While anyone can write a love sonnet, many people are either afraid to try, intimidated by the seemingly complex style, too lazy or simply uncomfortable expressing their feelings in writing. However, armed with a basic understanding of why and how to write a sonnet, anyone can give the one they love their own personal poem for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or an anniversary.
Why Write a Love Sonnet
Love sonnets date back to the 13th century, having originated in Italy. When the sonnet was brought to England in the early 16th century, William Shakespeare was made famous. Poets through the ages have conveyed some of the most beautiful thoughts through the sonnet. Not all sonnets have romantic themes as sonnets can focus on a variety of themes, philosophies, events and feelings. However, the love sonnet is the most popular version of the sonnet and people have used it for centuries to convey their romantic feelings to objects of their affection.
So, why write a love sonnet? Writing a sonnet takes some effort and creativity and it is truly a unique and personal way to let your special someone know how you feel. While your sonnet, by itself, is a beautiful gesture, gifting your special someone with flowers or chocolate will make it that much more special and unique. If you are reaching for the pinnacle of romance, deliver it in a romantic location such as a park. When you write a sonnet for your beloved, you are following the centuries-old tradition of paying tribute to your special someone through poetry.
How to Write a Love Sonnet
As you begin, consider the subject of your sonnet. Is this person a new acquaintance or someone you have loved for a long time? Your poem’s focus will depend largely on how long you have known the person. If you don’t really know the person you’re focusing on, the poem’s focus will be more superficial, focusing on appearance and general personality traits. If the person is a significant other, the focus of the sonnet will be more personal, with an emphasis on the person’s strengths, depth and emotions.
You might consider writing a sonnet about your relationship describing how you met, how you’ve progressed and your hopes for the future. When it comes to picking a subject, there are many options available so you can take your love sonnet in one of many different directions. Once you’ve decided what you’d like to say, write down your ideas as either a paragraph or a list as this will help you keep your thoughts organized so you can focus on following a rhyme scheme and creating rhythm in your sonnet.
Form, rhyme and rhythm are the three main elements of a sonnet and, while they may be tricky to follow at first, the extra work will pay off once you’ve got your sonnet complete.
Form being the first element, sonnets traditionally follow the English, or Shakespearean, sonnet form of two sections with the first section having three quatrains, or three four-line stanzas, stanzas being groups of lines in poetry, and a second section consisting of one rhyming couplet, a couplet being a two-line stanza.
The English sonnet follows a specific rhyme scheme that is fairly simple to follow. The first section’s rhyme scheme is a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-e-f-e-f. Each letter represents the last word in each line and designates which lines need to rhyme. For example, if the last word in the first line is “heart”, then the last word in the third line would have to rhyme, thus it would end with a word like “start”. The second section follows a simple g-g rhyme scheme, so the last word of each line rhymes.
Getting the rhythm right in a sonnet can be a little difficult and will require some revision. Saying the lines aloud will help you get a sense of the rhythm and a feel for which syllables are emphasized and which ones are not, which is the basis of iambic pentameter, the official name for the type of rhythm English sonnets follow.
Each line of a sonnet has ten syllables broken into five feet. A foot is made up of two iambs, either stressed or not stressed. The word “today” is an example of a stressed and non-stressed iamb making up a single foot where the first syllable of the word is said more quietly than the second, so that the word sounds like “toDAY”. Creating iambic pentameter involves stressing every other syllable. By following iambic pentameter, the sonnet has a musical sound to it, making it enjoyable to listen to.
Writing a sonnet is a labor of love that your special someone will cherish. Give it time and practice because the results will be worthwhile.
More posts like this one in How to Write a Love Poem.