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The World’s Worst Sonnet About A Dead Dog Ever

Poets see the world at its core, then ruin it with words.

While I was studying poetry in college, I was forced to write a sonnet. Forced, you say? Was a gun held to my head? Did a professor surreptitiously slip a pinless grenade into my palm, step back cautiously and demand, “Write the damned sonnet!” No, but my instructor did string my GPA up by the neck with a thick noose and threaten to kick the desk out from under my GPA’s feet if I didn’t write the stupid thing. Even though I write free verse. Exclusively. Rhyming is not one of my super powers. People who’ve heard me attempt to rap know this. My instructor didn’t care. You apparently can’t be a well-rounded poet unless you master the sonnet. Kinda like those chefs who think you can’t truly call yourself a cook unless you can boil water. Snobs.

For those of you who have never written a sonnet, you’re lucky bastards and I despise you. That said, hang in there with me even if you’re not a huge poetry fan because I’ll be humiliating myself in a big way in just a few paragraphs. For those of you who have written a sonnet and who have also successfully repressed “the rules” of sonnet-writing, let me re-awaken the slime-dripping, fang-baring monster that likely haunted your every dream throughout the semester you were enrolled in Poetry 101.

William Shakespeare - Sonnet Rule-Maker and General Arse

Shakespearean Sonnet Rules

For my purposes, I will be referring exclusively to the Shakespearean (or Elizabethan) Sonnet.

1)  A sonnet must consist of  exactly 14 lines.

2)  Each line must have exactly 10 syllables.

3)  A sonnet must consist of exactly three quatrains (four lines) followed by exactly one couplet (two lines).

4)  The rhyme scheme in a sonnet must be exactly as follows: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

In English, this means that in the first quatrain, the first and third lines must rhyme and the second and fourth lines must rhyme. Same goes for the second quatrain, but it’s critical to note that the rhymes must be unique from the first quatrain – C and D can’t rhyme with A or B. Same goes for E and F and G.

Note: We haven’t even made it through all the rules yet, but the word exactly has already appeared FOUR times. Starting to see why sonnets and Satan both start with the same letter?

5)  Each line must be written in iambic pentameter.

If your response wasn’t “Huh?” or “I only speak a little Spanish,” then you’ve clearly written sonnets before – and enjoyed the process. Before things get ugly, you should just muddle on over to the Mensa website because we won’t tolerate any of that Shakespearean-sonnets-are-the-bomb attitude here.

If you’re still going, “What the hell is an i-am-buck pentacle,” then you’re in the right place. First you have to know what an iambic foot is. Though it sounds like something a podiatrist would diagnose and prescribe a brace for, it simply means an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. da-DUM. Iambic pentameter consists of five iambic  feet in a row: da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM. Or for those Dirty Dancing fans out there, remember that scene where Patrick Swayze tries to teach Baby rhythm by tapping his chest in time with his heartbeat? ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG. Yes, Swayze was a hunk and his heart was a master of iambic pentameter. Basically, this is just one more thing that you have to worry about when writing a la Shakespeare –  if  the correct syllables aren’t stressed in the proper order, your sonnet’s pretty much crap.

Patrick Swayze teaching Jennifer Grey how to write a Shakespearean sonnet
a.k.a. Cristy's Poem, "How Ironic" - The World's Worst Sonnet Ever

So why did you need to know all this? Why did you read this far without anything really, truly funny happening? Because I am now going to share with you the World’s Worst Sonnet Ever! It’s horrible on so many levels, but before I go into detail, I will simply allow you to read it and let it speak for itself.

By the way, it is also my sonnet. Yes, I wrote it. Twenty-two years ago. I am responsible for this flaming pile of poo. Thus, there is absolutely no need to try to console me or assure me that the poem isn’t shit in your comments below because I fully recognize that I have made the world a far worse place by writing all 26 lines of the following sonnet. What? Twenty-six lines, you say? But I thought a sonnet had 14 lines. There you go…you’re already discovering why this is:

The World’s Worst Sonnet Ever

**********

How Ironic

When I saw her, she was shrunken hollow

her body pressed to the back of the cage.

