Shakespeare is a very popular figure among English students as it is impossible to study the English language without coming across the person and Shakespeare's writings. One of the most famous works of this iconic figure that you will come across in studying the English language is the sonnet.

If you are studying poetry, Shakespeare, or English literature at any level, you will inevitably have to grasp with this thing called the sonnet.  Any idea what this might be? No worries if not, because we are here to walk you through all aspects of this poetic form. By the time you have finished this article, you'll be able to identify the main features - metrical, thematic, and rhymed - of this literary form, and you'll be able to consider how to write your own! We hope you find it helpful!

If you have little or no knowledge of the English language, it might be difficult for you to grasp what this is and the various aspects of it that exists. If this describes you, then there is no cause to worry because you are in the right place. In this article, we shall provide you with all the details you need to understand what the sonnet is and the application of this poetic form in English literature.

At the end of this article, it is expected that you must have learned the basic features of this literary form. You are also expected to know how to apply this knowledge to writing a sonnet in the most creative ways. To set the ball rolling, let's start by explaining what a sonnet is and a brief history of how it became an important aspect of English literature.

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So, what is a Sonnet?

The sonnet is a form of poetry that is usually written in fourteen long lines. It stands out from other forms of poetry because of its defined length, but that's not all there is to the sonnet. It also has a defined structure, style, and rhythmic pattern that makes it easy for you to identify it beyond its length.

From this definition of what a sonnet is, you can tell that it requires attention being paid to its details while writing else; you might be writing something other than a sonnet. Now, you must be wondering that this must be a very complex form of poetry. No, it isn't as soon as you can master all of the elements as we shall see below. However, before we get to these elements, let’s understand the history of the sonnet.

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A sonnet history will ensure it remains a sonnet for decades to come. Source: Pexels

For those of you who have never before set foot into the world of literature, let's start from the very basics. A sonnet is a form of poetry. This means that the word refers to a range of different poems that share certain conventions of length, structure, style, and themes. These conventions are what make a sonnet a sonnet (and don't panic, as we outline these below).

The History of the Sonnet

Every poetic convention in English literature has a history that defines it, and to understand such history, you must understand the story that determines it. The sonnet is not any different from other literary conventions as it has a unique history. This history is rooted in its Italian origin as a sonnet is coined from an Italian word known as "sonneto," which means "a little song."

The sonnet's history goes as far back as the thirteenth century when it was developed informally compared to what is obtainable today. However, it grew in scope, and more Italian poets began to study and formalize it as it inspired many of their writings. Famous Italian poets that were inspired by the sonnet include Petrarch, Guido Cavalcanti, and Dante, among many others.

As the impact of these Italian poets grew, so did that of the sonnet, and it didn't take long before most people of England and France started writing sonnets. By the eighteenth century, thousands of Europeans had started writing sonnets. In English speaking countries, Shakespeare began writing many sonnets. He is even credited with introducing many of the sonnet features that we shall discover in this article.

What is super-important to remember in the study of literature is that poetic conventions are determined by history - meaning that you need to know the history of poetic forms if you are really going to understand what the poets are doing. The sonnet is originally an Italian invention - and the word sonnet itself is derived from the Italian word “sonetto,” which means a “little song” or sound.

Developed in Sicily by a bloke called Giacomo da Lentini in the thirteenth century, this little poetic form (whose conventions had not yet been formalised) inspired the greatest poets of the Italian Renaissance. These include Petrarch - about whom you'll hear much more - Dante, and Guido Cavalcanti.

Due to these poets' contemporary fame and prolific work, the sonnet became with them recognisable as it is today. And, from this point, people in England and France began to write sonnets too. Over the centuries, all of Europe started to write sonnets - and, in the English speaking world, after Shakespeare, some of the greatest sonnet-writers are to be found in the Romantic period at the turn of the nineteenth century (these include names like John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Percy Bysshe Shelley).

Poets are still writing sonnets today - but, these days, writers are more comfortable with playing with the once-strict structure of the form. We'll talk about this more below.

