WD Poetic Form Challenge: Curtal Sonnet

I should be able to share some recent challenge winners soon, but there’s no reason we can’t jump into the next WD Poetic Form Challenge–this time for the curtal sonnet!

Find the rules for writing curtal sonnets here. Just when you think it’s safe to assume all sonnets have 14 lines along comes the curtal sonnet.

So start writing them and sharing here on the blog (this specific post) for a chance to be published in Writer’s Digest magazine–as part of the Poetic Asides column. (Note: You have to log in to the site to post comments/poems; creating an account is free.)

Here’s how the challenge works:

  • Challenge is free. No entry fee.
  • The winner (and sometimes a runner-up or two) will be featured in a future edition of Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.
  • Deadline 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on July 31, 2017.
  • Poets can enter as many curtal sonnets as they wish. The more “work” you make for me the better, but remember: I’m judging on quality, not quantity.
  • All poems should be previously unpublished. If you have a specific question about your specific situation, just send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com. Or just write a new curtal sonnet. They’re fun to write; I promise.
  • I will only consider poems shared in the comments below. It gets too confusing for me to check other posts, go to other blogs, etc.
  • Speaking of posting, if this is your first time, your comment may not appear immediately. However, it should appear within a day (or 3–if shared on the weekend). So just hang tight, and it should appear eventually. If not, send me an e-mail at the address above.
  • Please include your name as you would like it to appear in print. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use your user/screen name, which might be something like HaikuPrincess007 or MrLineBreaker. WD has a healthy circulation, so make it easy for me to get your byline correct.
  • Finally–and most importantly–be sure to have fun!

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Order the Poet’s Market!

The 2017 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, includes hundreds of poetry markets, including listings for poetry publications, publishers, contests, and more! With names, contact information, and submission tips, poets can find the right markets for their poetry and achieve more publication success than ever before.

In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on WritersMarket.com. All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff. He’s also the author of the poetry collection Solving the World’s Problems.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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77 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Curtal Sonnet

  1. Tracy Davidson

    The Courtship

    Please don’t woo me in your normal fashion,
    no dozen roses red or fancy chocs,
    nor cordon bleu, no oysters, caviar,
    to get this girl in the mood for passion.
    Much simpler things will knock me off my socks.
    A beer or two in spit and sawdust bar,
    fried fish and chips, wild daisies, country air.
    Just time together, with no watching clocks,
    and sharing warmth beneath a shining star.
    Soon you’ll know as I do, the perfect pair
    we are.

  2. PressOn

    AFTER THE FIREWORKS

    The flashes and the crashes creased the sky
    and colors, patterns, motions rendered space
    a transpositioning for ears and eyes;
    I felt as though no grander sights could fly
    above the corn and beans, nor greater grace
    could loose my many oohs and ahs and sighs.
    But now the after-smoke drifts in the west
    as silence reasserts its proper place
    and, all around me, speckling blips comprise
    the quiet company of unimpressed
    fireflies.

    — William Preston

  3. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    The Misunderstanding

    I said into her mind, ‘Today you can
    come with me if you wish.’ I only meant
    she could attach her mind to mine and see
    and hear and feel and do alongside: scan
    my own experiences and share. I sent,
    I thought, that message. Sadly, she
    received it literally, stood by the door
    as if with whiskers spruced, bag packed, intent
    and ready, proud to come along with me
    on business. Had to tell her, ‘Sorry – you’re
    Cat, see.’

  4. grcran

    Peace Train

    “Now I’ve been crying lately Thinking about the world as it is Why must we go on hating Why can’t we live in bliss.” Cat Stevens

    The kitten heard the chimes. Made peace. Wind blew.
    No barking dog. The music of the spheres
    illuminated sections in her brain.
    She flew. A thousand zephyrs blowing through
    catnaps. Lawnmowers fiddling with her ears.
    Wet breezes sang southeast southeast refrain.
    Then dampened feline spirit hissed and spat.
    Connected. Purring. Finding higher gears.
    Her ESP espied wide passing lane.
    Met peace again out on the welcome mat.
    Maintain.

    gpr crane

  5. PressOn

    QUEEN POO-BAH

    She struts along, surveying her domain,
    and notices what moves and what does not:
    she sees the chickadee upon a bough
    and notes the snake that marbles the terrain;
    she contemplates the time she must allot
    to chase the cowbirds pestering the cow.
    She is content, for all is well; the land
    she rules, from sparrow spot to garden plot,
    exults in ultimate perfection now;
    she celebrates by uttering a grand
    meow.

