Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Writing Exercise

 by Ashley Lister

With this being April, and our annual celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23rd) looming on the horizon, I figured it was time to look at the sonnet. However, the sonnet is not a simple warm-up exercise to be tackled before writing a day’s worth of prose. The complexities of the sonnet can steal an hour from the most talented writer, and maybe take a month from the rest of us. I offer this as a project to pick at over the next month, whenever you’re between bursts of inspiration.

The Rules:
All sonnets contain 14 lines. 

There are three main styles of sonnet: Petrachan, Spenserian and Shakespearian. Each one of these forms is made distinctive by its rhyme scheme.

Sonnets are usually written in iambic pentameter (that is, ten syllables made up of five unstressed/stressed pairings).

Because this month celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday, I figured it would be appropriate to consider the Shakespearian form. The Shakesperian sonnet usually follows the rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg.

Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
W. Shakespeare

In the example above we can see the poem divided into the three quatrains (abab cdcd efef) and a final couplet (gg).

We can also see the volta or turn on the ninth line. The volta of the ninth line is a traditional turnaround in opinion from the poet. Note how, in the first eight lines, the persona of this poem has been telling us that the addressee is lovelier than a summer’s day. Summer is crap in comparison to the addressee. In the ninth line the direction changes. Shakespeare moves on to discuss the summer that the addressee will be facing in future years.

The final couplet, usually, brings all this together.

How can we apply this to erotic poetry? Let’s try the following:

Sonnet 18+
Shall I compare thee to a porno star?
Thou art more lovely and more sexy too:
I’ve yearned to have you naked in my car,
And I would really love to service you:

Sometimes you let me glimpse your muffin tops,
Your shorts reveal your sweet and cheeky cheeks,
The view’s enough to make my loins go pop,
And make me long to have more than a peak:

But I know you’re no exhibitionist,
You’d never ever play games of team tag,
Not even if I got you truly pissed,
Because, I know, you’re really not a slag,

So long as I can hope there’s half a chance,
   I’ll dream about what’s there inside your pants.
A Lister

Your turn – please share your sonnets in the comments box below.



  1. Sunday Worship

    You visit late tonight and wax regret
    of our affair. Too sordid, you complain,
    your parish would not understand and yet
    my dick is buried in your arse again.
    This is the last, you promise me, that we
    can ever consummate our love but groan
    anew while lips and tongue coax semen free
    of stiffened cock. I swallow hard, atone
    for some imagined sin; a Catholic
    at heart you crave the bite of thorny crown
    to drive perversion out. It makes you sick,
    you claim but I'm your Friday meat to down.
    And then you're gone and leave behind the scent
    of Heaven and a little sweet torment.

  2. Rachel - I'm in awe.

    Your use of enjambment allows this piece to be read as a narrative piece or as a structured sonnet.

    The one word that sits uncomfortably with the iambic pentameter - the word Catholic - foregrounds the religious dichotomy of chase and chaste that lies at the heart of this poem's text.

    Thank you :-)


  3. Thanks Ash.

    The first draft of this explored the religious aspect a bit further. It needs another edit, I think, and perhaps a market for gey love poetry.

  4. I was talking to a writer at Eroticon last month who suggested some writers should poems as epigrams at the start of chapters of fiction.

    I think that would be a brilliant way to summarise chapter content - similar to the Victorian style of epigram that would say things like, "Chapter the forty-ninth, in which our hero earns a penny, meets a lady with a fungal infection, and gets his ears boxed for licking a tuppence..."

  5. I love the idea. I've had a senryu writer as a character in an erotic novel before, but not used poems as epigraphs.

  6. Rachel, I'm in awe too. Maybe you & Ashley should collaborate on a novel with a sonnet at the beginning of every chapter. :)

  7. Jean -

    I agree. I think Rachel and I should collaborate on 50 Shakespeares of Grey.


  8. Ha! With improved prose, one would hope :)

  9. Final Service

    A slave at heart, in love you wish for death
    to come in silk and lace with leather crop
    and punish you, to take away your breath
    one final time. So bend to me and stop
    your whining tongue. Your head between my thighs
    attests to rudimentary skills to please
    my appetites. But was it really wise
    to ask for death? A suicide to seize
    inventive minds indeed. My thighs clamp tight
    around your head and bring you closer still,
    your nose against my clitoris, your sight
    occluded by your sweat and tears until...
    Your struggles growing weaker, I release
    the hold. Begone from me and be at peace.

  10. Oh, Rachel! Incredible!

    (I did enjoy your bawdy version of summer's day, too, Ash!)


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