Poetry Club: Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Monday evenings, 6 pm to 7 pm Pacific, July 31-Aug 28, 2023
How well do you know Shakespeare’s sonnets? You probably know the first line of sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Or maybe you have sonnet 116 committed to memory: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments…”
But do you know what these poems are really saying? And did you know that, taken all together, we see in the 154 sonnets that Shakespeare wrote 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 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 disputations. By the end of these five weeks, you may have a new favorite sonnet. Bonus points if you can commit it to memory.
You do not need to read anything before our first session. And if you miss any meetings, no problem: recordings of each meeting are sent to all ticket-holders automatically.
Here is the recommended edition for this club, but any edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets—as long as the book has all 154 of his sonnets—will do.
April Bernard is a poet, novelist, and essayist who has taught widely. Her most recent book of poems is The World Behind the World, just published by W.W. Norton. Her website is aprilbernard.com.
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.
If you choose to pay $150 for this club, you are automatically making a $50 donation to the financial assistance fund. If you choose to pay $200 ticket, you are funding a full scholarship. Thank you for making this class accessible to people who would not be able to afford it on their own.
By Kathryn Rathke