Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel, 2016-2018, invited citizens to join her for a literary walk around Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, writing as they went. These are not your grandpa’s sonnet. You don’t even have to rhyme. The sonnet is a fourteen line poem with roughly ten syllables in each line. Eight blocks equals eight lines, each inspired by what you encounter; that’s one stanza of the poem. Then for the “volta” (Italian for “turn”) into the final six line stanza, you will literally turn, walking and writing for six blocks back, having drafted a poem that leaves you in a slightly different place than you began—as all good literature will do.
Click here to read examples of Cincinnati Walking Sonnets by other poets. Instructions for composing your own Cincinnati Walking Sonnet can be found here. Pauletta’s own Cincinnati Walking Sonnets are below.
Northside Walking Sonnet
Pink clovers sprouting from cigar tip. Red
and black framed door frames red and black clad me.
Cicada shell hangs empty from a pole.
Skinny white cat shadows skinny white man.
Cosmos, canna; black-eyed Susans are all
eyes—somewhere there’s a house behind. “Complete
protection.” Sign on a car says, “Home.” “Rent this
dumpster” mouth: Billy with four f-ng girls…
Oak tree’s wise nod above it all. Clatter
of trash cans, litter of leaves; eggplant,
tomatoes in ratatouille yard. “Closed” says
the open door. Prayer flags’ ragged wave from
rusted fire escape. Church for sale. Fairy-
tale turret over its pink door. Word Alive.
Note: The “double-jointed” sonnet can be read as one poem, left to right, or each column can be read as its own impressionistic poem by ignoring the punctuation.
The Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project is adapted from Rosa Alcalá’s “A Walking Petrarchan Sonnet” in Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry.