Poetry Lesson: How to Write Amazing Sonnets

Poetry Lesson: How to Write Amazing Sonnets
July 9, 2018 No Comments » For Authors, Poetry Advice, Writing Megan Elliott-Dozier

Welcome, lovely Our Write Siders, to our educational series on poetry! Poetry is a concentrated, evocative style of writing that conveys a lot in few words, and often says things in a way prose cannot. There are many forms of poetry, and I am here to break them down into bite-sized chunks so you can attempt some yourself. After each explanation, I have a fun prompt for you to try writing on your own.

Sonnets are a very popular and well-known form. There are two different types of sonnets in English: the Shakespearean sonnet and the Petrarchan sonnet. These actually form the basis for other sub-types of sonnets, which are categorized by rhyme scheme. Rhyme schemes are identified by writing out the pattern of rhyming as seen below in italics.

Traditionally, the sonnet has 14 lines and is written in iambic pentameter. This is a metrical pattern that consists of five iambs, or a set of two syllables in the pattern of an unstressed syllable, followed by a stressed syllable. So there are a total of ten syllables in an unstressed- stressed pattern. An example of this unstressed-stressed pattern is the word “adhere.”

A Shakespearean sonnet has three quatrains, or three stanzas of four lines, which end in a couplet. The rhyme pattern is abab cdcd efef gg.

A Petrarchan sonnet is composed of an octave and a sestet, or stanzas of eight and six lines, respectively. The rhyme pattern is abbaabba and cdecde or cdcdcd.

In both forms, there is a turn that occurs at the end. The couplet or sestet become the answer to the question posed by the first part of the poem. The end could also be an epiphany or turn from the rest of the poem.

Famous Example

Here’s an example of a sonnet by William Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Most poets like to write in longhand, and then type their poems.

Here’s A Prompt, Now You Try

Write a sonnet about temptation. Include the words “covet” and “enticing.”

Now that you’ve written your poem, it’s time to show it off! Share in the comments and we’ll pick one or two poems to publish to Our Write Side and to share in Our Write Side’s Facebook groups. Get some recognition and get your poem seen! Share in the comments below.

Megan Elliott-Dozier Megan prefers her unofficial title at Our Write Side as "The Lost Unicorn" to any other she may hold. In HR circles, she may also be known as a "purple squirrel," in that she can learn almost any job function, but she prefers writing short stories vs. short snippets of code. Despite the above braggadocio, she is the first to admit she doesn't know everything; in fact, she knows that the more she learns, the less she knows.

It's YOUR write side, too! Let's hear it!

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