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Sonnet (сонет). A 14-line poem (usually in iambic pentameter) consisting of two sections of two quatrains and two tercets. The rhyme scheme of the quatrains is either a regular abba, abba or (less frequently) an alternating abab, abab. The tercets are less restricted, following a cdc, cdc; cde, cde; cde, edc; or other pattern (Mykola Zerov's tercets followed a ccd, ede tercet scheme). It is believed that sonnets were devised by Provençal troubadours, but they first appear in written form in Italy. Francesco da Barberini and Antonio da Tempo are considered to be the first poets to have mastered them. Francesco Petrarch (1304–74) set the number of lines and rhyme scheme. There are other forms of the sonnet extant in Italy, some ranging up to 20 or 22 lines with a short coda of 1 or 2 lines ending the poem.

In Ukrainian poetry the first sonnets were Opanas Shpyhotsky's translations-adaptations of a poem by Sappho and the sonnets of Adam Mickiewicz. Sonnets were subsequently written by Levko Borovykovsky, Markiian Shashkevych, Yurii Fedkovych, Uliana Kravchenko, and Stepan Charnetsky. The form became particularly common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ivan Franko played an important role in developing sonnets, in his Sonety (Sonnets, 1882) and the cycles Vil’ni sonety (Free Sonnets) and Tiuremni sonety (Prison Sonnets). Lesia Ukrainka and Mykola Cherniavsky published Donets’ki sonety (The Don Sonnets) in 1898. The zenith of the Ukrainian form of sonnet was attained by the Neoclassicists Mykola Zerov (his Sonnetarium, published in 1948, contains 85 original sonnets and 28 in translation) and Maksym Rylsky. Others continued this efflorescence into the 1930s, and their products were complemented by the contributions from Galicia of Bohdan Ihor Antonych (with the cycle Zryvy i kryla [Rises and Wings] and others). In Soviet Ukraine wholesale repressions sent all of literature into decline, and sonnets did not reappear until the mid-1950s. In the 1970s and 1980s they became popular once again. Dmytro Pavlychko has been particularly productive, largely in translating sonnets from other languages.

In émigré literature the form has also been popular, and in some cases the sonnets have been of high quality. Emma Andiievska, Sviatoslav Hordynsky, Ihor Kachurovsky, Yurii Klen, Bohdan Kravtsiv, Mykhailo Orest, Ostap Tarnavsky, and Oleh Zuievsky are among the form's practitioners.

Departures from the canonical scheme of the sonnet are known as sonnetoids (examples of which abound in Mykolav Zerov's Catalepton, 1951). A wreath of sonnets is a complex composition that consists of 14 sonnets, of which the last line of a sonnet is repeated as the first line of the next, followed by a 15th sonnet that consists of the 14 first lines of the preceding sonnets. Vasyl Bobynsky, Borys Hrinchenko, Bohdan Kravtsiv, Leonid Mosendz, Ostap Tarnavsky, Oleksander Vedmitsky, Mykhailo Zhuk, and Ihor Kalynets are among those who have published wreaths.

Chaplia, V. Sonet v ukraïns’kii poeziï (Odesa 1930)
Koshelivets’, I. Narysy z teoriï literatury (Munich 1954)
Kachurovs’kyi, I. Strofika (Munich 1967)
Moroz, O. Etiud pro sonet (Kyiv 1973)
Ukraïns’kyi sonet, intro by A. Dobrians’kyi (Kyiv 1976)

Ivan Koshelivets

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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