The Joy of Writing: Sonnets

It is my firm belief that anyone can write poetry. It is not an art reserved for the learned or the few. Much like painting it can be taught. I want to walk you through a process today much like Bob Ross did in his series, Joy of Painting. We will have colors on our palette much the same comprising nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Follow along, express yourself, and above all, have fun.

The Joy of Writing

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Image Source: Flickr

It’s a terrific day and I’m glad you’re here to write. Remember, we can all be poets and express ourselves. Because that’s what it’s really about: expressing ourselves. Just stay confident and stay writing.

Today we’re going to try writing a sonnet. Sonnets usually have three verses and a turn or volta at the end. They often have iambic pentameter as well, but we won’t be bothering with that today. What we are creating is something I came up with called a rhyming free-verse sonnet. It keeps the basic rhyme structure of an English sonnet but the meter remains free-verse. If it feels intimidating, don’t worry; I’ll walk you through it. There are four stanzas, and we will treat them as four short poems. So, grab your pencil and some paper. It’s time to sonnet.

Please check out my other tutorials on writing love poems and haiku.

Verse 1

First off, we have some basic nouns:

a. pain, b. hand, c. hair, d. eyes
a. strain, b. gland, c. stare, d. thighs

Did you notice the lines marked a, b, c, d? Each corresponds to a different rhyme we will use later.

Now, that you’ve got those, let’s consider what we might do to these nouns by looking at verbs:

a. feign, b. expand, c. scare, d. cry
a. rain, b. planned, c. blare, d. sigh

And finally, I’d like you to imagine how you will describe these nouns and verbs with adjectives. There are fewer adjectives needed so we will not need to pair them.

Sane, bland, fare, dry

It’s time to start writing! Write out four basic nouns from the first list.

a. pain, b. hand, c. hair, d. eyes
a. strain, b. gland, c. stare, d. thighs

Eyes
Hands
Thighs
Hair

Next you’ll want to pair the nouns with rhyming verbs. I’ll give examples but you can put them anyway you like.  Just make sure the first and third line rhyme (as well as the second and third). Think: a b a b.

If you need help rhyming you can always pair an a b c d

a. feign, b. expand, c. scare, d. cry
a. rain, b. planned, c. blare, d. sigh

a. Eyes feign,
d. Hands cry
a. Thighs strain,
d. Hair sighs.

Remember our adjectives? We haven’t forgotten about them. Take them from the list and pair them up:

sane, bland, fare, dry.

Dry eyes feign
As hands cry
Thighs sprain,
Hair is dry.

Feeling confident? There’s one more step. Change and rearrange verse in any way you see fit. Every line doesn’t necessarily need an adjective.

Eyes strain hands,
Feign, scare, cry
The pain expands,
Your hair is dry.

And that’s the first verse! Only three more to go. Feel free to take a break whenever necessary.

Verse 2

Now that we have the basics down, we can move to verse two. Verse two is identical in structure to verse one. We just choose different nouns, verbs, and adjectives to continue our poem. Once more, we have our basic nouns (with rhymes):

a. bed, b. wave, c. trust, d. nook
a. thread, b. cave, c. lust, d. hook

Let’s consider what we will do to these nouns by looking at verbs:

a. bled, b. save, c. thrust, d. shook
a. spread, b. crave, c. rust, d. look

And finally, I’d like you to imagine how you will describe these with adjectives:

Lead, shaved, robust, unhooked

Start by typing out some basic nouns from the first list.

a. bed, b. wave, c. trust, d. nook
a. thread, b. cave, c. lust, d. hook

Bed
Waves
Lust
Hook

Next you’ll want to pair the nouns with rhyming verbs. I’ll give examples but you can put them anyway you like.  Just make sure the first and third line rhyme (as well as the second and third). Think a b a b.

If you need help rhyming you can always pair an a b c d

a. bled, b. save, c. thrust, d. shook
a. spread, b. crave, c. rust, d. look

d. Bed shook,
c. Waves thrust
d. By the look
c. Of lust.

