I'm a huge, unashamed sonnet fan. I've been writing them since I was 17 and obsessed with Keats (so, that's literally half my lifetime). I've refined my style over the years and even won poetry competitions with sonnets: an honour in a time where free verse and postmodernism seems to dominate. Now I'm unafraid to experiment with the form myself, breaking the lines where the sentences end rather than where metrically it's traditionally done.
I've posted the sonnet form above for you; the nicely colour-coded blocks make it easy to visualise. But here are a few more tips to help you write a sonnet:
- The first 8 lines (the octave) typically address a 'question' or 'problem', and follow an ABABCDCD rhyme scheme
- The final 6 lines (the sestet) typically provide the solution or answer, and follow an EFEFGG rhyme scheme
- This 'turning point' at line 8 is called the volta or 'turn', and represents the poem's change of mood
- Each line has 10 syllables
- These syllables are divided into 5 pairs of 2 (making each line a pentameter), following an unstressed/stressed pattern within each pair (making each line iambic in its rhythm)
- It's worth reading your poem aloud as you write to check you've got the rhythm right - though some more modern sonnet-writers sometimes dispense with the iambic aspect
- This iambic rhythm replicates the human heartbeat quite closely - perhaps a reason why the sonnet is a traditional vehicle for love poetry.
So today you could try to write a sonnet about love - or, to disrupt the form somewhat, about a flip side of love (maybe a breakup).
If you're feeling brave, flip the form too: perhaps start with that final rhyming couplet (the GG rhyme) and then work towards the octave, having this appear at the end of your poem instead.
Writing your first sonnet can feel laborious - but as with anything, practice makes perfect.
Coincidentally, Cannon Poets' Sonnet Or Not competition also ends on October 31st, for those looking for an extra challenge.
Remember, our prompts are only suggestions; you can find your inspiration wherever your muse leads you. Please visit the other participants' work, share the hashtag #OctPoWriMo on social media, and share your link in the comments below. Let us know how this journey into poetry is going for you.