Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Poetry Book Club

Monday evenings, 6 pm to 7 pm Pacific, July 31-Aug 28, 2023

This event has passed.

In the 154 sonnets that Shakespeare wrote, we can find a novel in verse, a profound puzzle, and an autobiography of the poet in love and lust. 

Some of these sonnets are addressed to a "fair young man," others are addressed to a "dark lady," and both the man and the lady are love objects of the narrator. Homo- and hetero-erotic desire, jealousy, jokes, self-loathing, hope, longing, and unsurpassed poetic beauty fill these poems. 

In this five-week class, we will solve some of the mysteries of these sonnets and their author; dive into the imagery, language, comedy, and passion that have made these poems survive over the centuries; and reveal how they show the modern mind in the process of being born. 

Bring your opinions and your questions, your observations and your disputations. By the end of these five weeks, you may have a new favorite sonnet. 

Are meetings recorded?

Yes. All meetings are recorded and emailed out automatically to everyone who's signed up—usually within 48 hours of a meeting ending. If you miss any of the meetings, you won't miss anything. 

Who is leading this book club?

April Bernard is a poet, novelist, and essayist who teaches widely at the graduate level. Her most recent book of poems is The World Behind the World, just published by W.W. Norton. Her website is here. 

Which edition of the book are we reading?

Any edition that has all 154 sonnets of Shakespeare will work just fine. The most inexpensive option is this paperback edition (it also has footnotes). All the sonnets also appear, in a very readable font, in this stylish hardback edition (although it doesn't have notes). To have all of Shakespeare's poems at your disposal, plus tons of notes, get this paperback Oxford edition (note: it's quite thick). 

What do I need to read before the first meeting?

Nothing. There is no reading assignment to finish before our first meeting. At that initial meeting, expect to learn about Shakespeare's life and the context in which these sonnets were written. 

Is financial assistance available?

Yes. If you would like to join this class but price is a barrier, sponsorship funds are available to help make it possible. Please apply here.

Donations encouraged

If you choose to pay extra, you are automatically making a donation to the financial assistance fund. Thank you for making this class accessible to people who would not be able to afford it otherwise.


Shakespeare portrait by Kathryn Rathke