Why do Poets Write in the Sonnet Form?

Let it be said that the form has had enduring appeal among poets for a number of reasons. Firstly, the appeal of the form is due to its association with some of the biggest names in the history of literature: Shakespeare, Petrarch, Wordsworth. As you become more familiar with poetry, you will see that poets like to refer back to the ways that other poets had written in the past; the sonnet offers a great way to do this.

Considering that there are several other forms of poetry, you may ask – why write a sonnet? There are several reasons why poets write in the sonnet form, and some of them include:

  • It is associated with popular literary figures

One of the major reasons why poets write in the sonnet form is that they all look up to the biggest names that graced the literature stage. What is a better way to be like the people you look up to than to follow in their part? Think of Shakespeare and Wordsworth – these are popular literary figures that have written several sonnets and have upcoming poets looking up to them.

  • It has a defined length

You may want to write in a sonnet because it has a brief length that allows you to express an idea, a feeling, or a thought in the shortest possible way. By keeping your poem short, you can communicate better and faster to your audience than you will do with a long-form poem.

  • It allows for great flexibility

As against the tough and sometimes hasty conclusions of many, the sonnet is a very flexible form of poetry that can cover a wide range of topics. Though many of the sonnets that were written in time past centered on love, it has taken a new turn today as we have the sonnet covering different topics like politics, governance, education, etc.

Find some fun poetry lessons on Superprof. Secondly, the sonnet, given its brief length, is great for expressing a feeling, thought, or idea. The brevity facilitates the communication of a strength of feeling that can be lost in longer forms. Thirdly, whilst the sonnet is traditionally known for focusing its attentions on the theme of love, the form allows for a great flexibility in its content.

You will these days see sonnets written on everything from politics to war to ice cream. What makes this possible is the form's argumentative structure, which, as you will see below, is an essential part of the sonnet. Check out this poetry course online.

You may read other poetry that uses iambic pentameter
The Lady of Shalott, though not a sonnet, makes use of the iambic pentameter Source: Pixabay Credit: MZ Matuszewski0

The Most Important Features of a Sonnet

As we saw above, a sonnet is simply a poem written in a specific form. But to recognise a sonnet when you see one, you need to know the specific characteristics of that form. So, to summarise, here are the need-to-know features of a sonnet.

The Sonnet's Main Features

Fourteen linesGenerally, all sonnets have fourteen lines. You will find some exceptions, but the poets will do this deliberately.
VoltaThe fourteen lines are divided into two sections, usually of eight lines and six. The break between the two parts is known as the volta.
Iambic pentameterThis is what we call the metre of the poem: the number of syllables in each line of the poem. An 'iamb' is a set of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed. 'Pentameter' shows that there are five of these 'iambs' in a line. So, you have ten syllables: unstressed, stressed; unstressed, stressed, etc.
Rhyme schemeDifferent types of sonnets have different rhyme schemes, and some don't rhyme at all! You'll see more about this below.

Let's Add a Little More Detail...

So, to flesh this about a bit, let's pay a bit more attention to each feature.

The reason why anyone can identify a sonnet or differentiate it from other forms of poetry is that it has some specific features, and they include:

  • It has fourteen lines with a few exceptions.
  • It is broken down into two parts, and the break is known as the Volta.
  • It has a defined meter, which is known as iambic pentameter.
  • The majority of the sonnets that exist have a definite rhyme scheme.

While these are the basic features that make a sonnet different from other forms of poetry, some additional features like the thematic focus, line structure, and tone are important.

Lines and Structure

We've just noted that a sonnet has fourteen lines. But what you need to remember is that depending on the type of sonnet, these lines are arranged in different ways. So, in a Petrarchan sonnet (we told you he'd come up again!), the lines are grouped into two: an octave (that means a group of eight lines) and a sestet (a group of six). In Shakespearean sonnets and Spenserian sonnets, on the other hand, you have three quatrains (four lines) and a couplet (two lines). You'll find more on how these lines rhyme in the sections on each type of sonnet below.