Remember our adjectives? Take them from the list and pair them up:

lead, shaved, robust, unhooked.

Bed shook
Waves thrust
By the robust look
Of lust.

You’ve written the second verse! Congratulations. Let’s look at our progress so far by seeing the first verses together.

Eyes strain hands,
Feign, scare, cry
The pain expands,
Your hair is dry.

Bed shook
Waves thrust
By the robust look
Of lust.

Verse 3

Verse three is again identical in structure to the previous. We just choose different nouns, verbs, and adjectives to continue our poem. We have our basic nouns:

a. ghost, b. steel, c. chill, d. sound
a. coast, b. wheel, c. still, d. ground

Now, that you’ve got those, let’s consider what we might do to these nouns by looking at rhyming verbs. Notice the first set is an off-rhyme. It is something different from the norm if you would like to try it.

a. lost, b. feel, c. fill, d. surround
a. cost, b. steal, c. distill, d. compound

And finally, I’d like you to imagine how you will describe these with adjectives:

Tossed, ideal, downhill, drowned

Start by typing out some basic nouns from the first list.

a. ghost, b. steel, c. chill, d. sound
a. coast, b. wheel, c. still, d. ground

Coast
Steel
Still
Sound

Next you’ll want to pair the nouns with rhyming verbs. I’ll give examples but you can put them anyway you like. Just make sure the first and third line rhyme (as well as the second and third). Think a b a b.

a. lost, b. feel, c. fill, d. surround
a. cost, b. steal, c. distill, d. compound

c. The still
b. Surrounds steel
c. as sound distills
b. The coast feels

We haven’t forgotten about adjectives. Take them from the list and pair them up:

engrossed, ideal, downhill, drowned.

The downhill still
Surrounds steel
As sound distills
The drowned coast feels

Only one more verse to go. Let’s check what we’ve written.

Eyes strain hands,
Feign, scare, cry
The pain expands,
Your hair is dry.

Bed shook
Waves thrust
By the robust look
Of lust.

The downhill still
Surrounds steel
As sound distills
The drowned coast feels

Verse 4

Now that we have the basics down, we can move to the final verse. Verse four is identical in structure to verse three, except for having two lines and a volta.

Remember what we said about a turn or volta? Consider the energy from the previous stanza. Mine involved drowning but yours may have turned out very different. To contrast the idea of drowning, I will use nouns and verbs which involve swimming. Feel free to substitute your own.

Once more, we have our basic nouns:

a. rim, b. water, c. breast
a. limb, b. daughter, c. dressed

Now, that you’ve got those, let’s consider what we might do to these nouns by looking at rhyming verbs:

a. skim, b. slaughter, c. rest
a. swim, b. totter, c. jest

We still need our adjectives:

Dim, hotter, pressed

Start by typing out two basic nouns from the first list.

a. rim, b. water, c. breast
a. limb, b. daughter, c. dressed

Breasts
Water

Next you’ll want to pair the nouns with rhyming verbs. I’ll give examples but you can put them anyway you like. Just make sure the first and second line rhyme. Think a a.

a. skim, b. slaughter, c. rest
a. swim, b. totter, c. jest

a. Breasts swim
a. Water skims

Remember our adjectives? We haven’t forgotten about them. Take them from the list and pair them up:

dim, hotter, pressed

Breasts swim,
Pressed hot while water skims.

Now we can put all of our verses together:

Eyes strain hands,
Feign, scare, cry
The pain expands,
Your hair is dry.

Bed shook
Waves thrust
By the robust look
Of lust.

The downhill still
Surrounds steel
As sound distills
The drowned coast feels

Breasts swim,
Pressed hot while water skims.

*****

And that’s all there is to it. You are officially a sonnet writer.

Remember to believe in your abilities and let me know how it turned out. Please share your poems in the comment section or on your own blogs with a tag back.

Until next time: stay confident and stay writing!

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