    —William Preston

    1. grcran

      this is a great one, William! you have nicely captured the carnivorous nature and often snobby bearing of the housecat. and the ending is truly inspired… as i got ready to post mine, i noticed yours and your topic… i assure you, i’ve been working on mine for about a week now and had not read yours until just now… rusty

  6. lsteadly

    BATTLE CRY FOR THE BEES by Lisa L Stead

    These past few summers we gardeners fear
    the toxic habits of humans at last
    have cast the bees to a terrible plight
    If we are not careful their end draws near
    as does Earth’s bounty so diverse and vast
    A call to arms, now, we must make this right!
    Put down the pesticides, plant pure flowers!
    Walk gently on this land and hold her fast
    before our days become as dark as night
    where only hindsight rules from its towers-
    I fight!

  7. taylor graham

    TO CATCH A MOUSE

    An old house keeps its secrets and its quirks.
    A crack, a fray, corrosion, unseen glitch
    garage to pantry: black-scat, crumbs and flecks –
    a crack between existences that works
    to let a hunger through, a creature itch.
    This, life of mouse with ours now intersects.
    You set the bait, wait for the fatal snap.
    It’s sprung. No rodent, clearly there’s a hitch.
    See, messing with another life’s complex.
    The critter’s made a launch-pad of your trap.
    Mouse hex.

  8. J.lynn Sheridan

    Cry my Song

    The melody upon the morning wind—
    Is it yours to offer? Mine to sing
    among the shadows in the azure sky?
    I long to soar into the clouds, thinned
    pink in summer’s heat/upon the wing
    of watercolor choirs. But, I am spirit shy
    with dreams of hidden valor in my bones.
    My prayer is for the power of adorning
    liberty with song. I wonder why
    some are born strong/some seek stones—
    I cry.

  9. AshLeighMarieSanchez

    IN PLAIN SIGHT by AshLeigh Marie Sanchez

    He wakes and works and does all in plain sight,
    a simple man in unassuming scenes:
    Father, brother, partner, player and friend.
    But consider this man who seems alright…
    Beyond the smile and amid the routines
    lies a great, confusing, complex loose end.
    I only know this because he told me.
    In plain sight, everything is as it seems.
    To a select few we wouldn’t condescend
    and act as who we think we ought to be.
    Pretend.

  10. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    A Vain Pursuit

    I search in facebook and my email box
    in a vague play of eyes and finger-tips
    for something – anything – I don’t know what.

    Except I do. I want to smash the locks
    that death instals so deftly: kiss the lips
    of those I loved, as if alive. They’re not.

    And friends I used to talk to when online
    have nothing new to tell me now: their quips
    and loving wisdom stilled, while bodies rot.
    Likewise, they don’t absorb one word of mine,
    though I pine.

  11. taylor graham

    AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN

    We wandered through the gallery between rains,
    gazing at all the draftings on the walls –
    someone’s imaginings – 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 framed design, 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.

  12. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    The Light Seems Holy

    The light seems wholly blue when I look out
    from my front door, discovering the day:
    a day of starkly brilliant winter sun.
    The dark blue mountain range right opposite,
    the vast and shining blue of morning sky,
    pervade the street below. ‘Thou art the one!’
    I sing to Life (for God is Life, we’re told).
    On such a day, my soul must dance and fly
    in sheer delight, pure joy that I was born.
    This moment is the whole. This truth I hold:
    all’s one.

  13. Nikki Markle

    Just That Moment

    In the gloaming of the day
    When the last rays of summer sunshine
    Paint in reddish hues and the sky’s
    Complexion is that of a child after a long day of play.

    When it’s neither light nor night but just that   
       moment when they combine
    Before the sun sinks and the darkness spreads and another day dies and lies
    Buried in blackness like spilled ink on a page
    Sprinkled with distant stars and studded with moonshine.

    Soon enough the night grows weary and the morning sun tries to rise
    To paint again in reddish hues as the moon tucks in offstage
    Awaiting its cue to grace the skies.

  14. RJ Clarken

    Boom!

