A sonnet, the traditional medium for writing love poetry, is notoriously difficult to write. A strict rhyming scheme, tight structure (Shakespearian or Petrachan) and thematic turn, constricts many the burgeoning lovestruck poet.
Billy Collins does a great job here of criticising its restraints in a tongue-in-cheek line-by-line breakdown of the form (that dreaded of all poetic metres - iambic pentamenter - is referred to as 'iambic bongos' and end-of-line rhymes as punitive and recurring as 'the stations of the cross').
It's funny, it's clever, it's also admirable - everything we've come to expect from Collins. Especially the rhyming couplet at the end, where the sentiment is indeed, clarified in no uncertain terms!
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.