How to Write a Sonnet, Haiku, Riddle, Poems and Rhyme

How to write ballad ode poem haiku and more

The Naked Soul Learning Zone
How to Write a Sonnet, Haiku, Riddle, Rhyme, etc.

Learn with examples and write your own.


How to Write Poems and Rhyme

When I was a kid, I had a huge obsession with Dr. Seuss’s books, practically every poem I read, included end-rhyme (words at the end of a sentence which rhyme with others at end of a sentence).

Put simply, a poem had to rhyme otherwise, it simply wasn’t one. Although my opinion has now changed (structure and rhythm hold importance, yes but this doesn’t always have to include rhyme) there are some people (you could even be one of them) who hold that same belief that I held as a child.

In this blog we’re going to take a look at verse forms that take rhyme and non-rhyme patterns, so if you are of the opinion that verse has to rhyme to be a poem, maybe I can help change your mind. Grab a pen and a notepad (there are a few exercises to complete during this blog) I’m going to start with haiku writing.

For more information on creative writing and rhyme, please visit here.


The Haiku

A haiku is a Japanese poem (or English poem in haiku form) containing seventeen syllables and spanning three lines which follow a five, seven and five syllable pattern; with the third line often taking an unexpected twist.

Haikus are traditionally heavily influenced by nature and the seasons, they’re usually free of metaphors, similes and rhyme too (but are still regarded as poems!).

Poets have been composing haikus for centuries. Kobayashi Issa, was a haiku master from the late 1700s and early 1800s, this is one of his haikus:

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.


Ouch! Traditional haikus are generally pretty expressive with a huge focus on nature. The following haiku was written by novelist and master of the haiku, Natsume Soseki:

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in  rage
with no leaves to blow.


For more information and examples, please visit here.


Writing Your Haiku

Some writers have expressed that the short length and simplicity of a haiku means that they’re easy to write. But I think that sticking to all its associated traditions can make a haiku a little tricky to get right at first, so when it comes to trying your hand at haiku writing, feel free to break a few of the rules and experiment.

To get yourself started, try freewriting a half page or so of buzz words relating to nature, weather, the seasons, senses (taste, smell etc.) or whatever you think would sit well in a haiku poem. Basically anything to inspire you on your haiku writing journey. Feel free to pick words from the buzz word table below too.


Here’s my list:



Now, ready to write your first haiku?

Using words from your list (or a combination of yours and mine if that helps) write a few sentences of around 5 syllables that you feel would sit right in a poem.

Then do the same, this time with sentences of around 7 syllables.


My list of sentences looks like this (I’ve added the syllable count to the end of each sentence).

Mistletoe and berries 6Caged birds, loud singing 5
Ready to take flight 5 Fruitless trees, light rain 5
Melting snow, crisp white 5Two fluttering hearts 5
Warm breath, cast shadows 5Rose scent on my fingertips 7
Surrender to our hunger 7Fallen pine cones, crunching feet 7
Crashing like waves we fall 6Fallen leaves, deepening wounds 7

Now to make your haiku, throw three of your sentences together using the traditional five, seven and five syllable pattern if you can and see what you come up with.


I managed this first time around:

Caged birds, loud singing 5
Two fluttering hearts beating 7
Ready to take flight 5


I like the second one I wrote a little better:

Mistletoe, berries 5
Fallen pine cones, fruitless trees 7
Melting snow, warm breath 5 


How did you get on? You can probably tell that for me, as a starting point, doing it this way worked quite well. But I’m not done yet.


To liven up your haiku writing process when freewriting your buzz words next time, try and think of words or phrases that would sit well in an erotic poem or story. Again, turn them into sentences using the traditional word count and see what you come up with. I managed the haiku below by expanding on some of the buzz word sentences I’d used previously:


Soft scent, your fingers
Aroma, hunger, sweet, strong
Like waves we tumble


Hey, my first haiku inspired by Naked Soul: The Erotic Love Poems (an upcoming poetry book on erotic love). Maybe I’ll include some of these in my next anthology! I’d be surprised if you guys didn’t manage to get something out of trying out these simple exercises too.

