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Phone Sonnets


"Sonnet" by Robert Hass, from Sun Under Wood, was the model poem given with this prompt. Is that poem a sonnet, you might ask after reading it. Just because it has 14 lines? Where's the rhyme scheme? It is not in that Shakespearean form they taught you in school, is it?

Is there some other rhyme operating here... phone & tone, chambers & chamber? Perhaps, it is in a sonnet form - the idea presented (first 8 lines) and then the movement towards a conclusion (in the final 6.)

Robert Hass (U.S. Poet Laureate 95-97) is not the first to take some liberties with the form. And he won't be the last if you take up our current prompt: Write a 14 line poem about a phone conversation and try using aspects of the sonnet form. Is it a conversation overheard, from the past, imagined? Will we hear one or both sides?

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


It's been years since my father died,
but sometimes
I'm sure that he will phone me. 
I have only to wait and listen. 
When a voice cuts in on my cell phone -
so far it's been only strangers talking -
I think of energies in the air,
that if he really needs me,
if I really need him,
if I listen intently I'll hear him,
though some voices are softer
than the sound of petals
on freshly shoveled earth.

Carole Reed


So insistent, the wall phone when it rings
for me. I answer its black beckoning call,
hear her begin in midsentence with strings
of ". . . started tearing down the kitchen wall.
Know you didn't want me to but so what.
I'll do what I want to. You are never here.
Did you hear that? I'd have waited for you but
I found this big hammer. It felt good. I'll swear
I liked the feel of it splashing plaster,
the solid thunk when I hit a stud.
I like that. Hit a stud. Wish you were here.
I'd splinter you like I'm splintering wood."
"You've a wrong number. Try again. You should."
"Oh. Sorry. Talking with you felt so good."

Mikal Lofgren


I found myself in a darkening wood
sitting at the edge of the trail drinking coffee.
She entered my field slowly, as if she understood
the sense of my place, a kind of choreography
of person, boulder, trail and tree,
her chocolate lab puppy on its own
but seeming to lead her to some degree.
She follows, talking on her cell phone.
Her words unclear, but clearly a moan
followed by "Please, don't talk that way,"
as she passes me seated on the cold stone.
I want to call to her, but have no words to say.
She walks into the fallen sun and takes the light
and leaves me at the dance and to the night.

Kenneth Ronkowitz

(for my mother)

I pity Mary
she says to me
her fair face full before me
even through these phone lines.
Now goes the wood under the tree
her voice like something from another century.
All the woods are colored dusk.
As they are here outside my window.

My love for her is something I pray
my voice carries to her each day.
Two deer are at the fence outside.
She moves the curtain away.
I pity Mary, her son and thee.
On this point both of us agree.

Charles Michaels