Cranberry Candles by CC WillowNewest blog project is to offer definitions & examples of Poery poetry forms, so …


Classically,  a sonnet is a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter, which employ one of several rhyme schemes  (seee below) and adheres to a tightly structured thematic organization. Sonnet derives from the Italian sonetto, which means “a little sound or song,”

Two sonnet forms provide the models from which all other sonnets are formed: the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean.

Petrarchan Sonnet

The most common sonnet, the Petrarchan (or Italian)  the Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two stanzas, the octave (the first eight lines) followed by the answering sestet (the final six lines).

The tightly woven rhyme scheme,

  1.  a
  2.  b
  3. b
  4. a
  1. a
  2. b
  3. b
  4. a
  1. c
  2. d
  3. e
  4. c
  5. d
  6. e ….. or
  1. c
  2. d
  3. c
  4. d
  5. c
  6. d

Since the Petrarchan presents an argument, observation, question, or some other answerable charge in the octave, a turn, or volta, occurs between the eighth and ninth lines. This turn marks a shift in the direction of the foregoing argument or narrative, turning the sestet into the vehicle for the counterargument, clarification, or whatever answer the octave demands.

Shakespearean Sonnet

The second major type of sonnet, the Shakespearean, or English sonnet, follows a different set of rules. Here, three quatrains and a couplet follow this rhyme scheme:

  1. a
  2. b
  3. a
  4. b
  1. c
  2. d
  3. c
  4. d
  1. e
  2. f
  3. e
  4. f
  1. g
  2. g.

The couplet plays a pivotal role, usually arriving in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas, often creating an epiphanic quality to the end.One of the most common example of this is William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 .

Miltonic Sonnets

John Milton’s Italian-patterned sonnets incorporates other important varieatioons to the form. Milton freed t.he sonnet from its typical incarnation in a sequence of sonnets, writing the occasional sonnet that often expressed interior, self-directed concerns. He also took liberties with the turn, allowing the octave to run into the sestet as needed. Example: “When I Consider How My Light is Spent.”

Spenserian sonnet

In sixteenth century, Edmund Spenser, adapted the sonnet from the Shakespearean—three quatrains and a couplet—into a series of “couplet links” between quatrains, as revealed in the rhyme scheme: abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. The Spenserian sonnet, through the interweaving of the quatrains, implicitly reorganized the Shakespearean sonnet into couplets, reminiscent of the Petrarchan. One reason was to reduce the often excessive final couplet of the Shakespearean sonnet, putting less pressure on it to resolve the foregoing argument, observation, or question.

And other variations …

There are several types of sonnet groupings, including the sonnet sequence, which is a series of linked sonnets dealing with a unified subject.

Within the sonnet sequence, several formal constraints may be employed, including the corona (crown) and sonnet redoublé. In the corona, the last line of the initial sonnet may act as the first line of the next, and the ultimate sonnet’s final line repeats the first line of the initial sonnet.

The sonnet has continued to engage the modern poet, many of whom also took up the sonnet sequence. Handled more informally, today’s sonnet can often only be identified by the ghost imprint that haunts it, recognizable by the presence of 14 lines or even by name only.

My Example

No Shakespearian

I have no shakespearian turn of phrase
that will cause you to turn, your eyes raise
look into mine with open devotion.
no, I have no words that will be a love potion.

all my action and words have turned to rust
corroded by years when you viewed me with distrust
and all the words, Beloved, I did lay at your feet –
though plainly dressed, I know will not meet.

those monogamous troths I fed to you – and none other,
how your imposed absence makes me shudder,
my emotive lines, willing heart, spartan punctuation …
truth laying open, exposing my abandoned condition.


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