Before I move on to creating poems that rhyme, let’s take a look at a poem that, to me, certainly looks like a poem, sounds like a poem but it doesn’t rhyme. The poem is called: For My People. It was written in 1942 by poet Margaret Walker:

To read the poem, please visit here.


Free Verse

For My People was written in free verse with, this means the poem writer has written their prose freely, following no rules using no metrical patterns (iambic pentameter) – we’ll discuss this in more detail later. For me, despite being rhyme free, the poem ‘For My People’ has natural rhythm, ebb and flow and it’s is a definite poem. Is there anyone out there who disagrees with me? Would love to know why – maybe you’ll start to change MY mind!

For more information on Free Verse, please visit here.



In this section we’re going to focus on creating rhyme patterns, to start off we’re looking at sonnets.

I’m wondering, as Elvis Presley has been labelled the King of Rock n Roll, is it OK for me to refer to William Shakespeare as the King of Sonnets? The poet and playwright wrote dozens of them. In fact, he wrote so many (154 to be exact) the poor guy found it hard thinking up titles for them all (being the writer of nearly 40 plays too, he definitely had his work cut out) so ended up just giving his sonnets numbers instead.

Take a close look at William Shakespeare’s, Sonnet Number 154.


Sonnet 154

The little Love-god lying once asleep, A
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand, B
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep A
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand B
The fairest votary took up that fire C
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;D
And so the General of hot desire C
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed. D
This brand she quenched in a cool well by, E
Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual, F
Growing a bath and healthful remedy, E
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall, F

Came there for cure and this by that I prove, G
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love. G


To further read, please visit here. 


You’ll notice I’ve labelled the rhyme pattern in capitals at the end of each line, we’ll look at these more closely before we try out composing our own sonnets. All of Shakespeare’s sonnets follow the end rhyme pattern, illustrated above, of A,B,A,B,C,D,C,D,E,F,E,F,G,G

There are fourteen lines with around ten syllables in each line. This is the typical pattern of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, known as Iambic Pentameter which is the most common meter in poetry. The meter uses a combination of iambic feet (or iambs) which are stressed and unstressed syllables ‘hoNEY’ or ‘bisCUIT’.

The pentameter portion of iambic pentameter refers to the number of feet (iambs) that are repeated in each line of verse (five in the case of the above poem).


How to Write a Sonnet

I’m hoping you’ll join me in the following exercise – creating a poem using the same rhyme scheme pattern as a Shakespearean sonnet. We’re going to be using a buzz word table again, except this time I’m putting together a selection of words which rhyme or half rhyme, some with one syllable and some with more.

This timeEntwineSeem
King and queenSereneSun beams
ShakerStake herground

The table will hopefully help with the end rhyme of your sonnet writing it may also help if you jot down one of Shakespeare’s first lines on a page as a starting point to base your rhythm on e.g. Shall I Compare thee to a Summers Day or If Music be the Food of Love, Play on.

I have to admit, I found it hard to get into a 10 syllable sentence mode, but through using one of the Sonnet King’s opening lines, it got easier. It was still quite a challenge and it took a long time to get to this point, but with a little help from my ideas table, I managed to write my first sonnet. (I warn you if Shakespeare was alive today, he wouldn’t worry at all about my stealing his thunder!)


If music be the food of love, let’s eat
My heart is no more under lock and key
If we dine with fine wine and well cooked meat
Will you be my true love and marry me?
“To fulfil a request that seems sublime
Would seem dishonest and disrespectful
An action to marry in such a short time
Means a lifetime of feeling regretful
Hide away that designer wedding gown
Save it for another in your history
I’ll be willing to smile and hide my frown
I may even allow you to kiss me”
I’m happy to eat this fine tasty feast
But no, I won’t kiss this arrogant beast



Ballads are poems which usually tell stories. Typically these can be emotional narratives about love, pain, tragedy etc. Generally written in four line stanzas (verses) the meter of a ballad is often iambic (similar to that of Shakespearean sonnets) as in the case of the sad tale below by William Wordsworth.