Eyes enormous, spittle wetting the hair

beneath her blond muzzle, six months of age.

Driving her home, our pygmy Lassie peed

on the plush velour seat and my bare skin.

I laughed. She shrank further inside my arms

and froze, ears perked, a doggy mannequin.

She learned to sit, roll over, beg and jump

on command. She could climb up my knees, legs,

elbows and shoulders to the top. Her paws

on my head, eyes open, ready to beg.

She never learned how to play dead until

last week. It took fifteen years to teach her,

fifteen years of loyal love and wet licks

on my hand, as I softly stroked her fur.

Every girl’s dream come true was my Daisy,

even as she aged and became a weight

upon our shoulders, a burden to scorn,

a family member we grew to hate.

Alone I cry as Mother speaks of cysts

which invaded her body like Martians,

feeding it death as they grew in numbers,

her life chained to a grave by Lilliputians.

Daisy plays dead now like an Oscar nominee

As she lies wrapped in sheets beneath our dogwood tree.

Daisy - Not Quite Dead Yet


I’ll give you a moment to recompose yourself. Take a second. Wipe the vomit off the front of your shirt. And, you, stop ROFLing all over the carpet. Nobody really ROFLs. An LOL would have been satisfactory. Have some dignity, man!

Yes, I wrote this poem about my dead dog, Daisy. I remember trying to write the darn thing about at least ten other topics like flowers and forests and unrequited love because that’s the kind of crap that sonneteers, as they were called, wrote about. But let me clue you in – these aren’t things I spend much time writing about. Really? But that seems so unlike me, right? I’m all about spending 14 lines of poetry to describe the curve of a rose petal and the sharpness of its thorns as they pierce my fingers – and metaphorically, my heart. Here, let me hand you a bucket. Keep that thing handy, would ya?

As the author of such gems as “Amputee,” “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” (about a transgendered person involved in a standoff with the police), and “Upon Seeing Jesus Christ in the Dollar Store,” flowers and unicorns rarely find their way into my verse. Since I detested – no, loathed – all the rules and sonnet regulations, I found the only way I could get through the process with an ounce of sanity was to pen a poem about something I actually cared about. In the process, I ended up with the worst tribute  in honor of a beloved pet ever written. In fact, it’s so God awful that Daisy now haunts me like Jacob Marley, weighed down by the forged steel links that the Lilliputians used to chain her to the grave. She claims that if I don’t repent my poetic sins and buy some lame dogs a turkey that they can rip apart at Christmas, I’ll die forgotten and alone. As if my sonnet hasn’t already assured that fate.

Why My Sonnet Sucks

1)  It’s Bad! You read it, right? It’s just bad. Really bad. So horrendously bad that it’s the Lindsay Lohan of poetry – a train wreck so terrible that you just can’t look away from the carnage. You’ve got to re-read it again and again to reaffirm that it’s as heinous as you initially thought. Don’t do this to yourself. It doesn’t get any better and you’ll get acid-reflux from all the puking. Or rug burn if you’re one of those people doing the whole ROFL thing.

Lindsay "Panties-Optional Trainwreck" Lohan - Look away! You can't, can you?

2)  Abominable Descriptions and Similes:

  • “our pygmy Lassie peed”  –  Daisy was a Sheltie. You’d think I could have used the word Sheltie and avoided the word pygmy – which makes people think of short Africans, not miniature Collies. And she peed. This may have been the inaugural usage of dog urine in a Shakespearean sonnet.

    African Pygmies - You're thinking of Shelties right now, aren't you? And peeing. It's just natural.
  •  “a doggy mannequin” –  Really? This was the best I could come up with?

