There is just something simply elegant about packing a ton of meaning into a fourteen line poem, which we know as the sonnet. I came to write sonnets as a result of having been asked by a student, whom I was tutoring over the internet via email, to help her with an English assignment. This task involved writing a sonnet. Having been a big fan of the Sonnets of William Shakespeare (having memorized at one time at least twenty-five or so, and having written a short book on the subject), I delighted in the task. The result was that I became an avid writer of this famous English poem.
The sonnet has a colorful history, having been introduced in Italy by the poet Petrarch and later carried to England by the English poet Thomas Wyatt. William Shakespeare adopted the current form of the sonnet and made it widespread in his collection of one hundred and fifty-four poems. The English form consists of fourteen lines divided into three four-verse stanzas and a concluding two-line couplet. The rhyme scheme generally follows abab cdcd efef gg and each line consists of ten syllables (decasyllabic) with a stress pattern known as iambic. The iamb is characterized by a stress pattern of off-on, or unstressed followed by stressed. The following lines, taken from the eponymous sonnet from my collection Sonnets to the Lord, illustrates this pattern:
My God, my Lord though crucified that day,
Did not despise nor seek to save Your face,
On those that led you on this brutal way,
That we ourselves might find salvation’s grace.
Writing poetry has always been a way for one to sublimate negative experiences from the vicissitudes of life into an art form that allows release as well as expiation from wrongdoing. Poetry also gives the poet the ability to express the ineffable beauty of the positive aspects of life and its attendant experiences. There is no greater release than being able to take some negative experience, some hurtful emotion, and use it to churn out some beautifully moving sonnet; or to take some magical experience and both exalt and forever memorialize it in some precious sonnet. This is what I did when I put together my collection of Christian sonnets known as Sonnets to the Lord.
If you doubt what I say in the above paragraph, then try to remember either a very painful experience or a very beautiful event in your life. Study a little about the structure of the sonnet and read some examples to get a feel for the form. Then try and compose one based on your experience. If you succeed at doing this, I assure you the feeling will be one of inexpressible satisfaction. Happy sonnet writing!