Skip to main content
Explore /

Write a sonnet

Woman reciting a sonnet

Step 1: Choose your own sonnet adventure

The world is your oyster! You can write a sonnet…

…on your own. Get typing, or dust off that quill pen.

…with others in your home. Banish boredom around the dinner table or on the couch!

…with friends and family online. Collaborate to write and record yourselves across the miles.

Step 2: Find inspiration

Check out Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Few collections of poems—indeed, few literary works in general—intrigue, challenge, tantalize, and reward as do Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Almost all of them love poems, the Sonnets philosophize, celebrate, attack, plead, and express pain, longing, and despair, all in a tone of…

More inspiration

  • Read a poem that pokes fun at sonnets.
  • Read a poem that refers to the film The Matrix.
  • Read a poem that plays with pop culture and with Shakespeare, too.
  • Listen to poet Terrance Hayes read one of his sonnets.

Step 3: Get writing!

Sonnets have been around for over seven centuries, maybe because they’re so much fun to write! A sonnet is a poem of 14 lines that reflects upon a single issue or idea. It usually takes a turn, called a “volta,” about 8 lines in, and then resolves the issue by the end.

Shakespearean sonnets use iambic pentameter and an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme, but don’t worry too much about all that. Sonneteers have been bending and breaking the sonnet form for ages, so share whatever you’ve got!

Here’s a quick list to help you get started. How fancy you get is up to you!

The basics

  • 14 lines (though there are “stretched sonnets” of 15 and 16 lines, too)
  • A big idea or feeling or issue (like love, or heartbreak, or a problem to be solved)

The next level

  • A turn, or “volta”—some kind of shift in tone or thought
  • ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme
  • 10 syllables in each line

Super-fancy sonneteering

  • Iambic pentameter in some or all of the 14 lines
  • Final couplet resolves the issue or problem in the sonnet

Try your hand, see how much of this sonnet stuff you want to play with, and no matter what, enjoy the experience of writing poetry.

Writing a group sonnet

Are you a teacher? Use this lesson plan to have your class write a group sonnet together.

Writing a Group Sonnet: Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Teaching Resource

Writing a Group Sonnet: Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Writing a group sonnet is a collaborative learning exercise--and is also noisy and fun!