The Coastal areas of UK’s East Anglia is the region so beloved by Benjamin Britten, the first composer to be given a life peerage; J. M. W. Turner, the incredibly prolific artist; George Crabbe, the poet whose writing was described by Lord Byron as, ‘Nature’s sternest painter, yet the best’; and John Constable, the creator of the probably the best known painting in the world, ‘The Haywain’.
Each of the next ten issues of Blackheath Dawn magazine will carry a series of photographic studies by Lottie Clarke, a photographer of great talent who, not surprisingly, is also able to wield a pen.
Using these photographic studies as a reference – how do they inspire you? Do they create images to be written about? Do they act as a launch pad for new thoughts? Is it the colour, the light, the ambience? Do you love them or hate them?
This is your opportunity to create a ‘little song’ – a sonnet to accompany the studies when they are published in book form in 2016. Each month of the competition Lottie Clarke and the directors of Blackheath Dawn will select the winning entry*. The sonnet’s creator will receive a marketing package of a press release, composed and delivered to TV/radio/magazines/press media in their locality. Additionally they will be named in and will receive a copy of the 2016 book signed by Lottie Clarke together with a certificate signifying their success.
Entries to the Sonnet Competition should consist of 14 lines. They should be accompanied by the entrant’s name, address and telephone number together with an assurance of personal copyright.
Entries please, via email to Competitions@blackheathdawn.co.uk and marked Sonnet Competition.
*The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
What is a sonnet?
Sonnets can be declarations of love, loss, anger, or grief, but they may also be in praise of people and the natural world. They can amuse us, stir our emotions, and make us think. They were meant to be read out loud. If yours sounds good when you read it out loud, whatever its rhyming pattern – it’s a sonnet!
Literally a sonnet is a ‘little song’, a poetic form, which originated in Italy. Early classic examples followed a strict form consisting of 14 lines of iambic pentameters, with a rhyming scheme of abba, abba, cde, cde.
For many people the sonnet is associated with Shakespeare, perhaps because they know lines from some of his most famous verses, without identifying their poetic construction. He used the rhyming scheme ab, ab, cd, cd, ef, ef, gg.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day
Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of Maie,
And sommers lease hath all too short a date”.
This sonnet, sonnet 18, is about one of Shakespeare’s favourite themes – love, and illustrates his use of imagery from the natural world to describe the transience of physical beauty, and love itself. Whilst the majority of Shakespearean sonnets are about love, poets have used the form to write about other perennial themes such as ageing and death. As is common with the sonnet form, Shakespeare uses the final couplet to summarise the theme of the poem, or introduce a different perspective on the theme.
Donne and Milton were famous for their religious sonnets. During the 18th century the form fell out of fashion. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it became popular again, particularly with Wordsworth and Keats. Once again, nature, death and love were sources of inspiration.
Many of our best known poems are sonnets:
“If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed”.
(The Soldier Rupert Brooke)
“Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay”.
(Remember Christina Rossetti)
Despite the discipline of a strict format, powerful emotions may be expressed; never more so than in Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, which uses simple, almost predictable rhymes to convey the savagery and horror of war:
“What passing – bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds”.
The first few lines make clear Owen’s feelings about the futility of war, and then the tone changes – away from the stark brutality of the battleground to the quiet, almost lyrical grief of families at home.
Remember, sonnets can be declarations of love, loss, anger, grief, but they can also be in praise of people and the natural world. They can amuse us, stir our emotions, and make us think. They were meant to be read out loud. If yours sounds good when you read it out loud, whatever its length, or rhyming pattern – it’s a sonnet! (but for this comp. 14 lines is necessary).
When I studied art and English as a trainee primary school teacher, my inspirations were the colours and textures of the natural world. They continue to inspire me today.
A lifelong enthusiasm for gardening has focussed my attention on form, light and seasonal changes Countless holidays in Suffolk have inspired my love of landscape and big skies.
These twin passions have come together in my photographic exploration of surfaces and textures.
Exploring Suffolk with my camera, I look for shots which capture everyday coastal life – objects, buildings, all with a hint of a story to tell.
Not technicolour sunsets or panoramic seascapes, but the small subtle glimpses of a world governed by time and tide, weather and the seasons.
As I was inspired to capture shots on camera, I hope you find inspiration in the pictures I took to write a sonnet about Suffolk and the sea.
See more of my work at www.lottieclarke.com