I often share poetic forms on this site, but we're looking at something a little different in this post; that is, we're looking at a poetic sequence. In this case, the poetic sequence is based around the sonnet poetic form, which is typically a 14-line rhyming poem written in iambic pentameter with a few different rhyme patterns.
In this post, we're going to look at what a sonnet sequence is, including what makes it different from other poetic forms and some different ways to write them.
What Is a Sonnet Sequence in Literature?
A sonnet sequence is a group of sonnets that are linked together to create a longer thematic work. Also known as a sonnet cycle, the sonnet sequence may include any number of sonnets that build upon each other, but the individual sonnets should be able to stand on their own as well.
The sequence of sonnets could tell a cohesive story when put together in the correct order, but it could also collect a series of thoughts that may not be completely linear (or even directed all to the same person). For instance, a poet could write a sonnet sequence of love sonnets that opine on love in general and in relation to specific muses. Or a sonnet sequence could deal with politics, sports, and/or mortality. All subjects and treatments are game.
While poets can get creative with sequence combinations, there are a few standard sonnet sequences available to poets:
- Crown of sonnets. Consists of seven sonnets in which the final line of one sonnet is the first line of the next sonnet (and the final line of the seventh sonnet is the same as the first line of first sonnet), which makes a continuous circle.
- Sonnet redoublé (or heroic crown). Consists of 15 sonnets. The first (or last) sonnet, sometimes referred to as the texte or master sonnet, is the source of the first or final lines of the other 14 sonnets. As you can tell, poets like a little structure, but they also like to have the poetic license to bend the rules as well.
- Heroic crown of crowns. Consists of 14 heroic crowns (14 sonnets and their master sonnets) and a "grand master sonnet" using the 14 master sonnets as source material to make a total of 211 sonnets. For those who really want a challenge, I suppose.
Sonnets are fun, but they're limited to 14 lines. The power of a sonnet sequence is that poets can still play with the sonnet form and expand their thoughts and ideas beyond what the sonnet form allows on its own.
Play with poetic forms!
Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).