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Curtal Sonnet: Poetic Forms

Learn how to write the curtal sonnet, an 11-line invention of Gerard Manley Hopkins, including guidelines for writing the poetic form and an example poem.

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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The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.

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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.

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