Writing Poetry: Sonnets, Haiku, and Tanka

Sometimes writing poetry is difficult, especially if you want to go old school and use a set rhyme scheme, or heaven forbid, attempt iambic pentameter. Fear not! Here is some poetry writing help.


Here are a few helpers:

For rhymes, check out: RhymeZone.com or Rhymer.com

Syllable Checker: WordCalc.com


I do a lecture on sonnets themselves. I have attached a PDF of my background lecture.

A sonnet is a 14-line lyric poem with a single theme, originated during the Italian Renaissance and later spread throughout Europe.  Usually written in iambic pentameter.  Most common themes are romantic love and religion.

There are three formats:  Italian (called “Petrarchan”), Spenserian, and English (called “Shakespearean”).  The most common are Petrarchan and Shakespearean; Edmund Spenser is the only poet to use the format that bears his name.

Sonnet Lecture Notes

Sonnet Lecture Notes

For more specific details, here are my lecture notes: Sonnet Notes Lecture PDF

Shakespeare’s SONNET 18

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:  (First quatrain: main theme/main metaphor)

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d; (Second quatrain: metaphor extended and complicated)

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st; (Third quatrain: conflict or twist introduced by “but”)

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. (Ending couplet: a conclusion or last image)

The stressed syllables are marked in bold and each iamb is separated by the slashes:

/Shall I /compare /thee to /a Sum/mer’s day?/

/Thou art/ more love/ly and/ more temp/er/ate/

Other forms of poetry:

Haiku and Tanka

A haiku
A haiku

There is no necessary rhyme scheme.  This poem is entirely about the syllable count.

Haiku: (5-7-5) meaning the syllables for:
line one: 5
line two: 7
line three: 5

American Tanka: (5-7-5-7-5) follows the same format, but it two lines longer:
line one: 5
line two: 7
line three: 5
line four: 7
line five: 5

Japanese Tanka: (5-7-5-7-7) follows the same format, but it two lines longer:
line one: 5
line two: 7
line three: 5
line four: 7
line five: 7

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Poetry by Robin Woods
An American Tanka by Robin Woods

Naanie Poem: 4 lines where the total lines must be 20 to 25 syllables.

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