Curtal Sonnet: Poetic Form

Let’s keep the pedal to the metal with the November PAD Chapbook Challenge just around the corner with today’s offering: Curtal sonnet!

Curtal Sonnet Poems

As with most poets, I once thought all sonnets had to run 14-lines and follow a rhyme scheme. If the study of poetry’s taught me anything for more than two decades, it’s that my assumptions usually tend to be wrong. And so here we are with this 11-line sonnet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins invented the curtal sonnet in the 19th century. The poem consists of 10 lines written in iambic pentameter and a final line consisting of a single spondee (or foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables). Here’s the rhyme scheme:

Line 1: a
Line 2: b
Line 3: c
Line 4: a
Line 5: b
Line 6: c
Line 7: d
Line 8: b
Line 9: c
Line 10: d
Line 11: c


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Here’s my attempt at a Curtal Sonnet:

Preparation Poem, by Robert Lee Brewer

Sparrows and cardinals fly to and fro
in a fit of preparation for what
is soon to come. Squirrels are on edge too
as if all animals are in the know–
for even alley cats and mangy mutts
can agree that winter is coming soon.
They read it in the leaves and in the stars
and feel winter’s approach deep in their gut,
so they prepare to bid autumn adieu
for they know these final moments are far
too few.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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13 thoughts on “Curtal Sonnet: Poetic Form

  1. PressOn


    One day, when Robin chanced upon a stream,
    he saw a curtal friar sleeping there.
    No bridge was near, nor anywhere about,
    so Robin forced the friar to halt his dream
    and portage him across. Midstream, the pair
    devolved; the monk splashed Robin on his snout.
    Enraged at monkeyshines that smacked of gall,
    the archer whirled his sword and blurred the air;
    he leapt at the padre with braying shout
    and flailed and flailed and flailed till he was all
    tucked out.

  2. Walter J Wojtanik


    This constant rain kept falling for three days
    to saturate the grass and feed the streams.
    Autumn weather cannot be predicted.
    The atmosphere was draped in foggy haze
    and attitudes enflamed to shatter dreams!
    Such is life the way it is inflicted.
    Another rainy day in Buffalo.
    We pray for days in which the sunlight beams,
    but days like those cannot be predicted.
    And soon we will be knee deep high in snow.

    © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016

  3. taylor graham


    We wandered in the gallery between rains,
    gazing at all the drawings on the walls –
    the swift designs of – no, don’t call them cars
    but, rather, dreams of movement without chains
    of gravity; to go where fancy calls,
    the far horizon, maybe even Mars.
    I scanned each work of art, and thought of trails
    we tried to climb on wheels, the water-falls
    from cliff to river, and the rocky bars,
    upcountry snowdrifts where all traction fails.
    Bright stars.

  4. Michelle Hed

    Those Forever Lovers

    They danced to shore on the brisk autumn gust
    those little drops coalesce into waves,
    a few dancing free to tickle her nose.
    Laughing, her hand in mine, eyes full of trust
    we run to the cliffs and the hidden caves,
    where we drop a blanket and shed our clothes
    and I love her and her me, until we
    hear the waves and the sea go to their graves
    no longer lulling us to spoon and doze.
    In whispers we depart, her heart with me.
    We chose.

  5. Anthony94


    Into cool ground new blackberries are laid
    their canes gone rank with autumns cooling nights
    the work made sweet by late spring’s promised fruit.
    In corners cats now sleep where once they played
    til first stars in the east chased sun from sight
    the dogs thump tails but seem to follow suit.
    All bones and canes and leaves record the change
    as gathered round warm hearths with their delights
    we’ll set aside the scarf and shed the boot
    to marvel at the seasons’ sweeping range
    Pan’s flute