Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weekly Workshop: A Hero's Crown

Last week, investigators uncovered a long-term scam in which cemetery workers sold already occupied plots. They would bury people on top of each other, or remove the pre-existing body, dismember it, and transfer it to a mass grave. Gruesome stuff, I know. What caught my eye was that the cemetery was the final resting place for, among others, the Civil Rights martyr Emmett Till.

The youth, whose death by lynching became a powerful touchstone for the Civil Rights movement, has been the inspiration for many works of art, including Marilyn Nelson's heroic crown of sonnets, A Wreath for Emmett Till. A difficult form to say the least, it usually concerns a single person or subject that is itself difficult to address. Such as, say, a young boy being brutally murdered.

So, in honor of Emmett Till and other lost heroes, I challenge you to try your hand at a heroic crown of sonnets. Here are the rules:

1. A Heroic Crown consists of fifteen sonnets.
2. The last line of the first sonnet becomes the first line of the next sonnet.
3. The fifteenth sonnet is comprised of the first lines of the first fourteen sonnets, in order.
4. All other rules of the sonnet are in play as well: A sonnet consists of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. As far as I can tell, the rhyme scheme can be either Petrarchan or Shakespearean.

If this is a little too daunting, consider writing a plain ol' crown, which is only seven linked sonnets. Or, heck, just getting out one sonnet is sometimes hard enough. But whatever you try this week, I wish you luck.

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