    “I hear a little firecracker go off when you come up with a good rhyme.” ~Garrison Keillor

    Oh rhyme, in universal time, you prime
    my heart, at least in part, like works of art.
    It’s trite, all right. Yes. But it’s what I write
    when I want firecrackers to go boom. I’m
    like a cheap Descartes with no counterpart
    but I hope that can change, despite some fright
    about leaving myself defenseless, weak.
    Take heart! Let’s start a dialogue that’s smart
    with doggerel and verse, firecracker light
    and of course, critique because that’s so chic.
    Ignite.

    ###

  15. RJ Clarken

    Diet

    Most protein bars and diet foods may be
    technically healthy, but they taste like ick.
    You buy them thinking the flavors will match
    their cover photographs. Hyperbole
    or at the very least, it’s a slick trick
    to get you to purchase and eat a batch
    of unpleasant, inedible cardboard
    not improved with a splash of balsamic.
    Nothing is improved when it tastes like thatch.
    If you lose a pound, that’s your big reward.
    Yeah, natch.

    ###

  16. James Von Hendy

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    If vision took me back tonight I’d see
    the man himself, his struggling love for God:
    the damp and cold, a guttered candle flame,
    his boys’ poor Latin papers scored, and he,
    back bent against the night’s unsparing rod,
    alone with misery, does not seek to blame
    his Lord. All failing is his own. “No worst,
    there is none,” he cries, his grief the rough-shod,
    twisted test of faith. Even then, his aim
    is praise: in pied beauty he finds rehearsed
    God’s name.

  17. RJ Clarken

    Curtal Octopus

    This ode to Wunderpus Photogenicus
    is because I don’t think poems exist
    where it’s concerned, and that is such a shame!
    In layman’s terms, it’s just an octopus
    but from an undersea circus. The twist
    is its really fun and somewhat strange name.
    It can drop an arm if it is attacked
    but none of those stripéd arms has a wrist
    (or a fist!) but nevertheless has fame:
    A spectacular cephalopod. Fact?
    Its claim.

    ###

  18. Arash

    Name
    by Arash E.

    My restless feather-picking cockatoo,
    Can you tell why denial veils my ire,
    In turn cloaking my fears (and those my shame),
    And shame shrouding my rusting grief? But you,
    Confined inside a mesh—of metal wire—
    Just raise your crest, that sulphur-yellow flame,

    Lift up your wings, then start to pace your cell,
    And squawk in bursts, as though your bill’s on fire;
    My pet, enough! I care for you the same….
    Perhaps beneath my grief some geysers spell
    Love’s name!

  19. Mohyiddine Bennaceur

    “The Soul” by Mohyiddine Bennaceur.
    A woman poet, a woman seer
    A woman whose soul, should never bear
    A woman so weak nd strong so near,
    To strength now more, than i can hear,
    Your vocals deep nd shaped with fear
    No need for those, oh woman dear
    My sight of thee is clearly clear
    Oh woman lies from you appear
    So truly true i see them here
    They hide within the salted tear
    Apart the soul so cold nd blear
    Between the broken gear they tear
    Apart the soul behind the leer
    Oh woman lies from you appear

  20. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    In Difficulties

    I wrote a curtail sonnet but it stank.
    I needed all of 14 lines to say
    the whole of what I had in mind; present

    a thesis that would float before it sank –
    in fact not sink at all but stretch and play,
    its movements elegant and confident.

    Instead, alas, it doesn’t wave but drown.
    Without room to manoeuvre, there’s no way
    to save it – what I meant as eloquent
    is chopped abruptly, three lines short, shut down
    unspent.

  21. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    On Not Going Home Again

    Across remembered waters, bay and sea,
    the island lies that I will not forget,
    the one I know I’ll never see again.

    The mountains and the rivers nurtured me.
    In memory the crashing waves repeat
    their rhythmic play on ancient cliffs of stone.

    Old forests grow unhindered, thick and tall,
    fed well by rich dark soil, by gentle rain –
    in memory. In fact they’ve since been cut,
    the lakes and streams polluted, air made foul.

    All gone.

  22. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    Nomenclature

    He’s asking us to write a ‘curtal sonnet’.
    I told him once before, the word’s ‘curtail’
    (as in truncation, lopping off) but he

    persisting with his error – set upon it –
    will judge our efforts. I don’t want to fail.
    I’d better just shut up and let it be.