The Volta

Whilst you will find a volta in many other forms of poetry, they are really quite important to the sonnet. What do we mean by the volta, then? In Italian, this word means 'turn' - and, in the sonnet, this is the moment at which a change occurs in the poem. This change might be in tone, argument, or thematic focus - but it is very rare to find a sonnet without one. As we note above, these usually occur after the eighth line of the poem - for Petrarch, after the octave, whilst for Shakespeare and Spenser after the second quatrain. You'll notice this change quite easily, as they are usually signaled with a 'but', 'however', or 'and'.

Iambic Pentameter

This may look like a scary poetry word, but don't worry about it too much. Let's break it down. 'Metre' refers to the rhythmic structure of a line in poetry: how many syllables, how these are grouped together. 'Penta-' comes from the Greek word for 'five'. So, from 'pentameter' you know that the metre of a sonnet has something to do with five. As we said above, the word 'iamb' refers to a group of two syllables, one unstressed and one stressed. There are five of these in each line when we talk about iambic pentameter. As all English literature teachers will tell you, the line will scan like this: dee-DAH dee-DAH dee-DAH dee-DAH dee-DAH. To see this in action, look at this line from Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 18, in which we have highlighted the stressed syllables: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Count the syllables in the line (there are ten!). Now, count the stressed syllables (there are five!). But if we switch the stressed syllables with the unstressed ones, we can see how the line becomes a little clumsy: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

The Sonnet Series

One of the main historical conventions of the sonnet is that they usually come in series. Think about Shakespeare's poem above. Why is it called 'Sonnet 18'? He didn't name it that. Rather, because he wrote 154 sonnets, each individual one is known by its number. A lot of people have written sonnets in sequences. The most famous early sonneteers all wrote series: Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella; Shakespeare's Sonnets; Spenser's Amoretti. This convention has remained with us, as, in the twentieth century many other writers have composed sonnet sequences: Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, John Berryman's Sonnets.  These are the things that have developed the association of sonnets with the theme of love - as all of these sequences deal with a passionate speaker talking to a loved object.

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The Main Types of Sonnet

Sonnets are divided into three types named after some of the world's most popular poets. These three types of sonnets are the Petrarchan sonnet, the Shakespearean sonnet and the Spenserian sonnet. While these three types of sonnets all have the essential features that make a sonnet a sonnet, there are some differences, so we need to examine them one after the other.

A library
This literature form inspired many writers to write their own sonnet. Source: Pexels

All of these maintain the features outlined above - fourteen lines, a volta, iambic pentameter - and they all three are written in sequences. The primary difference is the rhyme scheme. We'll look at these three types of sonnet, and then finally consider some of those that don't really fit into the structure we have all been taught.

Petrarchan Sonnet

The first sonnet is the Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet. Named after one of the form's greatest practitioners, the Italian poet Petrarch, the Petrarchan sonnet was the earliest strict sonnet form (he lived from 1304 to 1374).

The Petrarchan sonnet, or the Italian sonnet as it is popularly called, is always written in two stanzas known as the octave and the sestet. The octave has eight lines, while the sestet has six lines, all making up fourteen lines. The Volta here always creates a link between the end of the octave and the sestet's beginning.

