnet. In that way, it circles back to the beginning and in some instances, results in the ability to begin with any one sonnet in the crown and work your way back around.

Creating a crown of sonnets is an ambitious task for a poet. Creating a crown with six other poets is more daunting still, for you have no control over what comes before you, and you have to try to keep to the theme. Also, you have to take the last line of the sonnet before yours and adapt it to work with whatever it is you set out to write. And since we’re talking about sonnets here, which rely on specific patterns of endrhyme, the line you take from the sonnet before you necessarily dictates a portion of your rhyme. You’ll need at least one more line ending in that same sound, and maybe three more (if using the Petrarchan form that starts ABBAABBA instead of ABBACDDC).

Late last fall, the lovely and talented Liz Scanlon asked me and a handful of other blogger-poets if we’d like to participate in a group writing project, creating a crown of sonnets for teens. Some of the other poets had written sonnets before; others specialize in free verse and haiku. This made for a fairly daunting task for everyone involved. Liz took the seven names and conducted an allegedly random drawing for position within the crown, and I was the last to be chosen. Under the rules of a crown of sonnets, therefore, I was bound to use the last line from sonnet 6 as my first line, and the first line of the first sonnet as my last line. It also meant that at least one other line had to rhyme with both of those lines (at least one after the first line to rhyme with it, and at least one before the last to rhyme with it).

As luck would have it, I inherited a first line in first person, and a last line in second person. What was a girl to do? I decided to take my speaker and have them address someone later on (in thought, if not in deed). Without further ado, here is the sonnet I wrote as the final one in the crown:

Through open window, past a well-scarred sill,
on gritty shingles sheltered under eaves,
I take in cool night air; my anger leaves
with every ragged breath that I exhale.
Your words, a thousand stinging papercuts,
lose power underneath the watching stars.
I see your reigning planet, red-light Mars,
horizon-bound and fixed. Your self-made ruts
preclude adventure or a change of course.
Is this the future that you want for me?
A mediocre life filled with travail,
a boxed-in life of sameness and remorse?
I choose to free myself of your debris:
I’m not afraid to leave you in my trail.

cloudscome, one of my fellow sonneteers is hosting Poetry Friday doings today. She wrote sonnet #6, immediately prior to mine, and set me up marvelously with an angry teen and a window sill. To start at the very beginning (it's a very fine place to start), check out Sara Lewis Holmes's sonnet, the one that started the ball rolling. Better still, to get the full flavor of the corona and how it all looks in one place, pop over to see Liz Garton, the woman who started it all. cloudscome has links to the other poetry princesses with whom I was privileged to collaborate.

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Apr. 11th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
Fate knew what she was doing when she drew your name to write the last sonnet. What a task! And beautifully, gracefully, precisely done. No boxed-in writing here. Thanks for making it all come full circle.
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
It was decidedly a challenge, but in all the best possible ways. I am so very pleased to have worked with you!
Apr. 11th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
You still upset about that allegedly random drawing?? ;)
Your sonnet is gorgeous, Kelly, and your explanation here so characteristically helpful and just right.
Thank you for tying up our crown...
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Nope. Not upset. Never upset, really. And truly, I liked the extra bit of challenge!

It was so very excellent to work with you, Liz. Smooches to you for dreaming up the project, and extra smooches for asking if I'd like to come along on this wonderful ride.
Apr. 11th, 2008 09:36 am (UTC)
You wrote this so so beautifully. It feels as thought it could be me sitting out on that roof under the stars - I don't know how you did it but it takes my breath.
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you, cloudscome. It helped that I had such a wonderful set up going into it!
Apr. 11th, 2008 11:06 am (UTC)
Wow. You really did pull it all together. Nice work all of you!
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
Apr. 11th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC)
TadMack says: :)
You did an awesome job finishing. I dreaded being first and I was terrified of being last... and really, I was kind of wondering what made me agree to be ANYWHERE IN THE LIST. But it ...sort of just ...happened. Thanks for letting me play.
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
Re: TadMack says: :)
As you know, your sonnet is my favorite of the crown for its literary allusions and language and more. I know you weren't entirely comfortable coming in, but I hope you know that you blew me away with your skill (and your speed!) and that it's patently obvious that you, my dear, are a true poet.
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Apr. 11th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
Wow! I didn't expect to hear Kelly Clarkson invoked, but as I know the two songs to which you refer well, I recognize a tremendous compliment when I see one. I must say that her songs never occurred to me as I was writing, although I was inspired to revise one of my lines as a result of the old song "Little Boxes". I refrained, however, from using the words "ticky-tacky".

