|Image via Shutterstock|
Hello my fellow bloggers and poetry enthusiasts, and welcome to my first How To Write Poems session. During these "How To" sessions I will be revealing some secrets that I use to write certain forms of poems. For this session I will be revealing the secrets to writing a sonnet.
Before we go into the details I'm going to delve into some of the history of the sonnet. A sonnet is a poetic form that originated in Italy where Giacomo Da Lentini was credited for its creation. The term sonnet derives from the Italian word "sonneto" which roughly translates to "little poem." As early as the 13th century the sonnet was traditionally written in fourteen lines that followed a strict rhyme scheme. Those who write sonnets professionally were known as "sonneteers." Commonly known as the Italian sonnet, it is also known as a Petrarchan sonnet.
Traditionally the Petrarchan sonnet included two major parts: a proposition followed by a resolution. This traditional style was written in a strict measurement. The proposition consisted of an octave (two quatrains) which described the problem, and then it was followed by a sestet (two tercets) which proposed the resolution.
|Image from An Unrestrained Engagement of Literature|
Here is an example of a traditional Petrarchan sonnet written by Lentini called "A Vision."
A Vision gives me a light step,
A glorious Vision multiplies my hopes,
A Vision never stops caressing -
A vision marvellous excites my thoughts.
A Vision of that lady, who is raying light,
In lips she sets the laugh confusing,
A Vision, that is rumoured all around:
That no one could be compared, surely
Who'd seen such magic eyes in their vision,
In them you'll see the burning love,
And laugh so sweet from lips, that rises feeling?
I'm speaking with her- I'm close to die.
I think that this is to Edem ascension
And feel myself the best of lovers ever.
The rhyme scheme for a sonnet usually follows like so, with each letter representing the last word of the line: abba, abba, cde, cde. Other representations were created later on such as: abba, abba, cdcd, cdcd.
Here is a poem written by John Milton called "On His Blindness," that uses the traditional rhyme scheme.
When I consider how my light is spent (a)
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, (b)
And that one talent which is death to hide, (b)
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent (a)
To serve therewith my Maker, and present (a)
My true account, lest he returning chide; (b)
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?" (b)
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent (a)
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need (c)
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best (d)
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state (e)
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed (c)
And post o'er land and ocean without rest; (d)
They also serve who only stand and wait." (e)
Today a lot of modern poets write sonnets in a similar style as their predecessors, and the content of these sonnets usually relate to the themes of love or some kind of humanity movement. I personally prefer to use the sonnet to describe some sort of passion, or to relate some kind of philosophy about love. Much like what Shakespeare did with his sonnets.
|Image from UDL Editions by CAST|
Now that you've come to better understand how a sonnet is written, let us proceed with my secrets to successfully writing a sonnet.
Step One: Contemplate your deepest desires and emotions, and let them flow openly.
Step Two: Write down any particular words, ideas or conceptions that come to your mind.
Step Three: Come up with a theme for the sonnet you wish to write. Do not stray from this theme.
Step Four: Begin writing your sonnet using the rhyme scheme as a guide. Don't worry if you erase anything along the way. Your writing should come out willingly.
Step Five: Cross reference your draft with another sonnet. This helps you check for subtle changes.
Step Six: Rewrite the sonnet if need be, as many times as it takes, until you feel the poem is complete.
I recommend this guide to those who are new to writing in this form. Later on you might not need this guide anymore, and you may as well created your own task measures. The beautiful thing about poetry is that it is personal to the writer, and that it progressively gets easier the more you write it. Practice certainly does make perfect. Also, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to write a poem. It is completely up to personal preference. Modifying a traditional style to your own means you understand the form, and you are ready to create your own personal form of said style.
I hope all of this was an eye opener for you all. If you have any questions for me personally, or about sonnets in general, then please feel free to leave your questions in the comments below. I will gladly help in any way that I can. Also, if there are any poetic tips you'd like me to address, please submit them in the comments.
Take care my "sonneteers!"