As we noted above, the Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two stanzas: the octave (the first eight lines) followed by the answering sestet (the final six lines). Let's take a look at a Petrarchan sonnet, by the English poet William Wordsworth (as this is easier than reading medieval Italian!). London, 1802 (A) Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour: (B) England hath need of thee: she is a fen (B) Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, (A) Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, (A) Have forfeited their ancient English dower (B) Of inward happiness. We are selfish men; (B) Oh! raise us up, return to us again; (A) And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. (C) Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart: (D) Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: (D) Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, (E) So didst thou travel on life's common way, (C) In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart (E) The lowliest duties on herself did lay. So, here, in the first line, we've added markings to highlight the stress of the iambic pentameter (try it for yourself in the rest of the lines!). And we've neatly highlighted the volta after the eighth line (do you see how the poem's tone changes - from a critique of England to a celebration of Milton?). In Petrarch, the volta usually separates the shift from an argument or question in the octave to a resolution in the sestet. But what do those letters mean before each line? This is how we refer to rhyme scheme, in which A rhymes with A, B with B, and where each new sound requires a new letter. So, what do we have here? ABBAABBA, CDDECE. The Petrarchan sonnet will almost always begin with that ABBAABBA octave. However, the rhyme scheme of the sestet can change - so watch out. Here, Wordsworth uses CDDECE, but the most common rhyme schemes in Petrarch are CDECDE or CDCDCD. After the Petrarchan sonnet was first brought to England by Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard began translating and writing his own versions of Petrarch. His works were considered more faithful to the original than the work of his English counterparts. He made modifications to the Petrarchan sonnet which then became the structure of what we know as the Shakespearean sonnet. This structure was established to better suit the English language which was somewhat lacking in the rhyming words that Italian boasts.

The Shakespearean Sonnet

Can you name any of Shakespeare's plays?
Shakespeare's sonnets are famous worldwide (Source: Pexels)

The Shakespearean, or English sonnet, follows a different set of rules. Here, there are usually three quatrains and a couplet following a rhyme scheme like this: ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG. This is the primary difference between the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean sonnet. Let's take a look at Shakespeare's Sonnet 130

The Shakespearean sonnet, or the English sonnet as it is popularly called, is written in three quatrains and one couplet, making it a four stanza poem. It also has a defined rhyme scheme, which is ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, and GG. Unlike the other types of sonnets, the Volta in an English sonnet can come after the first two stanzas or at the beginning of the last stanza.

(A) My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; (B) Coral is far more red, than her lips red: (A) If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; (B) If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. (C) I have seen roses damasked, red and white, (D) But no such roses see I in her cheeks; (C) And in some perfumes is there more delight (D) Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. (E) I love to hear her speak, yet well I know (F) That music hath a far more pleasing sound: (E) I grant I never saw a goddess go, (F) My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: (G) And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, (G) As any she belied with false compare.

Much like in the Petrarchan sonnet, the Shakespearean sonnet contains a volta. There is a difference here, however. The volta can either come after the first eight lines or, as in Sonnet 130,  at the beginning of the couplet. Here, it is used to signal a conclusion, explanation, or counterargument to the previous 3 stanzas. In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 the first twelve lines focus on the speaker’s mistress, comparing her unfavourably to nature. But the final couplet changes the tone completely, that despite all of her flaws he does love her. Shakespeare uses Sonnet 130 as a satire of other poets who compare their loves to nature’s beauty. In fact he takes it to the extreme nearly leaving the mistress completely unlovable!

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The Spenserian Sonnet

A contemporary of Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser lived from 1552 to 1559. His sequence, Amoretti, was his main engagement with the sonnet form - and his other works included The Faerie Queene, an allegory about Elizabeth I, and The Shepherd's Calendar, a poem about shepherds, surprise surprise. The Spenserian sonnet has a similar structure to a Shakespearean one, with three quatrains followed by a couplet.

The Spenserian sonnet is usually written in three quatrains and a couplet. It has a unique ABAB, BCBC, CDCD, and EE rhyme scheme. The Volta in this sonnet type is usually seen in the ninth line, making it a little different from the English sonnet.

The interesting thing about the Spenserian sonnet is, of course, the rhyme scheme. Let's take a look at Spenser's Sonnet 75. (A) One day I wrote her name upon the strand, (B) But came the waves and washed it away: (A) Again I write it with a second hand, (B) But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. (B) Vain man, said she, that doest in vain assay, (C) A mortal thing so to immortalize, (B) For I myself shall like to this decay, (C) And eek my name be wiped out likewise. (C) Not so, (quod I) let baser things devise (D) To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: (C) My verse, your virtues rare shall eternize, (D) And in the heavens write your glorious name. (E) Where whenas death shall all the world subdue, (E) Our love shall live, and later life renew. So, what do we have here? Remembering that Shakespearean sonnets follow the ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG form, the Spenserian sonnets are slightly different: ABAB, BCBC, CDCD, EE. So, the second rhyme of the first quatrain is taken to be the first of the second quatrain. Again, it ends with a couplet. Where's the volta? Look at line nine, the first line of the final sestet. 'Not so', says Spenser, introducing a contradiction. As in Shakespeare, the volta either appears here or at the beginning of the final couplet.

