Write You a Sonnet? My friend, I’m On It!

I like sonnets. Here’s the famous one that inspires me: https://poets.org/poem/shall-i-compare-thee-summers-day-sonnet-18

I once wrote a proper sonnet about my teeth for my mom because my sister challenged me to.

To be clear, I’m no poet or expert on poetry, but exposure to a few of Shakespeare’s 14-line works of art leads me to stand in rightful awe of his skill with words and use of structure,

Structure: A Shakespearean sonnet is 3 quatrains, each quatrain is four lines, each line is ten syllables, and every other line rhymes. At the end comes two more rhyming lines, also ten syllables.

Seems like a lot of work for a poem. But let’s face it, even haiku has a set structure.

REAL POETS! Please feel free to correct me or elaborate on something that’s more important than I claim.

So yeah, as far as my teachers know, I read Shakespeare in high school (Romeo and Juliet) and college (… something? Definitely one or more of them) but I really learned to like sonnets when learning about advertising and ad writing. It became one of my favorite brainstorming activities to use personally and in my classroom.

Specifically, I may ask students to come up with a slogan or tagline for a client or product. We’ll work hard but it’s too tempting to latch onto the first idea and ride that one home and call it a day.

Another approach is to make the assignment in multiples, like “come up with 10 slogans.”

That number might seem intimidating but it’s also, to me, more like starting over 10 times.

So I’ll ask students to write a sonnet about the assignment or client. Instead of starting over 10 (or 14) times, there’s a continuity and flow to the process. Perhaps more importantly, there is serendipity. Serendipity is an unplanned happy discovery and I found on many occasions that the best slogan or tagline would be discovered in line 4 or 6 or 13, brought about because they needed something to rhyme with “package” or “retail.”

While writing a sonnet can seem overwhelming, having the structure, these lines to color inside of, can also help make an assignment less intimidating.

But write four lines, now four more, now four more, now two more… that’s not so bad. Those are lines we can color in… or color outside. In fact, one student team liked their sonnet so much, they included it in their presentation to their client. The client loved it too. It’s not just a bunch of things that rhyme, it’s a story!

Think of the words (or ideas or tasks) that you need to include. Find patterns and if you can’t at first, define structure and use that to house your ideas.

And you are creative!

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