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Poetic Formats in Contemporary Poetry: A How-To Guide: Sonnets

Poetic Forms: Sonnet

Poetic Forms: The Sonnet

Poetic Forms: Sonnets

from The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

(from It. sonetto: "a little sound or song"). A 14-line line poem normally in hendecasyllables (It.), iambic pentameter (Eng.), or alexandrines (Fr.), whose rhyme scheme varies despite the assumption that the sonnet form is fixed. The three most widely recognized versions of the sonnet, with their traditional rhyme schemes, are the It. or Petrarchan (octave: abbaabba; sestet: cdecde or cdcdcd or a similar combination that avoids the closing couplet), the Spenserian (ababbcbc cdcdee), and the Eng. or Shakespearean (ababcdcdefef gg). Weeks showed in a sample of just under 6,000 Eng. sonnets that 60% used the abbaabba pattern for the octaves and 22% ababcdcd.

Brogan, T., BROGAN, T., ZILLMAN, L. J., SCOTT, C., & LEWIN, J. (2012). Sonnet. In R. Green, S. Cushman, & C. Cavanagh (Eds.), The Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics (4th ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from

Sonnet/ Commentary

Academy of American Poets Chancellor Linda Gregerson discusses the history of the sonnet at Poets Forum, the Academy's annual poetry conference, in New York City 2015. For more about the sonnet and American poetry, visit

Sonnet Commentaries