How does the structure of the poem "next to of course god america i" differ from the traditional fourteen-line sonnet?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This modified sonnet by E. E. Cummings varies from the traditional sonnet form in its rhythm, meter, punctuation, and capitalization.

One of Cummings' signature techniques is erratic punctuation and capitalization, which, of course, were not traditionally part of the sonnet form. Only lines 13 and 14 contain end punctuation, and words are run together ("deafanddumb") and broken with hyphenation at the end of a line ("beaut-"). Nevertheless, one could consider these stylistic variations rather than strictly variations of structure.

The poem actually follows the structure of a Petrarchan sonnet in its rhyme scheme and the placement of the volta. The rhyme scheme is an octet (ababcdcd) followed by a sestet (efgfeg), which follows the Italian form. The volta, or turn, occurs at line 9, where the question "why talk of beauty" is postulated, which follows the typical placement of the volta in an Italian sonnet. However, the placement of the final line separate from the others is not traditional.

The major deviation from the sonnet structure is in the rhythm and meter of the poem. There are several lines that follow the traditional iambic pentameter rhythm and meter, namely lines 6, 9, 10, 12, 13. However, in other lines the rhythm is modified. Lines 5, 7, 11, and 14 end with a feminine rhyme, adding a hypercatalexis (extra syllable), which is not unheard of in traditional sonnets. But line 1, for example, cannot be made iambic by any normal reading of the words, line 3 uses a dactylic rhythm, and line 4 starts trochaic and ends iambic. Finally, line 14 begins with two iambs but ends with four trochees, resulting in a mixed hexameter line. 

Therefore, although this poem uses the basic structure of a traditional Petrarchan sonnet, it violates the rules of punctuation, capitalization, rhythm, and meter. These eccentricities accurately match the rambling content of poem's speaker as he delivers his (possibly sarcastic) patriotic rant.