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The American Sonnet

By rosenbergj Jan 15, 2012 509 Words
Essay – The American Sonnet

The ‘American Sonnet’ is not like any other sonnet, and is proud to be different. Billy Collins opens his sonnet by saying, “We do not speak like Petrarch, or wear a hat like Spenser, and it is not fourteen lines.” This illustrates straight from the beginning of the sonnet that he wants this sonnet to stand out as an original sonnet in terms or the writing techniques, the sonnet structure, and the elements used in it.

“But the picture postcard, a poem on vacation” this shows us what the sonnet is about and where it is set. It also portrays the title to be correct as it uses American words such as ‘vacation’ rather than ‘holiday.’ The writing techniques used often differentiate throughout the sonnet. In the forth line, there is alliteration used with the ‘P’ sound; “picture, postcard, poem.” On the fifth line, there is assonance used; “forces, us, sing, songs, rooms.” “We write on the back of a waterfall or lake.” This is a metaphor used to describe the common image on the front of the postcard. It shows the exotic surroundings that are so often portrayed in a holiday. Another term the author uses is “as an Elizabethan woman’s heliocentric eyes,” this shows the joy and excitement that is brought to the individual by the holiday, and it shows that the excitement grows, like pupils in the eye reacting to light, with the thought of sharing the excitement with loved ones. “We locate an adjective for the weather.” This describes the writing styles and techniques used to structure the postcard. ‘An adjective for the weather’ portrays the authors’ view on his surroundings, and his description of the weather. It is also an unusual topic to write about in a sonnet. Sonnets are normally about ones desperate concealed love for another, or really unusual kind of riddles that make more and more sense as the sonnet goes on, but a postcard really is an unusual topic. If you explore the deeper meanings of this sonnet, and take into account the feelings of the author, then maybe this sonnet has a deeper, and more subtle meaning than at first sight. I thought that maybe the subject of the postcard may be irrelevant, just merely something to write about, but if you explore it, it could maybe be a subtle way to communicate to a lover or a forgotten friend, therefore making it a more recognisable sonnet after all.

The last parts of the sonnet are very metaphorical. “A slice of this place, a length of white beach, a piazza or carved spires of a cathedral.” This brings to mind classic sights of a foreign country, and clearly this is what the author appreciates most in order to note it down in his postcard.

Overall, this sonnet is different and original, like the author intended. It works to great affect, and because of its originality, turns out to be a really simple idea transformed into a well thought out idea for a sonnet.

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