In Celebration of Sonnets: Sonnets by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, & Leslie Schultz; Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest 2014

I love sonnets. I have been writing them since I was in college. I respond to and create both the two dominant classic forms, Shakespearian and Petrarchan, and have attempted a few Spenserian sonnets. I have a whole host of fourteen-line poems that are variously sonnet-like, and discerning readers will have noted that the poem I published here last December, entitled “Winter Walk”, was an entwined double sonnet of my own devising. Some years ago, at the turn of the year, I was able to channel the grief I felt at the anniversary of my father’s death into art: in the space of twenty-four hours, I found I had written a five-sonnet sequence.

Sonnet Ice Heart

Why sonnets? They are the perfect size to establish, develop, and then reverse or sum up an idea. With fourteen lines of iambic pentameter one has 140 syllables at one’s disposal. A poet whose work I revere, and was very kind to me as a mentor, Amy Clampitt, told me that when she had a poem that was going on and on and she couldn’t tell where the heart of it was, she would try writing it as a sonnet, because that always clarified the essence of the work at hand. I enjoy the rhymes or slant rhymes, depending on the choices of the poet–I especially love to read a poem and then review it to realize it is a sonnet when I didn’t first observe that because the rhyme and enjambment was so skillfully handled. I also love the turn a sonnet reliably provides. Sonnets have enough room to be discursive, even chatty, but they are also succinct. They take just over one minute to recite slowly, with expression.

When Tim and I married, we included a favorite by Shakespeare in the service.

Sonnet CXVI

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


William Shakespeare



This sonnet is one I know so well that I have it memorized. I have even tailored it by one syllable to make it more universal: in the last line, I change “man” to “one”.


Sonnet two roses
For our tenth wedding anniversary, I wrote the following sonnet, in the Shakespearean style for Tim.


Midsummer Song
(August 6, 1998)
for Tim


So now our marriage completes its tenth year.
Surely this occasion is consequential,
but how to pluck one day apart, to say, “Here
we celebrate”? Fuss seems tangential,
after-thought. Each day unfolds like a rose,
gold or crimson, in its turn, opening to sun;
then, as petals drop, the heart is free to close,
to brood and transform, to ponder two-in-one.
A decade ago, we publicly pressed our lips
together, setting sail into these middle years.
A start, but a loss, too. The honey of rosehips
tastes of tart autumn, tinged with cold and tears.


Each flower holds it sleek, obsidian seed.
I hold fast to you. I know what I need.


Leslie Schultz



Below, I have included some sonnets in the other dominant English-language form, the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet: two by William Wordsworth and one by me. (How to tell these two sonnet forms apart? The rhyme scheme is the first clue. Shakespearean sonnets end with a rhymed couplet, and the couplet supplies the “turn”. Petrarchan sonnets only occasionally end with a couplet–in some variations–but the logical turn happens much earlier, usually in the ninth line.)



The World is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us. Late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


William Wordsworth

2014 Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest: Deadline 

As many of you know, the 2014  Great River Shakespeare Festival/Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest is now open.  Full Contest rules and details are found at This contest is now in its seventh year. For sonnet writers all over the globe, it is a wonderful chance to compete in a range of sonnet formats and tones–from Shakespearian, Petrarchan, and non-traditional metrical and rhyme schemes, from straight-forward love poems to humorous observations, story-telling, and impassioned social commentary.

Contest organizer, poet Ted Haaland, has edited a beautifully made anthology of the sonnets from the first five years of the competition (2008-2012).

sonnet Cover Melody

Sonnet Back Melody

This Melody Weaves In and Out, showcases the possibilities of the sonnet form. Copies are available for $10.00 (postage included), and proceeds are added to the pool of prize money for future sonnet contest winners. If you’d like your own copy–to inspire your own sonnets or simply to enjoy–send a check for $10 and your mailing information to:

Sonnet Ted's Address

Ted also says, “This year, to mark this 7th annual Contest, the 3rd in memory of Maria, you are invited to join us at a Sonnet Contest “Kick-Off” event on Saturday, April 26th (during National Poetry Month) beginning at 11 AM, at Jefferson Pub and Grill’s 2nd floor meeting room, here in downtown Winona on Center Street.  This is a free event, and is held on the last day of the Mid West Music Fest.  Room seating capacity is around 60, and since this event is a first for us, we’ve no idea how many to expect, so we encourage promptness. This is an opportunity for some of us to learn about sonnets, and others of us to read sonnets,either their own or those of favorite poets.  We anticipate that Winona’s present and past Poets Laureate will be attending.  We will have a drawing for a book of collected sonnets spanning several hundred years, and, of course, coffee and snacks will be available. Since some of us can’t seem to avoid rhyming, we say, ‘Come & celebrate Will’s skills with quills.'”