    Who knew these even existed? Though this lends a shred of credibility to my sonnet, Daisy was not blind, hairless or an albino.
  •  The entire second octave –  Could I have listed more body parts? How did I leave out breasts, collarbone and ears?
  •  “Alone I cry as Mother speaks of cysts which invaded her body like Martians”  – You know those Martian cysts, right? They’re black, can only be destroyed by the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, and will make you “very angry, very angry indeed.”
I will destroy this sonnet with a kaboom. Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be a sonnet-shattering kaboom?
  •  “Her life chained to a grave by Lilliputians.” – What do little people who live in a fictional land have to do with this? Maybe if Daisy had been named Gulliver this would have worked. But then she would have likely had gender issues or people would have called her “Liver Lips.” You can’t put a dog through that just so you can use a word in a poem after she dies.

    Are those even chains? They look like ropes to me.
  •  “Daisy plays dead now like an Oscar nominee” – Though I’m sure that Meryl Streep can play a corpse like nobody’s business, the hard fact is that Oscar nominees don’t win awards for lying motionless on film. In most movies and television shows, extras and unknown actors play dead people. Dogs who can play dead in the movies may, in fact, deserve Oscar nominations, but the Academy does not yet recognize the contribution of canines to film.

    This is my cat, Dinsworth. Though he plays dead extremely well, here he is playing a homeless person.
  • “As she lies wrapped in sheets beneath our dogwood tree.” – For the record, Daisy wasn’t buried beneath a dogwood tree. It just sounded ironic – or what I thought was ironic at nineteen. I don’t actually remember what kind of tree it was. The truly ironic thing is that it died too. Good dog; bad fertilizer.
Alanis Morissette - She Didn't Know What "Ironic" Meant Either

3) It’s Not Really A Shakespearean Sonnet 

  • It has 26 lines and six quatrains – What part of ” a sonnet must have exactly 14 lines and three quatrains” did I not get? Why would I write 12 lines more than I needed to? I must be a masochist. Or maybe I was punishing my professor. You gonna make me write this crap; I’m gonna make you read a lot of it, a whole fucking lot of it. It will feel like it’s never ending, much like the Star Wars franchise. Perhaps the first three quatrains are actually the prequel for the final three quatrains. And the couplet, that was the animated version. You don’t like it; blame George Lucas.

    George Lucas - Don't Tell Me I Can't Make A Billion More Star Wars Movies
  • Use of the word “Lilliputians” put me over my syllable limit – For 23 lines, I stuck religiously to the 10 syllable rule and then I broke  it so that I could use the most ridiculous word in the entire sonnet. Seriously, Lilliputians? Sounds like stooped-over, little old ladies who collect Lilly Pulitzer dresses and meet for tea on Worth Avenue.

    Didja' hear? We're in a sonnet. I must schedule a reading at the Country Club.
  • Final couplet has 12 syllables per line – Just couldn’t shut up, could I? Drag the agony out a little bit longer.
  • My Rhyme Scheme Uses Most of the Alphabet –  If you recall, the rhyme scheme should follow this format: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. My sonnet’s rhyme scheme is as follows: ABCB DCEC FGHG IJKJ LMNM OPQP RR. Now I know my ABC’s, next time write a longer sonnet so we’ll get to Z.

    Even this ABC chart was subliminally telling me to QUIT when I reached the letter "Q". Oops, upon closer examination, it actually says QUILT. This would have still been a better pastime than continuing writing the sonnet.
  • I thought iambic pentameter was B.S. – To be blunt, I just didn’t even try. It was too much work, and it became clear very early on that this sonnet was a box of hardened fudge nuggets wrapped with a decorative Shakespearean ruff. Editing this monstrosity would have been a futile exercise in turd polishing.

So now that I’ve borne my soul naked and bare for you, sharing my most embarrassing writing endeavor with the world, I ask you to do the same.  I would love and appreciate your comments on The World’s Worst Sonnet Ever, but I also invite you to share your worst poem – sonnet or otherwise – right here on my blog. Just post it into the comments section. Let’s make this a celebration of suckiness. Let’s make a pact to strive for mediocrity so that one day we may post The World’s Most Average Sonnet Ever. 

