she learns to keep a secret

This is my first-ever Petrarchan sonnet. I highly recommend The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, edited by Phillis Levin. She's an amazing scholar and helped me understand the expressive power of the different ways a sonnet can be composed.

I'd always thought of the Shakespearean sonnet as "three points and a prayer", like a sermon. Its three quatrains contain three ideas, couched in a pattern of alternating rhymes, with the couplet at the end providing a summary:

The Petrarchan sonnet is actually an older version of the form. There are two stanzas in envelope rhyme followed by six lines in a rotating pattern:

The shift in tempo between them also marks a change in perspective within the contents of the poem. This change is called the
volta, which is Italian for "turn." Even in other patterns of composition it's possible to see traces of the volta, though of course it is the most pronounced in Petrarchan sonnets. It's possible that the poet / litigators who first invented it came up with the division of eight lines followed by six as a way to represent the Golden Ratio, a mathematical concept which in ancient Greek philosophy had much to do with the universal ideal of beauty.

What I had not grasped before was why I was not really comfortable writing any type of sonnet except the Shakespearean. It just felt better to me and I couldn't say why. Levin included a quote from Paul Fussel, who described the difference succinctly:

"If the shape of the Petrarchan sonnet, with its two slightly unbalanced sections devoted to pressure and release, seems to accord with the dynamics of much emotional experience, the shape of the Shakespearean, with its smaller units and its 'commentary couplet,' seems to accord with the modes of the intellectual, analytic and even satiric operations of the human sensibility."

So there you have it. Analytical thought is my comfort zone--even in the process of creating poems, which on the surface is a highly emotional act! Some gals get comfy with themselves and learn how to feel their own feelings, and they go dance in the rain or dye their hair purple or take up windsurfing. When I want to let my hair down and really cut loose, I write a Petrarchan sonnnet.

Oh! And this relates to one of those pithy proverby things that came up in recent discussions of life issues. Togetherness is sharing for its own sake, appreciating others in their uniqueness, but sharing-togetherness is not meant to take away human loneliness. Only God can truly see always into the center of your being. Seeking the regard of other humans as a means to protect yourself from loneliness is a futile enterprise in the long run.

The real opposite of loneliness is privacy.

white fingers tighten, firm against the glass
the sand slips past them, grain by precious grain
grip till the flesh is bloodless, but refrain
from weeping. you can't reach them; they will pass
for gravity attracts all mass to mass
you, dust-mote light stick figure with a brain
excite, but cannot hope to entertain
earth's eon dance of solid, liquid, gas
and plasma, flame too ardent to contain
even within the endless curve of sun
that spilled earth molten from its fingertips
you grasp--let slip--delight in--can't explain
what God has wrought, and you yourself have done--
smile slightly. lift one finger to your lips.