Friday, April 28, 2017


Incredibly, the first sonnet in English was written by a woman in 1560.  Her name was Anne Locke (c. 1530-1590).  I'd never heard of her until two or three weeks ago, while researching sonnets. All this time, I had believed that William Shakespeare, the Bard, had invented the English sonnet. 

According to Interesting Literature, the Bard wrote his sonnets thirty years after Anne Locke's version.  Thirty years!  Basically, she is known to English scholars and unknown to the rest of us.  Perhaps the reason for her obscurity is that, in her time, she risked imprisonment or death by writing poetry.  After that, she may have been bypassed because she was a woman.  In any case, today let us give her the due recognition.  Read about her life at

As for her sonnets, they make for terse reading--of interest to very few people today besides literary scholars because the language is in Elizabethan English (complete with spelling):

     And then not daring with presuming eye
Once to beholde the angry heauens face,
From troubled sprite I send confused crye,
To craue the crummes of all sufficing grace.
With foltring knee I fallyng to the ground,
Bendyng my yelding handes to heauens throne,
Poure forth my piteous plaint w[ith] woefull sound,
With smoking sighes, & oft repeted grone,
Before the Lord, the Lord, whom synner I,
I cursed wretch, I haue offended so,
That dredyng, in his wrekefull wrath to dye,
And damned downe to depth of hell to go,
Thus tost with panges and passions of despeir,
Thus craue I mercy with repentant chere.

That said, you can read all of Anne Locke's 26 sonnets at .

Lastly, for a really interesting list of women poets who wrote sonnets in English over several centuries, visit

Number one on the list is, of course, Anne Locke.

--Yolanda A.  Reid


Yolanda A. Reid is the author of two novels and a debut poetry collection, entitled Sonnets to the Japim Bird.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Described as a "sonnet novella" by its publisher, More Sonnets from the Portuguese is the love story of a middle-aged woman and her married ex-lover from college. In the very first sonnet, entitled "I am a Sensible Woman," the protagonist sums herself up perfectly:

I--Zelia Nunes--sensibly married
only once. Forty-five, no longer young.
Husband dead, four children, mortgaged, harried,
Holy obligations met, even sung.

The title is from 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning's classic, Sonnets from the Portuguese (which I've read and loved, for many years). This, too, is a beautiful sonnet sequence, adeptly written. In More Sonnets from the Portuguese, author Janet Eldred  adroitly uses a centuries-old poetic form

and brings it into the 21st century. She addresses modern-day issues such as infidelity, religious guilt, reproductive rights, the environment, aging, technology.

Zelia also references Facebook and Twitter, which makes sense because the bulk of the affair is conducted via e-mail. In "After Years," Zelia says, "Your e-mail before me, my body sings/the reply, One doesn't forget such things."

In another sonnet, she says, "I am officially a Kindle/girl...You pull me to you. You tempt me to stray--/Yes, good Lord help me, I like you that way." In yet another sonnet, she states, "You are the love of my life."                            

The poems feature beautiful imagery that is rich, sensual, complex. Once Zelia describes the California landscape as covered with "almond trees that blossomed like moonlight,/perfumed crops picked by bodies until broken." Her family ancestry is Azorean (from islands off the coast of Portugal). As depicted, the details feel intimate, fully developed.

I preferred the first half of this sequence, perhaps because in those sonnets the love was new and unexpected. In the second half, Zelia's mood changes from moment to moment, veering from excited and hopeful to despondent, all dependent on the vicissitudes of the relationship (after all, he has a wife!). Also, she becomes more philosophical as she grapples with her guilt and religion.

That said, I liked and enjoyed reading all the poems.

In her acknowledgments, Professor Eldred states that More Sonnets from the Portuguese began as a work of fiction, but that in poetry she found she could better tell Zelia's story. By doing so, she breaks new literary ground. Hence, the term "sonnet novella."

At this point, I must mention the stunningly beautiful cover art: a painting of a cobalt-blue peahen on a window sill. This watercolor, it turns out, is by the author herself.

Beautiful poems and beautiful art. Read these poems in honor of National Poetry Month or just because it's spring!  

--Yolanda A.  Reid


Yolanda A.  Reid is the author of two novels and a debut poetry collection, entitled Sonnets to the Japim Bird.