Sonnet Pink Rose

Tintern Church of England School for Girls
(Melbourne, 1973)

With plaits and dresses neat, we stand
to see the sheep and shearer meet.
We have our cotton gloves in hand
to fan away November’s heat,
and we pull our stockings to our knees
while Third Form herds its project in.
The black-faced ewe weights down the breeze;
her rank coat makes the shearer grin.
“Stand and deliver!”  He grabs the ewe,
wrapping her legs in one strong hand.
His shears are rough and bite a fold
Of clumsy skin.  As bright as dew
The blood drops bead, then scatter on the sand.
Despite the heat, I shiver, shorn and cold.

Leslie Schultz

The above sonnet was written some years ago, and it is based on a memory of an enrichment event at an Australian girls’ school I attended. (Interestingly, I never heard anything about Wordsworth’s masterpiece, its long title usually abbreviated “Tintern Abbey”, until I was a senior in college.)

I entered it in the Maria W. Faust Contest in 2013 and was awarded a prize. I have already addressed an envelope for this year’s submission, and am listening intently. I have several sonnets that I might send, but if I catch wind of an engaging iambic pentameter line, who knows, I might find myself with an even better candidate. Stay tuned! Better yet, try your hand at a sonnet and send it in to the contest!


Portrait of Maria W. Faust

“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
“So long this lives and this gives life to thee.”
(William Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII)

Roses in front of the beautiful Northfield Public Library

Roses in front of the beautiful Northfield Public Library

Scorn Not the Sonnet


Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch’s wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camöens soothed an exile’s grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains—alas, too few!


William Wordsworth


Sonnet Rose

Thank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone!



Book Spine Poems

A good friend of mine, Bonnie Jean Flom, knows her way around a classroom. With long years of experience not only as an artist but as a grade school teacher, principal, and educational consultant, Bonnie Jean is still discovering and sharing new ways to excite young children about language and learning.

Recently she shared with me an idea that got me excited, too, and so I want to share it with you. Bonnie Jean spent time during April in the Austin, Texas visiting her son, Scott Norman. While there, she spent a delightful day with the fifth graders he teaches. In addition to helping these young students write and publish their work for their classroom, Bonnie Jean observed students celebrating National Poetry Month by arranging books in stacks so that the titles on their spines created short poems. The students then photographed their poems before re-shelving their constituent books.

Poetry + photography? I thought this sounded like a wonderful idea!

Here are two examples that showcase the limitations of my library and imagination but also the fun I had. After a little experimenting, I decided they read most naturally from the top down. Frustrations included not having the sounds I wanted, wide variation in font size and style, realizing how many of my books have dull titles like “Complete Poems” that mask the excitement of the contents within, and (ouch!) having a slippery, heavy stack slide onto my toes. (Lessons learned: wear thick clogs and compose short poems.)

In the photos, I have endeavored to line up the germane phrases, but they still might be rather hard to read. I include the texts below.

Poem One:

Spine Poem One

Sensitive Chaos
World Poetry

Engineers of the Soul
The Enchanted Loom
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

Poem Two:

Spine Poem Two

God Be With the Clown
Write from the Heart
The Story of My Life
Fractured Fate

Can Poetry Matter?
Tirra Lirra By the River
Help, Thanks, Wow
The Opposite of Fate

Talking to the Sun
A Kiss in Space
Imaginary Gardens
The Golden Gate

So…are you itching to try it yourself? Go ahead! And let me know what you come up with!







Other News


Summer always means Shakespeare at our house. We think of his birthday, celebrated on April 23. (Born in 1564, that would make him 449 years old today.)  And then it seems natural to seek out a production of his work or to re-read a play  or recite a few of the sonnets. This year, Julia and I hosted a “Reader’s Theater”; a total of 9 people gathered at our house to read Hamlet, scene by scene, one act per day. We paused after each scene to discuss the action, to look up unfamiliar words and concepts, to puzzle over character’s motivations, to examine recurring themes, and to recast the actors’ roles. Everyone got to share in the big parts as well as the bit parts. We also included vestigial costuming (a grey pashmina draped over the head for the ghost of King Hamlet, a red beret for Laertes who is off to France, matching Disney World lanyards for the goofy Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee that are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.)  We had lots of laughs and some new insights, too. A reader’s theater approach is a low-tech but highly interactive way to bring any dramatic work off the page.

Hamlet Reader's Theater

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 5.44.54 PM

In other regional Shakespeare news, check out the Great River Shakespeare Festival held in Winona, Minnesota through August (  In addition to performances and other events, the festival is holding its sixth annual sonnet contest, open to authors around the globe.
Note also that the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, which included in its first season a noted production of Hamlet, is hosting productions both of Hamlet and of Tom Stoppard’s companion black comedy, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in the spring of 2014, as part of its 50th season. (
Thank You For Hamlet Reader's Theater