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The Main Types of Sonnet: A Summary

TypeRhyme SchemeVolta Position
PetrarchanABBAABBA; CDECDE or CDCDCDAfter first octave.
ShakespeareanABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GGAfter first octave or beginning of final couplet.
SpenserianABAB, BCBC, CDCD, EEAfter first octave or beginning of final couplet.

Playing with the Form: Other Sonneteers

Whilst what we have just covered are the main historical types of sonnets, lots of poets have decided to take the basic structure of the form and change its content. Consequently, whilst these above are important to know, it is worth stressing that they are not the only forms of sonnets around. Let's take a look at just a handful of different sonnets that play with the conventions of the form.

Carol Ann Duffy's Anne Hathaway

A poem which, if you are studying literature in the UK, you will definitely confront is Carol Ann Duffy's Anne Hathaway. Take a read and see what she does with the sonnet form. The bed we loved in was a spinning world of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme to his, now echo, assonance; his touch a verb dancing in the centre of a noun. Some nights I dreamed he’d written me, the bed a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste. In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on, dribbling their prose. My living laughing love – I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head as he held me upon that next best bed. So, what's important here? What is one of those key features of the sonnet that is missing here? You should have noticed: it is the rhyme scheme! Does the poem rhyme? Only in the final two lines. Other than that, the iambic pentameter is still there, as well as the volta.

Elizabeth Bishop's Sonnet

Caught -- the bubble in the spirit level, a creature divided; and the compass needle wobbling and wavering, undecided. Freed -- the broken thermometer's mercury running away; and the rainbow-bird from the narrow bevel of the empty mirror, flying wherever it feels like, gay! Now, how is this a sonnet? Is it a sonnet, and why? The poet, Bishop, clearly intends it to be so, entitling the poem the way she does. What do you think?

E.E. Cummings

here's to opening and upward,to leaf and to sap and to your(in my arms flowering so new) self whose eyes smell of the sound of rain and here's to silent certainly mountains;and to a disappearing poet of always,snow and to morning;and to morning's beautiful friend twilight(and a first dream called ocean)and let must or if be damned with whomever's afraid down with ought with because with every brain which thinks it thinks, nor dares to feel(but up with joy;and up with laughing and drunkenness) here's to one undiscoverable guess of whose mad skill each world of blood is made (whose fatal songs are moving in the moon Besides the lack of capital letters and spaces (all of which are intentional), E.E. Cummings is known for his experiments with poetic forms. Can you recognise what he has done here to the form of the sonnet?

Writing Your Own Sonnet

Of course if you’re writing your own sonnet you can choose any style you like. But seeing as it lends itself better to the English language and we all know many of them, our guide will stick to writing a Shakespearean-style sonnet. When writing a Shakespearean-style sonnet, there are several rules you need to keep in mind.

With the information that has been provided above about the sonnet, it is clear that you have the liberty of choosing the style that suits you when writing your sonnet. Chances are you are learning the English language. Therefore, you are more likely going to be writing in the Shakespearean style than you will of the style. So, let’s focus on how you can write an English sonnet of your own.

Start by paying attention to the required format, including having a specific number of lines, a defined rhythm, and rhyme scheme. Doing this is very important before considering anything else.

After you must have studied and understood the required format, the next thing is selecting a subject you want to write on. While most English sonnet is about love, you don’t have to follow that strictly. You can choose to write about any other subject that interests you.

