What is a Sonnet?

A sonnet is a poem containing FOURTEEN lines of RHYMED IAMBIC PENTAMETER, that is, the pattern of emphasis in each line shall be an unstressed syllable, followed by a stressed syllable, as in duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH,  although some lines might depart slightly from that stress pattern, and RHYME SCHEMES will vary.

Because the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest is a part of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN, sonnets accepted for judging shall be in one of the following traditional rhyme schemes:

  • SHAKESPEAREAN SONNET has the following rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg
  • SPENCERIAN SONNET has the following rhyme scheme: abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee
  • PETRARCHAN SONNET has the following rhyme scheme:  an octet (8 lines) of abbaabba,
    and sestet (6 lines) of either cdecde, or cdcdcd
  • NON-TRADITIONAL SONNETS will be considered, with other rhyme schemes, or none at all, BUT must adhere to the fourteen line format, and all, or predominantly, in iambic pentameter.

For information concerning other characteristics of sonnets, such as the volta, see sites such as poets.org

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