Posted in Poetry

Now In Gold – A Sonnet

My mother’s grave is covered now in gold
and yellows mums; I never visit there.
The wind in winter blows too rough and cold;
I lack the strength to stand the frigid air
against my face; my hands would only ache.
Sucking in the chill my lungs burn dry,
I’d gasp and clutch a tree against the break-
neck speed of gales and squalls that singe my eye.
No, I remain deep in the south where warm,
the sun can only do me good, and think
of how the snow drifts round the stone in storms;
where frozen mums are waiting roses pink
to kiss the face of God when time is done
and scatter blossoms all about in sun.

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Breaking with the strictest rules of the English Sonnet, I have chosen the following aberrations:
The first eight lines are broken, not into two quatrains, but into syntactical breaks of five and three. This choice is made to propel the poem forward with a sense of urgency and to support the imbalance of the voice.

Also, line seven is only 9 syllables, which echoes the meaning of the line — stolen breath.
Lastly, line nine, which serves as my turn (volta) is clearly not in iambic form, which puts into question the choice made to not visit. Because the subject matter of this sonnet is meant to express an asymmetrical feel, these slight deviations are designed to support that.

I welcome feedback regarding these choices!

Join us at dVerse Poet’s Pub where we are challenging ourselves with the Sonnet Form. This week I am hosting a special edition of Meeting the Bar where I support our month-long Sonnet Challenge with a close look at how the enjambed line impacts our sonnets.


A wild soul writing poetry.

60 thoughts on “Now In Gold – A Sonnet

  1. I admire the opening lines as it really caught my attention. I thought it was clever to have the enjambment as break-neck speed. I can see the volta in this line: No, I remain deep in the south where warm. I thought about “sunshine” in Line 10, as the “sun” is repeated twice. I thought this line can be made stronger: scatter blossoms all about in sun. Overall, your theme resonates with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not good with structure but you eased the formality of sonnet just enough to make your rhymes soothingly unobtrusive. And then the content was so full with allusion and contrasts – gorgeously gold and cryogenically cold!
    “where frozen mums are waiting roses pink” – Dylan Thomas must be drinking your health from his grave

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A poignant write, and seems to me, interwoven with many allusions, which only add to the weight of the sentiment. I have also enjoyed reading and learning from your clever thoughts behind the making of the poem (as much as the breaking of the rules).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “I’d gasp and clutch a tree against the break- || neck speed of gales and squalls that singe my eye.” A break worthy of Wright – a break that leads to internal gales and squalls, the pain that comes with such a break. Jill, this is a deeply moving sonnet. The voice is perfect to the content – an avoidance of the cold, hard realities that truly is not avoidance, “…and think || of how the snow drifts round the stone in storms….” Great sonnet, Jill!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Most excellent. Nicely echoing the English canon of sonnets: flowers, death, winter, and then making it yours and fresh and deeply personal. The sense of loss and memory are very present, but mostly the chill distance between you and her grave, where death is too cold to bear. The best line of all is “where frozen mums are waiting roses pink” — beautiful, the pun works perfectly, esp in English vs. American dialect. Bravo!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I also loved the mum pun, your mother in reality is free, not in the frozen ground, tendons sun blossoms. I loved especially “of how the snow drifts round the stone in storms;”
      This is one of the best. Personal and intimate, bitterly tactile, yes, take the southern sun!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I love what you’ve done in this sonnet, Jill. The enjambment is effective and I love contrast of gold and yellow chrysanthemums covering the grave and ‘frozen mums are waiting roses pink’, and the image of blossoms scattered in the sun. You’ve also conveyed grief so clearly in the lines:
    ‘Sucking in the chill my lungs burn dry,
    I’d gasp and clutch a tree against the break-
    neck speed of gales and squalls that singe my eye.’

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jill, this is very cool.

    I looks like you followed very well the classic English rhyme pattern by using:
    but, as you tell us, there is not the classic 4/4/4/4/2 stanza, instead, I see that the lines are “broken” — that is your enjambment, correct.
    Your syntactical structure instead then seems to be:
    3/5/3/3. I guess.
    I can’t say I follow the end well except I read this as saying, “Being at my mother’s grave is very difficult, but I look forward for happier days”.

