Sonnets are a lovely forms of poetry and a lyrical jungle gym, but when you know what a sonnet is and how it's made up then it's easier to take a crack at writing them. For me sonnets are like little stories. In many ways that's how Shakespeare presents his sonnets. Let's take one of mine and dissect it.
The first thing to understand about a sonnet is it's composition. Sonnets are made up of 3 quatrains (stanza with 4 lines in purple) and a couplet (a 2 line stanza in blue). There is a rhyme scheme in the sonnet that goes - quatrain #1: A, B, A, B; #2 C, D, C, D; #3 E, F, E, F; Couplet G, G. ie: SUPPORT = RAPPORT and OTHER = MOTHER
Built like children’s blocks to form a support A
They are so stacked one upon each other B
A towering form that has a rapport A
With the spine, as a child to a mother. B
Together they are made strong as a whole, C
But separate they know are wavering. D
Married by right in a love of the soul C
That only they are now both savouring. D
There is one course that could rip asunder E
A love true and so bodily in realm. F
A storm that has come and brought the thunder E
And a bolt of lightening that broke their helm. F
A divorce that neither would they have sought G
Now that we have the structure, let's discuss the Iambic Pentameter! OOOOO, big word thingie!!! Iambic Pentameter is not as scary as you would think. Yes, it takes a bit of practice. To break it down, each line of the sonnet, both quatrain and couplet, is made up of Iambic Feet (a foot is a stressed and unstressed syllable). Each line has 5 Iambic Feet, roughly 10 syllables, "Built like children’s blocks to form a support." Note how the each colour has 2 syllables, making each colour a foot. After many tries I think I have balanced the unstressed and stressed syllables, but I also am still learning and am not quite the expert, yet. If you have tips, please share them in the comments box, on how to build proper Iambic Feet. I find that after a number of tries you notice the rhyme of the sonnet. It could almost be sung. This is a sign you have the idea, or the rhythm.
With that, the next step is to write. You can't very well learn to writ sonnets without actually writing. I would recommend just picking a topic and writing. Don't worry about rhyming or iambic pentameter, just write a basic poem in the outline of the sonnet (using the 3 quatrain and a couplet.). After to get your rough draft sonnet then go back and figure out the rhyme and the iambic pentameter. I like to use THE THESAURUS (online version) and THE RHYMER (online version) to help with finding the right words and rhymes, you can use real books too. I also, spent a lot of time clapping out the rhythm of the lines. Use whatever means when help you to get the Iambic Pentameter right.
If jumping right in to write whole sonnets is a bit daunting, then start by writing couplets, using rhyme and iambic pentameter. Start simple and build up! You have the potential! I believe in you! So, go out there and write some sonnets! Let's bring back the art of poetry back into the mainstream! ~w00t~ Okay, well, I hope I inspired you to write. Feel free to post your own sonnets in the comment box. I would LOVE to see what you guys come up with.
Here is one of the Bard's Sonnets (for more sonnets see Shakespeare's Sonnets):
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.