The person credited with the creation of the first sonnet form is Giacomo Da Lentini, also called
Jacopo Da Lentini, a Sicilian poet of the 13th century. He was a senior poet of the Sicilian school during
the reign of the Holy Roman emperor Frederick II. He was considered a master by the poets of the
following generation, including Dante, who memorialized him in his work the Purgatorio. None of his
poetry survives in the original Sicilian dialect. Lentini’s sonnet is very simple and uses very few rhymes,
using the rhyme scheme abbaabbaabbacc.
In the 14th century, another Italian poet created another sonnet form. His name was Francesco
Petrarca, commonly known as Petrarch (July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374). Petrarch’s sonnets grew in
popularity and was imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance. The rhyme scheme
abbaabbacdecde then became the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet.
Moving forward, the sonnet form arrived in Spain during the early 15th century. The Spanish poets
were mainly influenced by Petrarch’s sonnets and with a little variation, the form was made popular by
poets such as Francisco De Quevedo, Iñigo López de Mendoza, Lope de la Vega, and many others.
With the Spanish sonnet you have two quatrains followed by two tercets, and the rhyme scheme is as
follows, abba abba cdc dcd.
Later, in the 16th century, William Shakespeare (April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) changed the form and
made it popular in England. The Shakespearean or English sonnet uses the rhyme scheme
ababcdcdefefgg. It allows for more flexibility when considering the rhymes.
During Shakespeare’s lifetime, another English poet devised his own rhyme scheme. His name was
Sir Edmund Spenser (ca. 1552/1553 – January 13, 1599) and he created the Spenserian sonnet. His
rhyme scheme is a bit difficult, although not as difficult as the sonnet Lentini created when it comes to
finding words to rhyme. The rhyme scheme, ababbcbccdcdee identifies the Spenserian sonnet.
For centuries these sonnet forms have existed with little or no variation. For me, personally, if I were to
consider the rhyming forms royalty, I consider the sonnet to be the king of all the poetic forms. There is
something regal about the sonnet that draws me to it, and I never get tired of using this rhyming form.
No matter in what other form I write in, sooner or later, I go back to the sonnet. I feel the more I master
the sonnet, the more I master the other forms of rhyming poetry.
In this book I demonstrate that many more sonnet forms can be created, adding to the five sonnet
forms that exist today. At the end of the book I explain how I learned to write sonnets, and it is easier
than most people think. Try your hand at it. Learn how to master the sonnet. I also show how you can
modernize the sonnet and use it in various ways you may not have thought of.