Next Line, Please

Help Us Write a Sonnet: Line Three

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By David Lehman


 

Click here to read previous lines from our crowd-sourced sonnet, and here for David Lehman’s description of the history and requirements of the form.

 


 

How like a prison is my cubicle
And yet how far my mind can freely roam
From gaol to Jerusalem, Hell to home

 


 

For the third verse in our group effort, I choose a line written by Brian Anderson and his 12th grade composition class.

I admit to a weakness for “gaol” spelled this way, and for works crafted communally, but I choose the line on the merits—attracted as I am by the antithesis and by the amount of ground, metaphysical and geographical, that the line covers.

The choice means that we are now committed to the ABBA stanza that Tennyson brought to perfection in his sequence of non-sonnets, “In Memoriam.”

We had some excellent runners up:

Melinda Wilson’s play on Emily Dickinson, “Oh, in my brain, there is no funeral,” leads the pack, followed by Eric Grace’s “As, guided by a pharmaceutical.” John Wark’s “Unmade, mad, enclosed, endomed, whimsical” is as unusual as it is, well, whimsical, while Diana [no last name given] contributes a line of strong iambs, in which the strategic alternation of an “a” for an expected “the” caught my eye: “The sea, the waves, the air, a beach, the foam.” Finally, I resisted Charles Marsh’s clever lift of a line from Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”: “Through magic casements, opening on the foam.” Keats’s line differs in only one detail—the first word is “Charm’d,” not “Through.”

 

Please note that some candidates for line three will qualify for line four, which needs to rhyme with the dread “cubicle,” so contestants should feel free to resubmit.

David Lehman is the series editor for The Best American Poetry annual anthology. He has published eight books of poetry, the most recent of which is New and Selected Poems.

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