Sunday, 28 February 2010

How to write a sonnet

Sonnets are fourteen lined poems, traditionally split into stanzas of 8 lines and then of 6 lines. The rhyme scheme may vary, depending on your taste. Traditional sonnets would have clear end-rhymes and be written in iambic pentameter, although modern poetry has moved away from a strictness of form. Also, traditionally, sonnets would be written about love or philosophy – but that seems no longer the case, modern poets write sonnets about anything!

The key to a classical sonnet is the ‘turn’; which occurs at, or around, the point where the two stanzas separate and the idea is that the exploration, or argument, in the first eight lines should ‘turn’ or be viewed differently – or at least from a different angle – in the second stanza. This has the effect of creating a polarity, or ambiguity, for the reader and their internal resolution of such tension can generate an ‘aha’ moment which is subjective, pleasurable and creative.

The ‘turn’ is often signaled linguistically by the word ‘but’ or ‘and’, ‘however’ etc. although, if you read a few sonnets you will find that poets use a plethora of subtle, and not-so-subtle ways of embedding a signal for the turn within language. Here is a sonnet I wrote about my son - with a very unsubtle turn!!!

The real Down’s question

Hiding’s not possible when he decides

to talk to you; to ask a question like

‘have you a beard?’:- and everything falls still,

or ‘Are you mad?’:- and you pause in the void,

or ‘are you bovvered?’:- and silence abounds

catching your breath because spotlights are on

and you might say the wrong thing:

bearded, or bovvered or mad – Well??

And it’s ridiculous how quickly you blush

just because it’s not so easy to answer

routinely. Beyond the question

lies a sly question, a poke

bringing you live to connection, ‘can you connect?’

and there’s a boy laughing and doing his work.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

How to write a ballad

A ballad is a traditional story – poem, often written in 4 line stanzas with lines 1 and 3 having 4 beats and lines 2 and 4 having 3 beats. In this kind of meter, and with some traditional line-end rhyming, the ballad has a kind of singing quality. In olden times, they were used to pass news or yarns around from place to place.

Opening to Mr Bleaney – by Philip Larkin

'This was Mr Bleaney's room. He stayed

The whole time he was at the Bodies, till

They moved him.' Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,

Fall to within five inches of the sill,

Whose window shows a strip of building land,

Tussocky, littered. 'Mr Bleaney took

My bit of garden properly in hand.'

Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook ….

A ballad can be funny, whimsical, ironic, bawdy, drunken. Ideally, it needs to be a rich, lifelike, compelling read. Other pointers are;

· have a plot

· have characters

· include dialogue

· contain some sort of drama

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

How to write Haiku

What to write about?

Haiku-poems can describe almost anything, but you seldom find themes which are too complicated for normal recognition and understanding. Some of the most thrilling Haiku-poems describe daily situations in a way that gives the reader a brand new experience of a well-known situation.

The metrical pattern of Haiku

Haiku-poems consist of respectively 5, 7 and 5 syllables in three units. In japanese, this convention is a must, but in english, which has variation in the length of syllables, this can sometimes be difficult.

The technique of cutting.

The cutting divides the Haiku into two parts, with a certain imaginative distance between the two sections, but the two sections must remain, to a degree, independent of each other. Both sections enrich the understanding of the other.

To make this cutting in english, either the first or the second line ends normally with a colon, long dash or ellipsis.

The seasonal theme.

Each Haiku contains a kigo, a season word, which indicate in which season the Haiku is set. For example, cherry blossoms indicate spring, snow indicate winter, and mosquitoes indicate summer, but the season word isn't always that obvious.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


The traditional cinquain is based on a syllable count.

line 1 - 2 syllables
line 2 - 4 syllables
line 3 - 6 syllables
line 4 - 8 syllables
line 5 - 2 syllables

The modern cinquain is based on a word count of words of a certain type.

line 1 - one word (noun) a title or name of the subject
line 2 - two words (adjectives) describing the title
line 3 - three words (verbs) describing an action related to the title
line 4 - four words describing a feeling about the title, a complete sentence
line 5 - one word referring back to the title of the poem

Here's an example


brightly still

heating, stirring, rising;

one cauldron is today's


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Writing a Sonnet

Learn to write a sonnet in iambic pentameter, just like Shakespeare did. Discover the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the quatrains and couplets that make up a Shakespearean sonnet.

Here are the rules:

  • It must consist of 14 lines.
  • It must be written in iambic pentameter (duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH).
  • It must be written in one of various standard rhyme schemes.

