“Why poetry?” My chair leans in his chair
And slides me a sabbatical-swelled smirk.
The past nine months I’d shouldered all his share
So he could spend his patriarchal perk
In penning pap not destined to see light.
“A couplet is a manageable cup
“To nurse while nursing newborns in the night.”
“Not good enough!” The old man shuts me up.
“For poetry’s a calling—a vocation!
“And rhyming’s so old fashioned—risible!
“Such arbitrary rules curtail creation!”
The sonnets’ strictures may not be permissible,
But to them I entrust my rage, nonplussed,
The bulldog bitch contained, but only just.



K. Irene Rieger is Associate Professor of English at Bluefield University in Bluefield, Virginia.  A Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellow, she is the First Place winner of the 88th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in Rhyming Poetry.  Her work has appeared in The College English Association Critic, the Journal for the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Talking Writing, and MUSE. 

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5 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    And a pun of a title, to boot,
    Your sonnets both wise and a hoot.

    Thanks for the read, ‘K’. And congrats on the Writer’s Digest win. No small feat.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is a nicely composed sonnet with a tight presentation of argumentative interaction. I especially like the rhyme of /nonplussed/ and /just/, which is unexpected.

    As a general rule, it is not a good idea to show one’s formal and metrical poetry to persons propagandized in the free-verse suppositions of modernism. Why bother? The corruption of taste in such people is already too far gone, and their reactions will be exactly like what is described here: the same old boring cliches about how rules curb creativity, and how rhymes are old-fashioned., and how formal verse is not hip and trendy.

    I have frequently heard the claim that “poetry’s a calling — a vocation” from such people, and it strikes me that this idea is really a disguised insult. It basically says that anyone writing formal poetry is clearly untalented, and should stop. In other words, only overenthused schmucks who “write from their hearts” have the true calling.

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    I especially enjoyed “To nurse while nursing newborns”, and risible/permissible.

  4. BDW

    A Brief Critique
    by Wilbur Dee Case

    Although, like the professor mentioned here,
    I, too, avoid the sonnet’s tug and hold,
    K. Irene Rieger is a sonneteer
    who doesn’t flee the form because it’s old.
    Instead, she uses it to pen her thoughts,
    while nursing in the night, and in the dawn,
    an issue that she feels—Is it ersatz?
    with a dramatic anecdote she’s drawn.
    Upset, in sestet, rhyming feminine,
    the bulldog bitch, contained, but only such,
    articulates the said professor’s spin
    and adds an extra iamb to her punch.
    And then, in English sonnet form she ends,
    in tense restraint, the verbal vent she’s sent.


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