Thanks for your kinds words!
Apr. 11th, 2008 12:30 pm (UTC)
Random drawing? Well, I know I prayed for anything but first or last, so I must agree with Sara. Fate absolutely knew you'd be an outstanding clean-up batter.

I see echoes of all our sonnets in this last piece, and think you've captured the determination and resilience of teens. I never got out on that roof, but I sure looked up at those stars with the same thoughts in my heart.

Thanks for wrapping us up so gorgeously.
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
I never got on the roof either, but my older daughter sometimes does, and I have cousins and friends my age who did, too, once upon a time. I only ever looked up out of my window.

Smooches to you, and well-done on your sonnet. It was such a treat to work with you. I sure hope Liz cooks up something else for us to try.
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Apr. 11th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
When it came to writing those lines, a few things came into play. My older teen and I are both Aries (related to Mars), so Mars can be someone's "ruling planet" in astrology. And it glows red, and I liked the double meaning of "red light", and the idea that parents are often combattive (and occasionally bellicose) when dealing with teens. And then I got to thinking about how settled most adults seem to be, while teens still have so many options open to them, and how sometimes (as an adult) I feel stuck in a rut. But any ruts are ones I agree to, really. Hence the lines.

It's inspired me to think about breaking out of my self-made ruts and try new things, and perhaps free things up a bit. It was a complete joy to work on this project with you, Laura, and I hope we get to do something again in the near future.
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
Your words, a thousand stinging papercuts,
lose power underneath the watching stars.

Apr. 11th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Vivian.
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
Is this the future that you want for me?
A mediocre life filled with travail,
a boxed-in life of sameness and remorse?
I choose to free myself of your debris:
I’m not afraid to leave you in my trail.

I'm back. I can't stop reading these today.
Kelly -- LOOK at what you wrote! Not only poignant and authentic and right on, but the absolutely perfect way to wrap up the whole entire Crown. We were so lucky to have you. Your poetry princess self, but also your patient teacherly self. You were an amazing guide to us...
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
More smooches for you, dear Liz.
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
Wow! I'm in awe of anyone who can write a sonnet, but this was amazing, given the constraints you had.

Apr. 11th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
I adore writing sonnets. The form provides a very sturdy cage-like structure, in or around which you can build all sorts of lovely buildings.
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
Fabulous job, Kelly! I love the defiance and intensity. As Laura mentioned, you've definitely struck a universal chord, which is perfect for the crown finale. Bravo!!
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
I am so very glad you enjoyed the poem, and that what I was trying to get at appears to have come across as intended (never a sure thing with poetry)!
Apr. 11th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
Karen Edmisten said:
Fantastic, Kelly! You are seven brave women indeed! And I do think that the seventh position must have been terrifying. :-) But, congratulations -- you so perfectly captured that defiance that we all remember feeling:

Is this the future that you want for me?
A mediocre life filled with travail,
a boxed-in life of sameness and remorse?
I choose to free myself of your debris:
I’m not afraid to leave you in my trail.

Now, ladies, I want your next corona to be that of a middle-aged woman looking at back at what she thought she'd be, and what she has now become. :-)

(Don't look at me with that "NEXT??" look. You all knew we'd want more.)

Apr. 12th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)
Re: Karen Edmisten said:
We will probably try something else, but I'm not certain what yet.
Re: Karen Edmisten said: - cloudscome - Apr. 12th, 2008 10:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC)
From a. fortis
What an excellent ending! An amazing project, guys. Also, I love the site redesign!
Apr. 12th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
I agree with Karen. But before that, how about a thirty something caught in the hurly burly of family, job, mortgage etc. Your sonnets were full of youthful hope and optimism. What happens when that meets reality. How do you hold on to that independence? Here's a line from a poem by Deborah Garrison "Worked Late on a Friday Night"


the tears
down into the collar.
Cabs, cabs, but none for hire.
I haven't had dinner; I'm not half
of what I meant to be.

It might also be an idea to chose a different form for each stage of life. Now you've mastered the sonnet, what next?

Of course I don't actually have to do any of this. Don't you hate back seat drivers?
Apr. 12th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
Backseat drivers are the worst. Kidding, really - those are all great ideas. As a poet, it all appeals to me. As a poet aspiring to write for kids and teens, it's nice to skew to the younger set, though.
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