As I await your responses, I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend, Evan, who loves “How Ironic.” In fact, he claims that it’s his favorite of all my poems. Of course, he eats babies for breakfast, lives in Portlandia and thinks he’s a trickster God, so what do you expect? Anyway, yesterday was his birthday. Happy Birthday, you freak!

Now let the comments and sucky poetry commence!

43 thoughts on “The World’s Worst Sonnet About A Dead Dog Ever

  1. “Lindsay “Pantyless Trainwreck” Lohan – Look away! You can’t, can you?”
    I’d almost forgotten about this hosebag! Thanks a lot!
    Just kidding. Seriously, great post!

  2. Wow, this post brought back so many memories. So many painful memories. As an English/Writing major, I took many a poetry class, and I’m pretty sure I had to write a sonnet in every one of them. I’m also pretty sure this was how all the profs got their kicks. I have pictures in my head of them meeting up at a local bar and writing their syllabi over a few beers, laughing gleefully (and evilly) over all the sonnets they’re going to make all us saps write. “They’re totally not going to make any money with this major, so we might as well torture them further, just for kicks.”

    1. Please post one of your worst sonnets, Noelle. I would so love to revel in others’ suffering. It makes me feel less alone in my own. What is it they say about professors? Those who can’t do, teach? I think that should be amended to say: Those who can’t do, torture their students by making them do something that they will also fail at.

    2. I went to an English school (that’s right, in England) and they never made us write a sonnet, or any other poem for that matter. We just had to be in awe of the ones we had to analyze, and analyze we did, to fucking death. So, I say to you, I’d rather write a ridiculously bad sonnet than have to analyze a great one. If I had written one, then maybe one of my English teachers may have had a heart attack. And, ironically, that would have made great fodder for a decent sonnet.

      I sincerely hope that this is not the only human contact you have. That seems a rather severe punishment for writing the worst sonnet ever.

      1. I like you, Fiona. No, I’m far from alone. I just enjoy the hyperbole. I suggest that you consider writing a sonnet about the inadvertent death of your English teacher. As one of my professors used to tell me, “It doesn’t have to be true to write a poem about it.” If you do, be sure to let me know and I’ll happily share it with my readers. I’m just pleased that my failure has served to teach a lesson on sonnets and how NOT to write them. I feel like I’m sneaking veggies into the kids’ food. And a suckass sonnet. Thanks again for your comments. Hope to hear from you again! 🙂

  3. Very funny post, but I have to say I didn’t think it was at all bad. In fact I was impressed – I don’t think I could write a sonnet at all, let alone something that made as much sense as that!

    1. But I didn’t write a sonnet, indiaphare. I wrote a flaming pile of poo. But thank you, anyway. Thanks, too, for being one of my very first followers. I will NOT forget that now that I’m Freshly Pressed – which is freaking me out! I’m stunned.

  4. I can’t say it was ROFL funny because your sonnet is about your dead pet and I would feel guilty. However, it was educational.
    I’m particularly fond of the Target haiku-pons. Here’s my fav. I think it’s about dog bones but I’m not sure….
    Guess what’s in my hand
    It’s a treat worth begging for
    Sit, shake, roll over

    Each line is written on a coupon so when you cut it out (yes, I do cut out coupons, I just don’t take them to the store), you can mix up the haikus. Kind of like those picture books of people where the head, body, and legs are separate pages so you can interchange them and make silly-looking people.

    Interchangeable sonnets…, now there’s an idea.

    1. Target haiku-pons. That is freaking brilliant. I may have found my new calling. How do I get a gig writing sarcastic haiku-pons.

      As far as interchangeable sonnets go, that’s a fabulous idea. But I’m never writing another sonnet. Ever. I don’t have a GPA anymore, so no one can make me either. Thanks for actually logging in and checking out my blog, Tamara. You rock, my friend!

  5. It is kind of terrible. I love it. And your blog. Sooooo glad to run across it! So glad, in fact, that I just gave you one of the spread-the-blogging-love awards. It is today’s post on my blog (“49″) if you want to check it out.

    Cheers, tall girl!

