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Published by Edward F. Daas

Of Contests and Prizes

Beginning with this issue we are publishing the first of a series of articles on writing poetry. Bob Woodward opens with an article on the sonnet and to encourage you to write we are offering a book for the best sonnet received before December 31st. Next month Edgar Ryniker will have an article on the rondeau and a book will be given for the best one received before January 31st. The contests will continue just as long as you show your interest in doing your share by sending in entries.

The Milwaukee Amateur Press Club meets on the first Tuesday of each month in the Conference Room of the Public Library. Visitors are always welcome. The club conducts a monthly contest for the best paper submitted on a given subject. A book is awarded to the winner. The subjects are: November, “The Umbrella;” December, “The Way” and January, “The Morning.” The contest is for the Milwaukee club but if we receive entries from ten or more outside of Milwaukee, an additional prize will be awarded.

The size of the monthly bundles depends upon you. If you get out a paper and send it to the Mailer you have done your share. If you do not publish, then it is up to you to do your part. Unless you acknowledge receipt of the individual papers in the bundle you are not helping the active members. If a member, especially one who joined the United recently, spends time writing and preparing a paper and pays for the printing of it, sends it to the Mailer and then expectantly awaits an avalanche of mail. And what happens? Perhaps a half dozen or so write him about the papers, some of them giving him a pat on the back. It is just possible that one of the letters is the encouraging kind and an incentive to start him on a second attempt. But unless he is encouraged with a large response, his interest is likely to lag, perhaps to die. The result: a thinner bundle. So if you want a fat bundle, write the editors. Tell them what you like about their papers and encourage them to carry on. Perhaps you may add another friend to your list.

And what are you doing to introduce A.J. to the many people who have never heard of our hobby? So many of my recruits thank me for having brought them into our ranks; many surprised at learning of the existence of such an association. Some of these are so very much interested that no additional spur is needed to make them active. But then there are those who need a little urging and if they do not get any attention, usually drop out at the end of the year. Just what would you write to a stranger urging him to join the UAPA? You see the name and address of someone who has sent a poem or article to the editor of a newspaper or magazine. What would you write him? A book will be awarded to the member who sends us the best recruiting letter before December 31st.

How to Write a Sonnet

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in his poem to “The House of Life,” described a sonnet as “a moment’s monument.” William Dean Howell, a famous American realist, said the sonnet is “too tightly corseted.”

The sonnet is a poetical form particularly well suited to the expression of ideas rather than pure lyrical thoughts. One of the best known types is the Italian form used by Petrarch. It consists of an “octave” (abba, abba), followed by a “sestet” (abcdcd, with variations, but never closing in a couplet). Another popular form is the one used by Shakespeare: three quatrains and a concluding couplet (abab, cdcd, efef, gg). The meter is invariably iambic pentameter (-/-/-/-/-/). In the sonnets of Shakespeare, the final couplet forms a sort of summary for the poem and adds an interesting touch.

Due to the rigid nature of the sonnet form, it has long provided poets with a challenge which only a few have met successfully. Shakespeare, Lilton, and Wordsworth have been the most successful in English literature, but few Americans have made even a good attempt. Since the end of the Romantic period, the form has been frowned upon as rather “sticky” or too restricted, and it is generally written today only for experience in poetic technique.

A question and answer type of idea finds the sonnet a good form, as do two conflicting but related ideas. The question or first idea will appear in the octave, and the answer or contrasting idea in the sestet. Often the octave presents a pure picture, and the sestet expresses the poet’s thoughts of the picture. This division must always be retained in the Italian form, or an integral part of the sonnet will be lost.

The iambic pentameter lines need not be a complete part of a sentence; but if the sentence does overlap so that it ends in the middle of a line, great care should be taken to avoid a lapse in meter. The accent must always fall on the tenth syllable of a line. Only a few have ever attained success with a feminine ending (an unaccented eleventh syllable).

For good examples of the sonnet, please see the poems listed below. They will be found in almost any collection of English poetry. Wordsworth: “London: 1802,” “Composed upon Westminster Bridge: Sept. 3, 1802,” and “On the Sea-shore Near Calais.” Milton: “On His Arriving at the Age of Twentythree” and “On His Blindness.” Shakespeare: Sonnets numbered XVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXIII, LXII, LXXIII, CIV, CXVI, CXXX.

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Farewell to Summer*
by Robert H. Woodward

Green buds, the flowers unblown shall wither now
When winter comes and paints with piebald hue
The last refrains of loveliness. But how
Can humans praise, or what can humans do
To speak the radiant splendor of their death?
We have no words, no phrases to recall
That power that dies in their departing breath–
The whisper hushed beneath the mottled pall.

We have no words, but more-we have no right
To speak their praise. When nature speaks alone
Our poor attempts are but a feeble light
In all the glory nature has then shown.
We put away our pen and lift our eye
To watch the colors come that say “goodbye.”

*) From “Distant Journey and Other Poems” by Mr. Woodward

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