With a subject in mind, the next thing is to consider the iambic pentameter. Do not forget that the English sonnet is always written in three quatrains and one couplet.

Instead of just writing a simple poem, write as an argument and build up one line running into the other. Make use of the common figure speeches like simile, metaphor, and hyperbole. All of this will help to add tone and fun to the piece. Don’t get lost in writing that you exceed fourteen lines.

Read through your sonnet to be sure everything is in place and perfect anything that needs to be perfected. That’s it, you have just successfully written a sonnet of your own.

Your first sonnet is not going to be your last, and as such, you have to know the best ways to keep writing them. A helpful tip that will guide you through this is to pay attention to things around you so you can find inspiration. Write often so you can master the iambic pentameter. Don’t be rigid when writing poetry. Instead, try as much as you can to play with words because you can bend the language rules with poetry.

This style of poetry follows a specific format including length, rhythm, and rhyme scheme. To write a sonnet according to these rules, follow this process: - Select a subject to write your poem about (Shakespearean sonnets are usually about love). - Write your lines in iambic pentameter (duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH. - Structure the sonnet using 3 quatrains followed by 1 couplet. - Compose your sonnet as an argument that builds up as it moves from one metaphor to the next, until you counterargue this argument in the concluding couplet. - Make sure your poem is exactly 14 lines long.

Writing poetry isn't as difficult as you might think
Try your hand at writing your own poem (Source: Pexels)

A Step by Step Guide to Writing a Sonnet

1. Find Inspiration

Whereas Shakespeare’s sonnets generally revolve around love, you could, in fact, choose any topic for your sonnet. You could even look to modern pop songs for inspiration!

Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off is a prime (and fun!) example of iambic pentameter usage in a modern context.

Other songs sung in iambic pentameter include:

  • One Direction – History
  • Alessia Cara – Here (a particularly good example as she gives each foot’s downbeat extra stress)
  • Halsey – New Americana
  • G-Easy/Bebe Rexha: Me, Myself and I

Granted, not one of these songs is a sonnet but they do provide you with a way to get the feel of the iambic pentameter and different ways it can be used.

If you wanted to see popular songs in sonnet form... some ingenious and creative soul has taken lyrics from the likes of Beyoncé and The Backstreet Boys and turned them into sonnets!

2. Master the Iambic Pentameter

Internalising the iambic ‘beat’ is no chore; you could practice it while walking – left foot unstressed/right foot stressed, by clapping your hands (soft-LOUD soft-LOUD), drumming your fingers... any type of rhythmic activity.

Mastering the iambic pentameter is vital to writing a sonnet with proper flow.

Once you have found a topic to write about and internalised the iambic beat, writing a sonnet is a breeze!

Remember that the first quatrain introduces the situation and, at least as far as Shakespearian sonnets are concerned, follows an ABAB pattern – meaning that the third line should rhyme with the first and the fourth with the second.

Here is an example of just such a quatrain:

Ago, I saw you walking fair one day Though fear forbade my presence should come near. Froze, the words that I could never say Though in my heart remain so very dear.

Does it meet all of the criteria for a proper iambic pentameter quatrain and the opening verse of a sonnet? Let’s see:

  • Each line contains five iambic feet (in other words, five duh-DUMs).
  • Line three rhymes with line one and line four rhymes with line two.
  • It outlines a situation (we wonder why the speaker fears approaching and what s/he wanted to say)

3. Play with Words.

You’ll note that there are several words in this stanza that generally would not be used in normal conversation, at least not in the form or in the place they are used here.

Poetic license gives you permission to convey meaning by bending common language rules and expanding word meanings.

Our great bard Shakespeare was famous for perverting the meaning of words; his frequent use of anon is the perfect example of such.

The word anon dates back to 12th century English. Its original meaning was straightaway, or forthwith. Through Shakespeare’s persistent misuse of this word, it has come to mean the exact opposite: soon, or in a while.

Find various poetry courses here on Superprof.

