Just to recap: The rules of the sonnet.
1: Fourteen lines, traditionally divided into three, four-line ‘quatrains,’ and a final couplet.
An eight line ‘octave’, followed by two, three-line tercets.
2: Rhyme schemes vary:
English Rennaissance: A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F-G-G
3: Iambic Pentameter: Each line has ten syllables:
4: A sonnet is an argument (an essay of sorts), and it presents its argument in a specific way.
First Quatrain (four lines): 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 (dramatic reversal––thank you Aristotle––more about that later in the semester), often beginning with ‘but.’
Final Couplet (two lines with end-rhymes): Summarises and leaves the reader with a new, concluding image.
You are going to write a sonnet.
You must write at least 14 lines, and you must adhere to at least one of the rules above.
So, for example, you can write a 14-line poem that develops an argument, but does not use iambic pentameter or rhyme.
Or you could write an 18 line poem in iambic pentameter that doesn’t rhyme or develop an argument.
A couple of sonnet exercises suggest themselves here:
Begin a sonnet with the word “not” or “no” or another negation. Don’t worry too much about sticking with the exact meter, but do try for a strong sense of rhythm.
Write a poem in which the speaker addresses someone else directly. Ask questions. Don’t answer them.
Or begin your sonnet with the words: Shall I compare thee to…
Shall I compare thee to a submarine.
Thou art more shark-like, and made of steel…