Writers Write shares writing resources and writing tips. In this post, we continue our poetry 101 series and explain the sonnet with examples.
In the coming months I would like to discuss various forms of poetry, including today’s topic: The Sonnet.
There are many, many different kinds of poems. Some have very little, or seemingly no structure, like free verse poetry, and others have rigid guidelines and even syllables that have to be counted.
Let’s consider the sonnet.
How do I write thee? Let me count the lines.
A sonnet has 14 lines with 10 syllables in each line. How these lines are grouped together or what rhyme scheme is used determines what kind of sonnet it is.
- Petrarchan or Italian sonnets are divided into two parts, the octave and the sestet. That would be the first eight and next six lines. The octave has a specific rhyme scene: abba–abba–cdc–dcd or cde-cde. (The sestet also rhymes, but is more flexible). The poem changes or turns between the octave and sestet.
- Shakespearean sonnets have a different structure. Three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. The couplet is often the point where the poem turns or changes. The rhyme scheme is a follows: abab cdcd efef gg
Interesting facts about the sonnet:
- There are many other variations, often named after the poet who made them popular like the Miltonic or Spenserian sonnets.
- Sonnets can also be written as a series and then deal with one topic. This is called a Sonnet sequence.
- Sonnets have feet. This is often iambic (one stressed and one unstressed syllable).
- Sonnets still continue to change and can be referred to as modern sonnets.
Here is an example of a modern sonnet: Harlem Hopscotch by Maya Angelou.
How Do I Love Thee?
And the ever-popular sonnet by Elizabeth Barret Browning, which I referenced above, How Do I Love Thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Happy sonnet writing.
P.S. If you are taking part in the 12 Poems Challenge, join the group on Facebook: 12 Poems in 12 Months
by Mia Botha
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