    1. OMG! And let me say now that I reserve OMG for truly shocking moments like finding out I’m Freshly Pressed and now your spread-the-blogging-love-awards. I will totally check it out. I suddenly feel like the pretty girl at the prom. The one who didn’t have to do with Duckie and wear a thrift store dress that her dad bought her. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      1. Well, pretty girl, I think being Freshly Pressed is just the beginning of the blogging-love spreading. If you weren’t so darned funny, this never would have happened… That was said in a stern “mama” voice. Did you catch that?

        Cheers!

  6. sonnets are like line dances: it’s for those who can’t just get up there and “dance,” or “poeticize(?)” if you can’t dance, you line dance so that everyone is doing the same thing. you *feel* like you’re dancing, but you’re just doing what everyone else is doing. with sonnets, you don’t have to be creative. well, not AS creative. you just have to find the right pieces to the puzzle and put them together, as opposed to just creating your own puzzle.

  7. Ok, here’s my awful sonnet (when I was being all angsty about unrequited love)

    ahem…

    Love’s Damnation

    With crimson wings bestowed by Love upon life
    would I fly, were it not for legs of lead.
    Oh but how the cold rapier of my strife
    doth reap the chasm whence I may not tread.
    But should I stand on yonder bridge of gold
    would burning hells of my heart consume me
    and cast me down to bitterness untold,
    binding me with thorns for eternity.
    The pain and the anguish I shall lock away
    in the sanctity of my soul’s darkness,
    where then my heartstrings shall forever fray
    by the daggers slicing from cold harshness.
    Yet with such words on my tongue can I finally see
    that the binding chains are born within me.

    Seriously, ‘doth reap the chasm,’ ‘yonder bridge of gold,’ its no wonder the girl ran a mile! I also seemed to have ignored iambic pentameter, and despite having 10 syllables per line all the way through the penultimate one has 13!

    If anyone happens to meet my 15 year old self, make sure they slap him for me…

    1. You wrote this at fifteen? Holy crap. There’s nary a mention of Lilliputians or Martians in your sonnet. I’m actually even more embarrassed for myself because your sonnet is really quite good. That chick totally missed out. If I bump into your 15 year old self, I’ll encourage him to continue writing sonnets.

  8. *laughing and thinking of Shakespeare’s quote, “Hell is empty and and all It’s inhabitants live here”. (Paraphrased from memory)* I love the ‘waltz’ of Imamic Pentameter and I am a fanatic of the classics…that said…you are a great writer and quite funny. It would not be at all difficult to enjoy reading more….:D

    P.S.
    *whispers*
    “It wasn’t THAT horrible!” 😀

    1. Stop yer lyin’ now. The sonnet sucks. You and I both know it. I will stick with free verse. You know, they don’t charge for it. So glad you enjoyed the post. There aren’t many of us who would endure a post about sonnet structure.

    1. Some piece of work: adj. some piece of crap. My sonnet cracks me up, too. I’m glad that it could bring joy – in some absurd form or another – to so many people. Thanks for checking out my blog. When the crazy influx of visitors dies down, I will spend some time visiting your blog as well. It’s been a crazy day. I didn’t even know what it meant to be “freshly pressed” until earlier today. Thanks again!

  9. I was picturing Oompa Loompas instead of Lilliputians so I think I enjoyed to poem more. Oompa Loompas make me smile. I realized my mistake later on in the blog. Those ladies don’t look like Oompa Loompas. So I did a search to figure out what a Lilliputian is. I was thinking that it may be a flowering plant because of the Lilli part of the name. After reading the entire blog and finding out what a Lilliputian is, I think the poem would have been a lot better with Oompa Loompas.

    After reading all the rules about sonnets, I would not want to write one. Maybe someone should come up with some simple guidelines for the anti-sonnet.

    I also for some reason keep thinking of the Princess Bride.

    “No more rhymes! I mean it!
    Anyone got a peanut?”

