Invisible Frames: On & Beyond the Sonnet

Invisible Frames: On & Beyond the Sonnet

Find form and freedom in the famous fourteen.

Modern English poetry is hard to imagine without the sonnet. This little net of fourteen lines has proven to be the most flexible and powerful form to fish for poetic insight for nearly five hundred years. Why is this the case and how can we use best use it today? Through this course we’ll learn how to use the form, drawing on the inherited tradition of its perpetual use and reinterpretations, while keeping it fresh and speaking to our own contemporary concerns. We’ll explore the historical and contemporary possibilities that the sonnet embodies and, through discussions and assignments, create new work in the medium, testing out various forms of the form.

Along the way, students will encounter poets as diverse as Thomas Wyatt, Edmund Spenser, Wanda Coleman, Anne Carson, Inger Christensen, Lyn Hejinian and James Schuyler, to name but a few. Our journey will imitate the sonnets own – from loose interpretation to strict measure, from fourteen lines through to its dispersed semblance in prose poems and ways of poetic thinking. We’ll see how a tradition built up around the sonnet (and explore various codified versions of the sonnet, from Petrarch and Shakespeare to Terrance Hayes and Adrienne Rich), and reflect on what this continual challenge and expansion makes possible today. We will learn how form is uniquely responsive to the complexities of writing from the personal perspective, how in its development we can trace the history of the ‘lyric I’ and how it offers a dialectic between poetic argument and lyric opportunity.

In the process of the course, each fortnight the students will receive a detailed outline of that session’s topic followed by an assignment where they will be encouraged to test out the approaches discussed. Through feedback, from the tutor and the other students, we’ll refine and develop what the limits of the form might be. By the end of the term, students will have gained significant insight into both the technical exactitudes of the sonnet and its deeper mechanisms of thinking and rethinking. Students will end the course with six new poems, a wealth of new understanding and confidence that they can utilise the form with greater freedom and technical grasp. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to administ[email protected]. Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: @jancanty

About Edward Doegar View Profile

Edward Doegar is a poet and editor based in London. He was the commissioning editor for the Poetry Translation Centre between 2019 and 2022 and is a consulting editor at The Rialto. His most recent work is Adaptation (Kelder Press; 2022), a collaboration with the artist Shakeeb Abu Hamdan, and his pamphlet sonnets (Broken Sleep Press) will be published at the end of the year. 

"I liked the opportunity of being able to work at my own pace, withing reason. The time scale for working on assignments and giving peer feedback was very well balanced."

– Summer 2023 survey response

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