In a prior post, I went into relative detail explaining the difference between freeverse and form poetry, and then dove into meter.  If you would like to learn about this before becoming overwhelmed with a particular form, here is the link:

Here, I would like to begin digging into forms, starting with the sonnet.

The two most common subsets of this form are the Petrarchan and Shakespearean, however, there are others, including the Spenserian and the Envelope sonnets.  Variations on these forms have provided artistic freedom to many poets, and still do today.  But before I go into these forms, I’d like to explain how a sonnet is defined.

Simply stated, a sonnet is a fourteen line poem, written in iambic pentameter (some of the lesser known forms of sonnets take artistic license with this stipulation), with a set rhyme scheme.

A sonnet will have a volta, or turn, in the latter part of the poem.  This ‘turn’ is meant to be a shift in thought or idea, or perhaps a shift from the build up, to the point of the piece.  The volta may be jarring or subtle, depending on the poet’s wishes, but should exist within the sonnet.

For the purpose of this post, I will only be covering the two main forms of sonnets.  For further forms and styles, feel free to ask.

Shakespearean Sonnet.

The Shakespearean sonnet is actually quite simple in nature.  Broken down to its simplest form, this form is made up of three quatrains and a couplet.  It follows a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg.  The volta will most usually occur in line 12 or 13, but can occur earlier, at line 8 or 9, as well.

As an example, here is a Shakespearean sonnet of mine entitled Finding Myself –

I never held the truth within my hands,
but skies have never lied to hearts that searched;
and so I sought tomorrow’s sorrowed lands
upon the fields of hope’s eternal births…
The heavens dance upon the glass of faith,
as hosts of cherubs yearn for chords in time
with days’ unending breath within my haste,
beyond the grasp of love’s enduring rime.
Among the sounds of tears that drip like rain
she shrouds her quiet cries in fading pasts.
I drown myself within her hidden pains,
and find relief in forlorn thoughts at last…
The stars have gazed upon my soul tonight
as chances fade to thought, beyond my sight.

Petrarchan Sonnet

This form is also fairly simple, with some variations.  This would probably be best described as two quatrains (or octave) and a sestet.  The rhyme scheme is abbaabba, cdcdcd (or cdecde – the sestet is free to use various rhyme patterns).  The volta will be found in line 8 or 9.

In the following example, a poem of mine entitled Eternal, the sestet has a rhyme scheme of cddccd.

Her sorrows faded in my arms’ embrace
As I swept her off into the midnight sky
Carried upon the winds of Luna’s eye,
Reflecting her smile through my lover’s face.
While the stars within her eyes dance with grace
And adorn her gown with diamond-tears’ dye,
Whose cries malign hope of final goodbye,
Lain immortal on the heavens – encased
And traced by the stars’ eternal language,
Spoken unto the whisper’s breath whose fear
Fell into the oceans a lonely tear,
Holding only our love’s untold message
Embracing faith and bringing a courage
To those who would dare to hold our words dear


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