Log in


sonnet_badly's Journal

Calls by name the leaves that aren't yet there
Posting Access:
All Members , Moderated
A forum for posting bad sonnets.

Notes: Wiki on Sonnets

A sonnet is a poem of 14 lines, usually written in, but not limited to, iambic pentameter (tum ti tum ti tum ti tum ti tum ti) or variations thereof e.g. weak leading syllable, discarded ending syllable ending on a strong, beats left out via the use of spondees or extended with anapests and dactyls. Stephen Fry gives an excellent tuition in these in the first four chapters of the The Ode Less Travelled.

The best known example of iambic pentameter is probably To be or not to be: that is the question

A sonnet doesn't have to stick to iambic pentameter and can divert from it for sound technical reasons. The reasons should be there, though; otherwise it's a mess.

A sonnet is usually broken down into two sections, one of eight and one of six. There is often a volta, a switch, or a revealing in or around the ninth line that leads to a contrast in the closing sextet. This volta can take the form of a antithesis or anything, really, which means that the two parts become greater together than separately. As the volta is often of a nature which equates to 'oh, but, really, thinking about it...' the sonnet is, by many, seen as best suited to a ruminative first person voice. To see it exclusively as such is to constrain the potential range of a sonnet, however.

There are several recognized rhyme schemes which may or may not be followed:

Petrarchian. abba-abba (or abab-abab) for the octet and cdecde (or cddccd or cdccdc) for the sextet

Shakespearian. The rhyme form is usually (but not limited to) abab-cdcd-efef-gg or variations thereof (abba cddc effe gg, etc). This is much easier in English and also allows for the closing couplet of the sextet to become in nature a conclusion, or summary, if that's what you want it to be.

Rules are made to be broken. They're a very male thing. Here's a sonnet by Alice Oswald in in Woods, etc. It breaks all the rules, except the fourteen line one.


towards winter flowers, forms of ecstatic water,
chalk lies dry with all its throats open.
winter flowers last maybe one frost
chalk drifts its heap through billions of slow sea-years;
rains and pools and opens its wombs,
bows its back, shows its bone.
both closing towards each other
at the dead end of the year - one
working through, the others thrown into flower,
holding their wings at the ready in an increasing state of crisis.
borrowed into and crumbled, carrying
these small supernumerary powers founded on breath:
chalk with all its pits and pores,
winter flowers, smelling of a sudden entering elsewhere.

Another sonnet by Oswald