A Stab at Sonnets

For this project, I decided to attempt a modernized sonnet in the style of Sir Phillip Sydney. The first sonnet is my modernization of Astrophil & Stella 1. I essentially tried to line for line translate his misogyny into a modern context. I think a lot of dudes these days are just as pitiful as Philly Sydney, so it felt appropriate. I do think the sonnet works a bit better if you’ve recently read Astrophil and Stella 1, so I’ve linked that here. The second sonnet is just my stab at a love sonnet, using sestet and all that.

Sir Phillip Sydney Was a Pitiful Loser by Matt Travers

Like, this chick is hot, and I’d like her to like me.
I’ll text her, tell her all about my past romance.
The trauma and the crazy ex her pity sees.
I must sound pitiful as fuck to ever have a chance
to taste her love ’twould surely fill my heart with glee.
Studying womanizers past, my strats advance,
seeing how best to draw the pity out of thee
without her ever looking towards me askance.
Words dripped slowly from my sunburned brain into the chat.
These other dudes add not but block my truth from flow
This grift I craft must come from within, where it’s at:
my soul, must bleed for her to believe my conjured woes.
I open messenger and find her name and swipe
“Fuck” I say to me “Look in thy soul and type.”
She Hates When I Make Season Jokes by Matt Travers

Although autumns decay and winters freeze drain me,
the warm embrace of Summers love helps me stay sane.
And though the other seasons drive me up a tree,
with Summers love my happiness shan’t ever wane.

You aren’t as temperate as you’re made out to be,
but kindness, joy, and fire does your heart contain.
You’ve given me my warmest days and fondest memories
with your embrace I know life will never be plain.

We found each other in the fleeting specks of spring,
and loved through countless seasons, loved through countless days.
Till one winter we fell apart and lost our thing.
A year we spent apart trying to find our ways,

but your path led back to me and mine led back to you.
and when spring returned it brought with it “I love you too.”

Each of these sonnets posed their own unique challenges. For one, I’d never written a sonnet before, let alone a sonnet which follows Sydney’s rules, which involve sestet and a slightly modified rhyme scheme to the norm. I also really tried to stay in an iambic meter, which is a challenge and a half. So just getting into the groove of writing a sonnet I found incredibly challenging. In the end though I think it was quite rewarding.

For the first sonnet, I needed to really delve deep into Astrophil and Stella 1. I reread it a bunch, looked at a few readings online, then “translated” the sonnet into a sort of plain text version, devoid of dense verbiage and metaphor. I then took that line by line translation and used it for the basis of my modern version. I tried to find modern analogues to the type of behavior Sydney was exhibiting in the sonnet and use those, while retaining some of the archaic word choice to add a bit of fun.

For the second poem, I just tried to force myself to be sincere, which is always a challenge lol. My girlfriends name is Summer, so I of course had to have the main metaphor of the sonnet be about the seasons. I stuck with the same rhyme scheme as the last, the same iambic sestet, all that jazz. It kind of feels lopsided in a way, compared to iambic pentameter. Something in our brains just makes us want to write in syllable counts of ten, so doing 12 throws you off a bit. In a good way though. I really enjoyed it. It gives you a bit more room to work within. Another thing I thought about when writing this poem was the shape of a sonnet. I’m not a sonnet guy as you might’ve gathered, so I never knew that there was a formula to sonnets. I found a guide online, and tried to fit this one within that sort of framework. The first quatrain introduces the main theme, the second expands on the metaphor, the third features a peripeteia (a conflict), and the final couplet wraps everything up in a bow. I’m sure my sonnet isn’t the most faithful following of this formula, but I think trying to follow it really helped my sonnet feel a lot more complete.

Yeah though, this was a really fun exercise. I would’ve gained some respect for Sir Phillip Sydney if he wasn’t such a loser. These things are hard work.

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