    They call me grammar Nazi; spelling too.
    I like precision to the nth detail.
    And Hopkins said ‘curtail’, so why not me? …

    Oh, never mind the name – just write one, do!
    (Or three).

  23. JT Lake

    The Eternal Struggle
    by: J.T. Lake

    As humans, we are designed carefully
    In the image of what God or Goddess?
    Or is life a harrowing accident
    The theory of randomness – fixed deeply
    In subconsciousness. Failing to resist.
    Follows us through life. We’re never content,
    Constantly contemplating the question.
    Devout religious followers obsess
    Along with the heathens; to what extent
    Is life – what is the final solution?
    Torment

  24. Arash

    Name
    by Arash Emamzadeh

    My restless feather-picking cockatoo,
    Can you tell why denial veils my ire,
    In turn, cloaking my fears—and those my shame—
    And shame then shrouds my rusting grief? But you,
    Confined inside a mesh—of metal wire—
    Just raise your crest, that sulphur-yellow flame,

    Lift up your wings and start to pace your cell,
    And squawk in jarring bursts, your bill on fire;
    My bird, my pet that looks almost the same….
    Are there beneath my grief the springs that spell
    Love’s name?

  25. Arash

    Name
    by Arash Emamzadeh

    My restless feather-picking cockatoo,
    Can you tell why denial veils my ire,
    In turn, cloaking my fears—and those my shame—
    And shame then shrouds my rusting grief? But you,
    Confined inside a mesh—of metal wire—
    Just raise your crest, that sulphur-yellow flame,

    Lift up your wings and start to pace your cell,
    And squawk in jarring bursts, your bill on fire;
    My bird, my pet that looks almost the same….
    Are there beneath my grief the springs that spell
    Love’s name?

  26. RJ Clarken

    Distant Clouds

    “Painful though parting be, I bow to you as I see you off to distant clouds.” ~Emperor Saga

    Even when you know it’s coming, you don’t.
    Not really. The surprise hits like a ton
    of bricks, although that is fully cliché.
    So, distant clouds seem softer since they won’t
    leave one feeling absolutely undone
    and you’ll be distant, but not gone away.
    Perspective? Reality? Metaphor?
    To the depths of sadness, it’s an end-run,
    a path of avoidance on yesterday.
    I won’t ever completely close that door,
    okay?

    ###

  27. RJ Clarken

    Concert in a Storm

    “I go where the sound of thunder is.” ~Alfred M. Gray

    The dark skies, like the applause, were thunderous.
    Clouds informed our spatial relationships:
    they were atomically charged. What the hell?
    Music played like chaos. It was wondrous.
    With my smart phone right at my fingertips,
    I could capture each growing decibel.
    – “Now that’s a force of nature,” said my friend,
    “but the band is called The Apocalypse.”
    -“Why? Because of a little thunder? Tell
    me. Hardly a tale of the very end.”
    -“Don’t dwell.”

    ###

  28. RJ Clarken

    Hand Maiden

    “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” ~T.S. Eliot

    In a perfect world, I would be the Queen
    of Clever. But it’s not; thus I am not.
    Instead, I’m so named Anxiety, and
    I have known this truth since I was a teen.
    Pretending I’m one with creative thought,
    I seek that lively society and
    follow the lyric deeds of my heroes.
    I study the magic words I am taught.
    Still, all I’m left with? Dubiety and
    zip, zed, zilch, nada. Ciphers and zeroes
    in hand.

    ###

  29. Eileen S

    Weathered Maine Coastline
    by Eileen Sateriale

    In summer, wave strips hit the sandy shore
    creating thin white ragged stripes of foam.
    Another wave creeps in in the same way.
    Ripples flutter shoreline many times more
    stroking where plovers and sandpipers roam.
    High tide and low tide is each summer day.
    Winter storms bring wild breakers which pound rocks.
    Splashing waves on abandoned summer homes.
    Gentle stirs replaced by violent sprays.
    Sand, shore and boulders get horribly knocked
    away!

  30. Walter J Wojtanik

    HE BAPTIZES WITH WATER

    He cries out in the desert, “Repent!”
    for he knows of the one who is to come,
    whose sandals he is not fit to fasten.
    Who from his heavenly father was sent,
    embraced by a few, reviled by some.
    Who through his sacrifices will hasten
    salvation of those who persecute him
    and the rest of mankind to have a “home”.
    The one called teacher, the one called master.
    To die so that we can be without sin,
    chastened.

