Sonnet Poetry Contest

Poetry Contest
The challenge of this contest is to write a sonnet in iambic pentameter, just like Shakespeare did.

The rules:

  • It must consist of 14 lines.
  • It must be written in iambic pentameter (duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH).
  • It must be written in the abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme.

It must be written with the following rhyme scheme:

    A
    B
    A
    B
    C
    D
    C
    D
    E
    F
    E
    F
    G
    G


Every A rhymes with every A, every B rhymes with every B, and so forth. This type of sonnet has of three quatrains (so, four consecutive lines of verse that make up a stanza) and one couplet (two consecutive rhyming lines of verse). The structure is important. But it is not everything. A sonnet is also an argument that builds up a certain way. And how it builds up is related to its metaphors and how it moves from one metaphor to the next. In a Shakespearean sonnet, the argument builds up like this:

  • First quatrain: 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 (a twist or conflict), often introduced by a "but" (very often leading off the ninth line).
  • Couplet: Summarizes and leaves the reader with a new, concluding image.

Here is an example from Shakespeare. "Sonnet 18" follows this pattern:

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
    Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou growest.
               So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
               So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The argument of this poem goes like this:

  • First quatrain: Shakespeare establishes the theme of comparing "thou" (or "you") to a summer's day, and why to do so is a bad idea. The metaphor is made by comparing his beloved to summer itself.
  • Second quatrain: Shakespeare extends the theme, explaining why even the sun, supposed to be so great, gets obscured sometimes, and why everything that's beautiful decays from beauty sooner or later. He has shifted the metaphor: In the first quatrain, it was "summer" in general, and now he's comparing the sun and "every fair," every beautiful thing, to his beloved.
  • Third quatrain: Here the argument takes a big left turn with the familiar "But." Shakespeare says that the main reason he won't compare his beloved to summer is that summer dies ? but she won't. He refers to the first two quatrains ? her "eternal summer" won't fade, and she won't "lose possession" of the "fair" (the beauty) she possesses. So he keeps the metaphors going, but in a different direction. And for good measure, he throws in a negative version of all the sunshine in this poem ? the "shade" of death, which, evidently, his beloved won't have to worry about.
  • Couplet: How is his beloved going to escape death? In Shakespeare's poetry, which will keep her alive as long as people breathe or see. This bold statement gives closure to the whole argument.


The winner takes away a $100 cash prize. All writers will receive feedback for their submission.

Deadline: Monday, March 5, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST.





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