    The first 8 lines are tighter to me. It all reads without too much puzzlement. The only thing they make me question is if you “never visit there”, then how are you able to describe the grave and how could you be grasping at a tree to steady against the wind. So I am confused if you are telling us that you go or do not go. And I am hoping for the classic sonnet solution in the end. But the last lines are just sweet about God, blossoms, roses and pink in contrast to the harshness above. So I guess I did not get the point. (but I am not a skilled reader). I’m reading comments now, and I guess everyone else understood.
    I guess I see stark beginning and bright end, but I was hoping for a story about why not visiting the grave.
    But of course the techniques and all that were cool. I wonder what your students would say? 🙂


    1. Sabio, she says ‘I’d clutch’, not ‘I clutch’. She is saying that if she were there, that is what she’d be doing (and is the reason why she is not there).
      It is possible to know by various means what a place far away would look like in a particular season, even without being there to see. Maybe someone told her; maybe she has been there in the past. I have never visited Switzerland, but my foster-son who lives there sends me photos, so I can envisage the details at any time of year. A poem need not explain everything, when the reader may easily guess at possible, fairly obvious background details.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed your sonnet, Jilly and especially like the final couplet. Reading your notes I can understand why you changed the rhythm, I’m just not sure that without the notes I would have picked up on the why of the change.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like your sonnet a lot! It all comes together very well. The turn is such a nice contrast. The cold mum and the roses with petals scattered across the sun is great imagery, that may carry a double meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like how you (somewhat) broke with the tradition of the English sonnet, especially in terms of where I find the volta by moving to the south is really more in line with a Petrarchan sonnet… the balance between warm and cold is excellent, and I feel that we don’t need to seek the cold to feel the sorrow… the grave is still there (always)


  11. I really was drawn into your poem here Jilly. It resonated strongly for me. For a number of years now, I have not been to visit the grave of my son Aaron, who was killed when he was 18. His grave is in Ohio where he lived with his mother. I am in the Pacific Northwest and my very poor heart health and pacemaker has made flying near impossible. The car trip of over 2,000+ miles is also not a feasible option, as I need to sit with my legs raised. It has been a source of sadness for me not to be able to visit my Aaron’s grave. I am sure not being sble to visit your mother’s grave must also be a difficult thing for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think your choices suit your intentions. To be honest, I did not notice them as I read your sonnet out loud. The metre worked, the images appropriate and the turn at the end fine. The contrasts in weather also suit the mood. I wasn’t fussed by the repetition of the word sun – I think it emphasized the importance. The only word that tripped me was “singe”. I understand what you were doing – cold burns – but wonder if there is a crisper (sorry – love puns) word?
    It is a lovely meditative sonnet that reads beautifully. I think you were very true to the form.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think that this is fascinating, – the topic is more traditional fare for sonnets, and although you’ve used some of the more steadfast rules, you’ve also chosen to shift them, and if they work to the means of the end? then why not.
    I was really drawn to the first 2 lines, because they sound – slightly unusual – they paint the scene in such a fresh way that it’s effective, and we’re drawn right in. And the graphic dynamics of your word choices really paint the literal landscape here, as well as the emotional. The only thing I really didn’t like was the “interruption” – I found “break-/neck” off putting and just kind of clunky, so for me, this aspect doesn’t work very well, although I can appreciate the ideas to be conveyed and loved the aspect of the elements singe –

    Definitely a great attempt to work the form and make it work within the meaning and context of the content – and there is something that just dances within this piece. It’s definitely a very cool perspective and narrative voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Beautifully written, Jilly. I like the play on mums and mother running through the poem. The poem works for me metrically and gets across the personal dilemma and the feeling of cold. I think perhaps, form is a great starting point for focusing language, but loosening the strait jacket sometimes results in a better poem. Well done, JIM

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I absolutely love the last line—the image and the alliteration. The whole couplet is beautiful and full of hope, in contrast with the cold and mourning at the beginning. The end of the poem looks beyond that, just as we look beyond death at the end of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am not good at analyzing the subtleties of sonnet form. I would not have noticed the things you explained in your notes, but I really liked the way this flowed–along with the intentional pauses. I like, too, how the poem moves in both geographical space and through time, as well as changes in feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Merril! I don’t normally explicate my own poems in this format, but decided to give a glimpse of the writer’s intent. I spend all school year convincing 12th graders that authors are very intention people. Something you certainly know first-hand. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Like others, I read this as a perfect sonnet until I saw your explanations of where you had departed from the strict form – which suggests that you did it very successfully. I think your reasons are poetically valid, and even the strictest form does allow of slight variations for poetic reasons. The sentiments are beautifully expressed, the scene and emotions vividly conjured.

    Liked by 1 person

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