Lucy Gray, or Solitude

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray:
And, when I crossed the wild,
I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary child.

No mate, no comrade Lucy knew;
She dwelt on a wide moor,
–The sweetest thing that ever grew
Beside a human door!

You yet may spy the fawn at play,
The hare upon the green;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen.

“To-night will be a stormy night—
You to the town must go;
And take a lantern, Child, to light
Your mother through the snow.”


To read the complete poem, please visit here.


How to Write a Ballad

I think the best time to write a ballad is when you’re feeling truly emotional about something. It might be useful to list a few things you would like your ballad to contain beforehand. However, I’m not sure if employing the ‘buzz word” table method used earlier would be as useful for creating a ballad if you’re hoping to evoke emotion and empathy.


I’m not feeling emotional enough to try writing a ballad at the moment but I do have a few pointers if you’re ready:

1. Remember most ballads are written using quatrains (four line stanzas).
2. Ballads are probably easier to write than sonnets as there are no set syllable length patterns to follow.
3. Not all the end words have to rhyme in a ballad stanza but it’s useful if two of them do.
4. The last thing I want you to feel is sad or low but being filled with emotion when writing a ballad will, I suspect, only enhance your ballad writing skills. 


What is an Ode?

Am going to finish with a section on ode writing, the complexities of some take poetry to a whole new level. The link below contains two different types of ode from way back in time called the Pindaric and the Horatian.

To further read, please visit here.


Writing a Pindaric Ode

If you’re brave enough (and you’ve got enough time on your hands) to write one of these, bear in mind the following before you embark on the longest literary challenge you’ll probably ever face:


A Pindaric ode is defined by the following triads:

1. Stanzas (There are so many verses in Pindaric ode’s, you might want to keep the next couple of months free if you’re planning on finishing yours)

2. Strophes and antistrophes. These are essentially any number of lines and lengths that follow whichever rhyme scheme the writer decides on but they’re identical in structure. Considering the epic content of Pindaric odes, I’m thinking this could be one tricky poem to master!

3. Epodes: These differ in whatever way the poet decides is best suited for their odes


Wow! There’s me thinking that sonnets were difficult!

I’m not in a hurry to try writing a Pindaric Ode. Hats off to you if you’ve ever tried writing one and completed it.


Horatian Odes

Moving on to Horatian odes, which thankfully tend to be shorter than Pindaric odes and less intense (they’re usually written in stanzas of two or four lines). If I was going to emulate anyone’s odes then Roman poet, Horatio, is the one I’d go for. The buzz word table might be useful in creating your ode. But I think if you have enough passion for the person , or thing you’re writing the ode for, this will probably serve you in good stead.


I’ve decided to finish with my own ode and in the interest of mixing things up and breaking tradition, my ode which is to Dr Seuss, is done in the style of a haiku poem.


Oh say, can you say
Seuss. The man! I am a fan
Of Green Eggs and Ham!
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What do you think about this little instruction on writing? Did you have fun reading the poems? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


  • Aslekha

    Wow! It was great to read about these writings now I know what to keep in mind while writing anything new. My favourite piece would be Ballads. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Mara

    Very helpful.

  • Anthony

    Loved it. Not a big commentor on Internet but I really loved the simplicity with which you have presented all different types of poetry writing.

    Anthony, New York

    • Hi Anthony, I am glad that you liked this post. I have a good news for you. I am publishing a book on how to write poetry. Coming out early 2016. Stay tuned.

  • Alberto

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  • Roseanne

    Good article! We are linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the good writing. Cheers!

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