Sonnets are one of the oldest types of poetry, and the most well-known sonneteer is probably William Shakespeare, who wrote 154 individual sonnets, and also included many sonnets in his plays. There was a time when sonnets fell out of favor, and were seen as too old fashioned and restrictive. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many modern poets like E.E. Cummings, Robert Frosh, and Edna St. Vincent Millay helped to keep this form of poetry alive. Modern sonnets, however, don’t necessarily follow the same rules as more traditional sonnets. While there were once strict rules about how many lines could be in a sonnet, how many syllables had to be in every line, and the rhyme scheme the sonnet had to follow, the writers of modern sonnets have much more freedom when it comes to structure and rhyme.
It can be difficult to distinguish different types of modern sonnets because the purpose of the modern poetry writers who write these types of poems is often to break the rules. In fact, modern sonnets have a lot in common with free form, also known as free verse, poetry. There are few, if any, distinct rules when writing free form poetry, giving the poet the freedom to express himself and his creativity in almost any way he can imagine. However, while similar to free form poetry in many ways, modern sonnets tend to have a bit more structure. While modern sonnets might look or sound like a free form poem at first, it will have certain characteristics that will classify it as a sonnet.
One of the first modern sonnets that didn’t use rhyme at all was called “The Secret Agent.” Written in 1928, this poem was penned by W.H. Auden. Auden also wrote many more traditional sonnets, although he also devoted much time to pushing the boundaries of the sonnet form.
One specific type of modern sonnet is the inverted sonnet, but even inverted sonnets don’t necessarily follow strict rules. One type of traditional sonnet is classified as having exactly 14 lines and a strict rhyming scheme. While an inverted sonnet might also have exactly 14 lines, and an opening rhyming couplet similar to that found in traditional sonnets, the remaining lines could be written in free form. A sonnet that’s been split in half, with each section having its own tone and style, might also be referred to as an inverted sonnet.