Check-in for Let’s Write Like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Just for Fun

Dear Common Readers,

Did you attempt to write like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz? Which of her many forms did you choose for your piece — a ballad, décima, epigram, redondilla, silva, sonnet, prologue to a (real or imaginary) play or a spirited response to a real or imaginary open letter? What was the experience like? Did you enjoy it?

I stumbled around with this and gained an even greater appreciation for Sor Juana’s talent and skill. She wrote in her famous Respuesta that writing verses came naturally to her. Alas, it does not for me.

I tried to write a redondilla. The results were woefully bad. I ended up with awkward phrasing, wrenched accents, and clumsy rhymes. Now I understand why Edith Grossman sacrificed rhyme for rhythm in her translations.

Before I share my poem, I must ask you to remember that our purpose here is to learn by doing. For that, we agree to suspend aesthetic judgements about the results. I offer you my redondilla in that spirit.


Redondilla - Copy















Please post your piece or a link to your blog post about your attempts to write like Sor Juana in the comments below. I hope to hear from you.


Your sister reader,
Ms. Arachne

Let’s Write Like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Just for Fun

Dear Common Readers,

Just for fun let’s write a poem, a dramatic scene, or a letter in the style of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by June 3.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works includes romances (ballads), redondillas, décimas, epigrams, Petrarchan sonnets, and a silva. (See the website Spanish Metrification for good explanations of Spanish poetic forms with the meter and rhyme scheme for each form.) Selected Works also includes Sor Filotea’s letter and Sor Juana’s Respuesta a Sor Filotea as well as the prologue to one of Sor Juana’s plays.

The experiment is to write a short work using one (or more!) of Sor Juana’s forms and styles. Write a poem, a prologue or scene of a real or imaginary play, or a response to a real or imaginary open letter. Sor Juana gives us so many choices!

Let’s adopt the same reckless DIY spirit in which I earlier attempted to write a Sapphic stanza just to see what I could learn. I’ll put up a check-in post on June 3 so we can discuss our experiments and how they went.

I hope the possibilities inspire you, dear Common Readers. Are you in?


Your sister reader,
Ms. Arachne


Edited on July 28, 2917: I removed the reference to the Spanish Metrification site because the link no longer works and I could not find the website with an internet search.

Let’s Write a Sapphic Stanza Just for Fun

Dear Common Readers,

Just for fun let’s try to write a Sapphic stanza.

This is just an experiment to see how it’s done. One doesn’t need to be a poet or a lyricist. I’m certainly neither at heart as will soon be obvious. The point is just to see what we learn from making the attempt. Let’s suspend any aesthetic judgements about the results and focus on the process. If some of you make great art while you’re at it, bravo!

Unfortunately the differences in how poetic meter is determined in Ancient Greek and English mean that we can only approximate the original form of Sappho’s odes. But why let that stop us?

Now for the technical part. A Sapphic stanza is made up of three lines in Sapphic meter followed by one Adonic line.

Sapphic meter, reportedly invented by Sappho, is made up of eleven syllables as follows: a trochee, an anceps, a dactyl, a trochee, and a spondee.

An Adonic line is made up of two metric feet: a dactyl and a trochee. It takes its name from Sappho’s lyric “O for Adonis.”

(I’m heavily indebted to Stephen Fry’s excellent book The Ode Less Traveled: Unlocking the Poet Within for an explanation of these terms.)

I confess I found this really difficult. I had intended to play with an allusion to Athena as Little Miss Muffet sitting beside her spider (Arachne) but couldn’t make it work with the meter. Still, I enjoyed the challenge. And, purely for authenticity’s sake, one line is cut short to make it more like a nearly complete stanza of a “lost” ode. (It’s also possible that I couldn’t come up with a good final spondee.)

If you’re truly ambitious, try to write an entire ode. If you are musical, try to compose a tune to accompany your lyrics. Please share your verses in the comments section.

Here’s the “recovered fragment” of my Sapphic stanza:

Ode Fragment - Copy











Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Your sister reader,
Ms. Arachne