in the sonnet tradition. Millay's sonnets, in particular the sequences Sonnets
from an Ungrafted Tree and Fatal Interview, pick up where Barrett Browning
leaves off, further revising the woman lover's stance in the amorous and erotic
negotiation. Despite not being particularly well suited for modernist experimentation, the sonnet has persisted in the poetry of e.e. cummings, John
Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and John Berryman, among others.The sonnet
remains an important part of any good poet's training. Even a contemporary
poet such as James Dickey, who is not known for sonnets, made the sonnet an
integral part of the teaching of poetry composition because he believed poets should learn the received forms of the craft. This is what the poets included in this collection knew as they set out to become poets and to improve their skills by meeting the demands of the form. Reading these sonnets
now helps us to understand the cultural climate that produced them and the
other poetic works that form their context. In the pages that follow, we offer
this century of sonnets in the hope that today's readers, like those of the past,
will find much to ponder, to discuss, and to enjoy.
For example, R. F. Brewer's 1928 book The Art of Versification and the Technicalities
of Poetry asserts that “After Milton's time the sonnet was scarcely cultivated at all by our
poets for upwards of a hundred years, till… Wordsworth revived its flickering flame, and
caused it to break forth again with a new beauty and sweetness peculiarly his own” ([Edinburgh: John Grant, 1928], p. 211).
The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Later Years, ed. Ernest de Selincourt. Vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1939), p. 653.
Walter Savage Landor. The Last Fruit off an Old Tree (London: Edward Moxon,
1853), p. 473.
Alexander Pope. Poetical Works, ed. Herbert Davis (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1978), p. 76, lines 418–9.
Samuel Johnson. A Dictionary of the English Language (London: W. Strahan, 1755).
James Boswell. Life of Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, Vol. 4 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), p. 305.
Nathan Drake. Literary Hours: Or Sketches Critical, Narrative, and Poetical, Vol. 1.,
3rd. ed. (London: T. Cadell, 1804), p. 108.
John Fuller. The Sonnet (London: Methuen, 1972), p. 9.
R. D. Havens. The Influence of Milton on English Poetry, 1922 (New York: Russell
& Russell, 1961), p. 492. Havens's book still contains the most authoritative and comprehensive study of the eighteenth-century sonnet published to date.
John A. Vance. Joseph and Thomas Warton (Boston: Twayne, 1983), p. 50.
Stuart Curran. Poetic Form and British Romanticism (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1986), pp. 30–1.
For a more detailed discussion of the ways in which poets claimed legitimacy
through writing sonnets and of the revival of the sonnet, see Daniel Robinson, “Reviv-