  31. Marie Elena

    “HOMELAND”

    Confession time: I sometimes watch Fox News.
    And CNN. And MSNBC.
    Still here? Okay. Now let me tell you why:
    These folks are out to shape our nation’s views.
    And even though I’m thankful speech is free,
    Both left and right have somehow gone awry.
    I fear our news is, by design, whitewashed.
    No more can we agree to disagree.
    Our nation needs a friendly meal. With pie.
    Let’s eat good food and talk. And then you wash,
    I’ll dry.

    Marie Elena Good

  32. DanielAri

    “Tasting the fruit develop”

    The only plums remaining on the tree
    are those I’ll never reach without a chair.
    I jumped to take the sugars that I could
    and swallowed most of them imprudently
    when summer hinted in the evening air;
    but back in May, the plums weren’t very good.
    I might have let them ripen to July
    and harvested the mouthfuls like a bear—
    for other hungers plums might have withstood—
    but I can never spurn the taste of pie.
    Who would?

    —Daniel Ari

  33. PressOn

    THE BREAST-CANCER SURVIVORS

    A three-day walk can tend to swell the feet
    and make the heart beat at a higher rate
    and manifest in many other ways,
    but nowhere else can I expect to meet
    more people in exhilarated state
    than those who deign to celebrate this craze,
    for we have come to say, without surcease,
    that all of us are masters of our fate.
    Survival is not but a passing phase
    but is a triumph lasting more than these
    three days.

    —William Preston

  34. taylor graham

    SABLE FOX

    That Fox you didn’t see today is sprung
    of brush and asphalt, free as clouding sky,
    as metaphor. And you have only puns
    to pay, your prosy obligations hung
    about your neck, your fantasies let fly
    with Fox at season turnings of the suns.
    She’s gone, the Fox who is your self and will
    not come to call, to make truth of a lie.
    Not quite a lie – your wordless yet-undones –
    as you drive past the silent woods. And still
    Fox runs.

  35. PowerUnit

    Kicking Back by John Hanson

    Her country house has a secret garden,
    The walls are made of warm knotted pine,
    adorned with paintings, carvings, and knick-knacks,
    a glass cabinet contains fine wine and bourbon,
    and her dogs welcome your hand with a whine.
    You’re invited in to chat and kick back,
    The river glistens in the evening sun.
    Outside darkens but her conversation shines.
    An open window lets in evening lilac,
    and you know what you’ll do when the evening is done.
    Come back.

  36. Anthony94

    Say When

    Perhaps leaves room for if and when, unsure
    as life itself so balanced on the plane
    we tread as if a tightrope stretched from earth
    to far beginnings where we’d seek a cure
    for all uncertainties, some pleasured reign
    of peace and truth and not this bitter dearth
    of plain civility. The thief would turn
    his hand and heart, the violent the same.
    We’d heal and celebrate a bright rebirth.
    We’d shout how studied lessons had been learned.
    But when?

  37. Walter J Wojtanik

    SKY IN CONTRAST

    The sun shines in the early morning sky,
    to dry the pouring rains that had fallen.
    Lake-effect rain is in the air again.
    Over the lake the sky is charcoal gray,
    the clouds are miserable and sullen
    and fill me with a comparable disdain.
    A counter-point that paints a violent scene,
    both bright and dark combatants throw all-in.
    The winds antagonize, they have free rein
    to prod the skies once placid and serene.
    Hard rain.

    © Walter J. Wojtanik

  38. AsWritten

    EYE CONTACT by Ken Bentz

    When you make eye contact with a baby,
    she smiles or laughs and generally approves.
    The laughter is contagious. You chuckle
    because it’s cute or funny. But maybe
    you only care so much because it proves
    that eyes are windows to souls that suckle
    innocence. When you lock your eyes with friends
    or non-friends who cross your path, you may lose
    the will to gaze. A downward glance. Subtle.
    But why? Their smiles belie their shady ends.
    Trouble.

    1. Marie Elena

      And this is what I love about poetry. When a poet writes a reflection of life in a way that would never enter my brain, it sends chills down my spine. Good chills.

      And yes, this: “… eyes are windows to souls that suckle innocence.” A wish-I’d-written, this.

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