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How to Write a Sonnet
What is a Sonnet?
Sonnets are fourteen lined poems with a strict rhyme scheme. Depending on whether the sonnet is an Italian sonnet or an English, or Shakespearean, sonnet, the rhyme scheme will vary just a little.
You may, also, hear about the lesser known sonnet, the spenserian sonnet, which, also, has its own rhyme scheme.
Poets that are famous for writing sonnets include, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barret Browning, John Milton, William Wordsworth, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
How to Write a Sonnet
- Select the subject. Most sonnets tell tales of love or philosophy.
- Make two sections. The first section will describe the problem, and the second section will provide the climax and conclusion.
- Write your sonnet.
Make sure to have 14 lines.
English sonnets are laid out as 3 quatrains (3 sections of 4 lines each) and a pair (section of 2 lines).
The Italian sonnet is formatted with a octane (set of 8 lines) and a sextet (set of 6 lines).
Sometimes you will find sonnets with only 10 lines, but remember that the traditional sonnet will have 14.
Depending on the style of sonnet (Italian, English, or Spenserian), you will want to keep a specific rhyme scheme.
- Italian sonnet:
First written as: a b a b, a b a b, c d e c d e
Now written as: a b b a, a b b a, c d c c d c
- English sonnet:
a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g
- Spenserian sonnet:
a b a b, b c b c, c d c d, e e
(Matching letters have the same rhyming sound.)
In regards to more modern sonnets, they may not rhyme, but they still keep the 14 line format.
Try writing the lines of in iambic pentameter, where you choose words in such as way that causes every other syllable to have a strong, stressed sound, which creates the effect that the line line ends with a strong sound.
Try to get about ten syllables per line.
When you think you're stumped. Take a break, but make sure to go back and rework and rewrite your sonnet. It may take you extra time to get it right in the end, but the time that you put into writing and editing your poem, the happier you will be with it in the end.
Example of a Sonnet
Here's a quick sonnet, I through together. Don't fault me too bad. It's not meant to be serious, and trust me it's a little rough, but for the most part, it's meant as an example of the correct format and rhyme scheme of an Italian sonnet.
I bought a small, tiny puppy
From a man beneath the trees.
I was lucky to avoid getting bit by the fleas.
My landlord pitched a fit, but she fell in love quickly.
We patted him off not only because he was smelly
But in hopes my Yorkie would tease
Instead he ran the other direction. I had to beg him "Please
Come out and see our new puppy."
After a few months, he began to grow big.
Bright blue eyes, fawn hair, and feet.
No plant left unaltered because he began to dig.
He ate everything in site, I swore I was raising a pig.
His favorite treat was meat,
But a hog nonetheless, he was definitely getting big.
When writing a sonnet, it may be easier to choose a topic that comes easy to you.
- Something or someone you love dearly.
- Someone you admire.
- Personal religious philosophy.
Find something that you're passionate about and write.
Sonnets are meant to be about love, infatuation, philosophy, and personal belief. The stronger you feel about the subject, the easier the poem will come to you.