Whittled Words – Curtal Sonnet


Welcome to the weekly series, Whittled Words. A series highlighting the innumerable types and styles of poetry to challenge any creative wordsmith. This week’s selection:




So, now that we have learned that sonnets are a 14-line poetic form, let’s look at the only variation I have found that breaks the mold.

Gerard Manley Hopkins invented the curtal sonnet in the 19th century. The poem consists of 10 lines written in iambic (unstressed, stressed) pentameter (five feet or, in this case, 10 syllables) and a final line consisting of a single spondee (or foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables). Here’s the rhyme scheme:

Line 1: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme a
Line 2: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme b
Line 3: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme c
Line 4: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme a
Line 5: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme b
Line 6: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme c
Line 7: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme d
Line 8: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme b
Line 9: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme c
Line 10: Ten iambic syllables with rhyme d
Line 11: Two stressed syllables with rhyme c


Examples of Curtal Sonnet Poems



by Walter J. Wojtanik

 This constant rain kept falling for three days
to saturate the grass and feed the streams.
Autumn weather cannot be predicted.
The atmosphere was draped in foggy haze
and attitudes enflamed to shatter dreams!
Such is life the way it is inflicted.
Another rainy day in Buffalo.
We pray for days in which the sunlight beams,
but days like those cannot be predicted.
And soon we will be knee deep high in snow.



By Brad Osborne

Avast the gale that sets upon the sea

Stand tall and lash soaking bodies to rail

Neptune will not feast on sailors tonight

These planks and masts have stayed sturdy

No braver crew of men has yet set sail

Ne’er will we go down boys without a fight

Now drop those sheets and quick secure the hold

We’ll stay our course and see this through no fail

It has been said and said again well right

The drown man tells the sea is deep and cold

Harsh plight



By Michelle Hed

They danced to shore on the brisk autumn gust
those little drops coalesce into waves,
a few dancing free to tickle her nose.
Laughing, her hand in mine, eyes full of trust
we run to the cliffs and the hidden caves,
where we drop a blanket and shed our clothes
and I love her and her me, until we
hear the waves and the sea go to their graves
no longer lulling us to spoon and doze.
In whispers we depart, her heart with me.
We chose.


I hope you have enjoyed this entry to the series, Whittled Words. I look forward to your comments, and if you dare, maybe share your own Curtal Sonnet poem. Thanks for reading!


14 Responses to “Whittled Words – Curtal Sonnet”
  1. beth says:

    I kind of love the two word endings.

  2. Strong closings are something that we all aspire to, and this was marvellous. Cheers my friend for bringing yet another form, as interesting and as beautiful as is the sonnet. All the best.

  3. kristianw84 says:

    I enjoyed the rhyming scheme and ending. I loved your poem and the one about the lovers!

  4. Jim Borden says:

    nice job capturing the tough life of a sailor!

  5. jonicaggiano says:

    Beautifully written, Jonikins

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