  10. ahhahaha.. i actually didn’t laugh at your sonnet but the way you analyzed it was HILARIOUS!!! I love the way you criticized your own sonnet and made it look worse.. hehee.. great post! yeah, I could never write a sonnet… A regular poem maybe? But nothing with iambic penta-majigabob

  11. Okay, how to put it nicely…your sonnet was interesting, despite (or because of?) it’s un-sonnet-ness. You’re such a rebel. 🙂

    I wish I could find my old sonnets (yes, plural) to show them to you, but I probably trashed them…because they sucked. I vaguely recall one that occurred during my hopelessly-in-unrequited-love-for-John phase in high school. All I can say is: teenagers are so dramatic!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! That’s what turned me on to this post. You have a new follower in me. 🙂

  12. Another hilarious post! The only time that I have ever had to write a sonnet was in highschool, and even then my teacher skipped most of those rules. She just had us do the rhyming part. I enjoyed it, but this just showed me a whole new level of horror! I think that I’ll just stick with the shortstories and novels, thanks.

    I am just nervous to see what my professor is going to give me when I enter college next semester.

    Love your blog! You just gained a follower!

  13. With 26 lines you were two short of having two beautiful not-quite-sonnet sonnets. Could you not then have split them into two parts and have given them to your professor at different times, thus prolonging his/her “enjoyment” of them?

  14. it was pretty bad, i’ll admit. i don’t really have a bad poem for you. not that i don’t write poems badly. i rarely write poems. if i wrote more poems, i’m sure i could find a comparatively bad one to post here.

  15. Hilarious. Your sardonic, self-depracating humour reminds me of a fellow blogger (you might enjoy her blog: http://jadeluxe.wordpress.com/). Also, with your permission, I would like to show excerpts from this blog to my Yr9 English students, when I introduce them to Shakespeare later this year. Cheers, Cinova.

  16. Your sonnet was amusingly awful. 🙂 (I say this with the highest regard for the rest of your writing.) I appreciate your willingness to post it on your blog for the world to experience, even if, perhaps, as a cautionary tale.

    I was required to write a limerick in my 7th grade English class. After 7th grade, I effectively avoided any type of high school or college class that might require me write poetry. I think my teacher put a note in my file exempting me from all future poetic endeavors. Here is my limerick. Enjoy!

    A Girl Named Eduardo

    There once was a girl named Eduardo
    She said it really was hard-o
    To go through life
    She’d never be a wife
    Having a name like Eduardo.

    1. This is a freaking amazing limerick. My husband’s response (he’s home sick) was: Wow! That’s somethin’ else. Should I ever have a female child, I will most certainly name her Eduardo. What better than to offer her a life that is hard-o? And then I wouldn’t have to worry that she’d date some loser, get knocked up at 15 and stick me with raising her baby daughter, Eduardo. Awesome. Seriously, thanks so much for sharing that. You made my morning.

  17. I just have one thing to say….. never ever bury your dog wrapped in sheets…. for scientific reasons you may not want to know, just throw your cainine in the hole and fill it up with dirt. (My neighbor once buried her chihuahua wrapped in sheets, and six months later, we had to see him again… dreadful story!)

  18. I definitely agree that is the worst sonnet I have ever read. Did you know that there is no way to write iambic pentameter in French. Maybe you should learn that language and then write a poem. All the best, Fiona

    1. Thank you, Fiona. Your compliments reaffirm my judgment, but offer me hope. I will aspire to write the worst French sonnet about a dead dog ever. Anyone know the French word for “dog?”

  19. The sonnet was a good effort at such an assignment. There’s a reason free verse came to be. =P.

    I often write poetry in random places and give it to people who work there. This trippy shitter was written in a caffeine craze and given to a barista who probably hates me for it. I’m not sure why I saved a copy…maybe just for this occasion!

    Honey Coffee

    Six cups deep, buzzing like a mouth full of bees. Swallow
    into a humming swirl that spins in on itself, zip, zip,
    like a tilt-o-whirl full of laughing child eating ice without cream,
    slurping orange juice, or what used to be, in melted ice glasses.
    What is this manic vision at the bottom of my cup? Coffee
    can’t make me hallucinate; it must have been the city air.

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