A man studying
If you read the work of many poets, you will find enough inspiration to write your own. Source: Pexels

We can see why he loved that word: it is compact and convenient, subjecting itself neatly and repeatedly to the iambic pentameter. And it’s easy to rhyme!

Make Ample Use of Poetic License – so long as you don’t completely vandalise the language!

Poetic license permits the use of froze instead of frozen to describe those unuttered words. Doing so even lends urgency to the situation by implying the words froze upon the sight of the person in question.

4. Depict a Complete Scene in 14 Lines.

To do that properly and effectively, you should use as many words and phrases that would call up visual imagery as you can.

The phrase ‘fear forbade my presence to come near’ conveys so much more than ‘I had an anxiety attack and couldn’t approach you’, even though they represent essentially the same concept, right?

This stanza causes us to see fear as a looming, frightening, domineering entity denying the speaker the privilege of approaching the person in question. By contrast, ‘anxiety attack’ sounds paltry, doesn’t it?

The Quatrain

Our first quatrain has us off to a great start! We have the right number of feet and the right rhyming pattern; we have visual language that has outlined a situation. Now it is time for quatrain #2:

Delight in how the sun kisses your cheek; Tortu’r in how I wish that it were me! Mere audience with you is what I seek As though your heart were once again trusting.

Can you identify the components that make this a valid quatrain?

Now we know a bit more about the situation: the speaker has apparently broken the subject’s heart and is well aware of the fact. S/he is bitter about the supposed lack of potential trust; we see this in the last line. Imagine that line spat out with self-loathing!

And we know that it is a sunny day.

This build-up of information leads us directly into the next quatrain and, finally the couplet; the denouement of the situation:

Ago, I saw you walking fair one day though fear forbade my presence should come near. Froze, the words that I could never say though in my heart remain so very dear. Delight in how the sun kisses your cheek; Tortu’r in how I wish that it were me! Mere audience with you is what I seek As though your heart were once again trusting.

Ne’er! Your cry strikes such a cruel blow! Ne’er! Your mien doth passion-tly aver! How did I force love’s door on me to close When soul and mind, it all I gave to her?

And then, Divine, the hand that turns your face! Our eyes, searing, questing, entwine, embrace.

Note the rising passion throughout; the third quatrain full of fury and agony until the last two lines; a conclusion in direct contradiction of the rest of the poem.

Also, there is an escalating use of poetic license. In fact, the more ardent the situation becomes the more license is given to express it all!

A helping hand could be just what you need to make your sonnet great!
Feel free to use helpful resources to find just the right words for your sonnet! Source: Pixabay Credit: Truth Seeker08

A Helping Hand in Sonnet Writing

Internalising the iambic pentameter and employing poetic license is child’s play compared to mastering the vocabulary necessary to write in this manner.

Fortunately, in most cases you only need to know the words for what you want to say; a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary can help you find the right words to tell your story in sonnet form.

Some of the better ones we know of are:

https://www.rhymezone.com: perfect for finding just the word you’re looking for! https://www.synonym.com: you can also find antonyms, should you know the opposite word of what you’re trying to express https://dictionary.reverso.net/english-synonyms more than just a dictionary; it also offers meanings for common phrases! https://www.thesaurus.com: the simplest and perhaps easiest to use!

 

How would you like to try your hand at writing a sonnet with a quill pen?
Fortunately, we don't have to write with a quill pen, as Shakespeare did! Source: Pixabay Credit: Andreas160578

Find Out More about Different Poetic Forms

The benefit of poetry is that there are lots of different styles once you have tried sonnets poems. Give the other styles try, Limericks are light-hearted poems, historically Japanese Haiku poetry is traditional, to show a feeling an Epic style poem would work well, Adding music? then the Ballad poetry style is for you, If you are looking for a show of Friday night visit a slam poetry show or listen to free verse poetry style. So many kinds of poetry, meaning you will find your best style of poetry.

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Marvis

Marvis Osarhenrhen is a freelance SEO writer who is focused on helping businesses reach their target audience, get leads and increase revenue using optimized content.