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Iambic pentameter was often used to write sonnets. Because most sonnets are written to express love or romantic thoughts, iambic pentameter is associated with love poems. But poetry in iambic pentameter can be about any topic. Choose something you care or know about, as the words and feelings come more easily with a topic you understand.
Understanding Iambs and Pentameters
Poetry is measured in feet, including the two-syllable iambic feet. In an example from Shakespeare — “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May” — the iambs are "rough winds," "do shake," "the dar-," "-ling buds," "of May." When you say these lines out loud, the rhythm is obvious. Iambic feet work well in English, so writing iambs tends to be easier in English than in some other languages. Because pentameter is a measure of five feet, each line of your poem needs to have five feet -- or five sets of unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable in a line. Each line in your poem should follow this same rhythm. Reading the words aloud is one of the best ways to verify that you have written iambs and five of them are found in each line.
Meter and rhyme are separate things, and iambic pentameter has nothing to do with rhyme scheme. A poem written in iambic pentamenter that doesn't rhyme is called blank verse, and much of Shakespeare's writing followed this pattern. If you don't want to write in blank verse, you could select any rhyme scheme for your lines of iambic pentameter. Each line's final word is assigned a letter. If lines rhyme, they share the same letter. For example, in the a b a b rhyme scheme, the first and third lines rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines.
Sonnet Rhyme Schemes
If you want to write a sonnet, the rules on rhyme are a little different. Although sonnets are most often written in iambic pentameter, they can be written with one of three different rhyme schemes. Spencerian sonnets follow an a a b a b b c b c c d c d e e rhyme scheme. Shakespearean or English sonnets use a scheme of a a b a b c d c d e f e f g g. Both of these types end with a couplet or two lines back to back that rhyme. The Petrarchan or Italian sonnets follow a rhyme scheme that has a b b a a b b a for he first eight lines, followed by a different grouping of two or three rhyming sounds for the last six lines with no couplet.