I love writing formal verse, particularly fixed form poetry, such as sonnets and villanelles. Some people don't believe that formal verse has any place in poetry today, but I beg to differ. I think that one reason why people are often opposed to it is because it is much harder to write fixed form poetry well. Or perhaps I should say that it is very easy to write fixed form poetry badly. As a result, there is a lot of amateur poetry floating about with tortured rhymes and mangled rhythms and they can discourage poet and reader alike.
I wrote about this a little in my dissertation, but there's something about writing a poem using a strict rhyming scheme that can be very satisfying. From a therapeutic point of view, it can be considered a safe containing device for difficult emotions. There is an intensity to fixed form poetry that isn't always found in free verse; the rhyme and rhythm can contribute to, and build, tension very effectively.
I love the fact that a sonnet only has fourteen lines and yet it is a powerhouse of emotion and content. The compression of the subject matter and emotion definitely increases the power in the poem. Also, although there are a fixed amount of lines in a sonnet, and each line is in iambic pentameter, there are many different rhyming schemes; the main three are the Shakespearian, the Petrarchan and the Spenserian sonnets. The sonnet below is an example of a Petrarchan sonnet, with the rhyme scheme ABBAABBACDCDCD (the sestet - the final six lines of the sonnet - in a Petrarchan sonnet can also be CDECDE).
I wrote this sonnet whilst exploring different viewpoints of biblical characters. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, but this poem explores whether he himself felt betrayed after expecting Jesus to bring about a military uprising that would free Israel from the Romans:
He spoke at first of kingdoms, of the day
When evil would be driven from the land,
And when He called, my sword was in my hand
To drive the Romans out and make them pay.
But what went wrong? He held our zeal at bay
And spoke of peace – we could not understand
Until I caught a glimpse of what He planned -
And those who are betrayed learn to betray.
If he were great he would have fought and won,
But he was weak and so he came to harm,
And yet, it seems that I am now undone –
I kissed Him and his eyes were very calm.
My hands still shake. I watch the setting sun -
The silver coins are rattling in my palm.