14 line poems

Mike Snider asked ‘why do people insist on calling any 14-line poem a sonnet?’ and KSM replied at length. His argument is very reasonable. If ‘it is next to impossible for any poetry-literate reader to see a fourteen-line poem and not think “sonnet”‘, it seems a pity, since that dilutes whatever interesting distinctiveness sonnets have, but if readers really do see sonnets everywhere that battle is already lost.


I slightly wonder

I slightly wonder whether it’s true;
If I saw a fourteen-line poem which
was laid out in a little block on the
page, with those sonnet-y proportions,
a little bit taller than it is wide —
shaped, in fact, like a sonnet, I would
probably make the connection; even
more so if there was a little gap

to mark a notional ‘volta’ and divide
the preambulary or thetical octet
from the conclusive or antithetical
sestet; and even if the implied
sonnetesque rhetorical structure
turned out to be just white space.


I’m not

on the other hand
so sure

faced with a poem which
meandered in an irregular


down the page,
I would
notice whether it had
fourteen lines.

If it occured to me it might,
I’d have to count them to check,