If you're writing the most familiar kind of sonnet, the Shakespearean, the rhyme scheme is this:


Every A rhymes with every A, every B rhymes with every B, and so forth. You'll notice this type of sonnet consists of three quatrains (that is, four consecutive lines of verse that make up a stanza or division of lines in a poem) and one couplet (two consecutive rhyming lines of verse).

Ah, but there's more to a sonnet than just the structure of it. A sonnet is also an argument — it builds up a certain way. And how it builds up is related to its metaphors and how it moves from one metaphor to the next. In a Shakespearean sonnet, the argument builds up like this:

  • First quatrain: An exposition of the main theme and main metaphor.
  • Second quatrain: Theme and metaphor extended or complicated; often, some imaginative example is given.
  • Third quatrain: Peripeteia (a twist or conflict), often introduced by a "but" (very often leading off the ninth line).
  • Couplet: Summarizes and leaves the reader with a new, concluding image.

One of Shakespeare's best-known sonnets, Sonnet 18, follows this pattern:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The argument of Sonnet 18 goes like this:

  • First quatrain: Shakespeare establishes the theme of comparing "thou" (or "you") to a summer's day, and why to do so is a bad idea. The metaphor is made by comparing his beloved to summer itself.
  • Second quatrain: Shakespeare extends the theme, explaining why even the sun, supposed to be so great, gets obscured sometimes, and why everything that's beautiful decays from beauty sooner or later. He has shifted the metaphor: In the first quatrain, it was "summer" in general, and now he's comparing the sun and "every fair," every beautiful thing, to his beloved.
  • Third quatrain: Here the argument takes a big left turn with the familiar "But." Shakespeare says that the main reason he won't compare his beloved to summer is that summer dies — but she won't. He refers to the first two quatrains — her "eternal summer" won't fade, and she won't "lose possession" of the "fair" (the beauty) she possesses. So he keeps the metaphors going, but in a different direction. And for good measure, he throws in a negative version of all the sunshine in this poem — the "shade" of death, which, evidently, his beloved won't have to worry about.
  • Couplet: How is his beloved going to escape death? In Shakespeare's poetry, which will keep her alive as long as people breathe or see. This bold statement gives closure to the whole argument — it's a surprise.

And so far, Shakespeare's sonnet has done what he promised it would! See how tightly this sonnet is written, how complex yet well organized it is? Try writing a sonnet of your own.

Poets are attracted by the grace, concentration, and, yes, the sheer difficulty of sonnets. You may never write another sonnet in your life, but this exercise is more than just busywork. It does all the following:

  • Shows you how much you can pack into a short form.
  • Gives you practice with rhyme, meter, structure, metaphor, and argument.
  • Connects you with one of the oldest traditions in English poetry — one still vital today.

Read more:

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Write an Instant Verb Verse Poem

Directions:For this three line instant poetry activity, first think about something you do. Then brainstorm six verbs that go with that action. Then just fill them in the blanks below to make your instant verb verse.


Line 1: Verb One Verb Two Verb Three

Line 2:
Verb Four Verb Five Verb Six

Line 3: Write a
sentence here that shows how you feel about this activity

YOU HAVE A POEM, Here's one.....


choose, flicker, click,

look, puzzle, edit

it's almost complete.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


The sound in poetry plays a vital role which gives it musical rhythms and therefore poems are recited with genuine interest. Alliteration is such quality that gives beauty to the poetry. There are alliteration famous poems that really appeal to the lovers of literature.

What Makes it Alliteration?

Well, it is nothing but a recurrent repetition of a speech sound presented in a sequence of close by words. It's generally applied to consonants when the recurring sound starts a word or stressed syllable within a word. In the opening line of "Piers Plowman" by William Langland, every four stressed syllables are alliterative by nature:

"In a somer seson, when soft was the sonne..."

Examples of Alliteration in Later English Poetry:

In the later English poetry, the application of alliteration was meant for achieving stylistic effects and to reinforce and intensify the meaning. For instance; the repetition of the sound /s/, /th/, and /w/ consonants in the following Shakespeare's Sonnet 30:

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past"

There are special speech sounds, called assonance and consonance, repeated in alliteration. Assonance means the repetition of similar type of words (particularly in stresses syllables) in a sequence of close by words. For instance; the recurrent /i:/ is repeated in the opening lines of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn":

"Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time..."

Consonance means the repetition of a sequence of more than two consonants but a slight change in the prevailing vowel for instance; lean-alone, live-love etc. Moreover, it can be seen in W. H. Auden's following poem:

"O Where are you going?" said reader to rider...
"Out of this house" - said rider to reader,
"Yours never will" - said farer to fearer,
"They're looking for you" said hearer to horror..."

This device of alliteration in poetry provides rhythm and rhyme.

By Rakesh Ramubhai Patel Platinum Quality Author