Difference Between Sonnet and Poem

Key Difference – Sonnet vs Poem


“Every sonnet is a poem, but not every poem is a sonnet.”

In the world of literature, the difference between poems and sonnets are always misinterpreted or messed up. Many tend to think that a poem and a sonnet is way two different works of art, which rarely connects with each other. Yet the truth is, a poem is the main work of art in literature and sonnets fall under it as one of the most popular and widely used types of poems.

Poem – Definition and Description

A poem can be defined as a literary creation completed by the formation of words, giving specific attention to its literary features like diction, rhyme, rhythm and imagery in order to bring out an expression of feeling through imaginative thoughts. In simple a poem is a form of writing conveying one or many feeling under different characteristics of literature. Poems contain different structures and varieties. Among these types we can identify; an Elegy, a Ballad, a Sonnet, Free Verse, Limerick, Haiku, Couplet and Narrative.

Difference Between Sonnet and Poem_A Poem

Sonnet- Definition and Description

Likewise, a Sonnet is a type of Poem. Just as a novel and a biography fall under the subgenre of books, it falls under the subgenre of Poems. When tracing back to the origin of the word Sonnet we see that it derives from the Italian word Sonetto meaning little song. This form of poem was first invented by Dante and an Italian philosopher named Francisco Petrarch in the 13/14th century. A sonnet is known as a short rhyming poem containing mainly 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme and a specific structure. Yet over the centuries with the evolvement of literature sonnets have emerged in to several types within its own context as well. As a result, by now it contains two types as Petrarchan or Italian Sonnets and Shakespearean or English Sonnets.

Difference Between Sonnet and Poem_A Sonnet

What is the difference between Sonnet and Poem?

Even though the difference between sonnet and poem in the literature context is slight, we can see many a differences within their own framework.


Firstly, if we take the structure of a poem and a sonnet we can see that Sonnets have a set structure whereas no set structure can be seen in a poem.

Use of Lines

When referring to the use of lines, as in a sonnet, it has 14 identical lines, where as a poem may contain a number of lines within it.


The rhythm of a sonnet is written in the iambic pentameter and in a poem any one can identify various metrical patterns.

Finally, with all these comparisons the most highlighted comparison is that we can see many different forms in Poetry and that one of those types of poems is known to be called as a sonnet. That is Every sonnet is a poem, but not every poem is a sonnet.”

Sonnet Poem
Every sonnet is a poem, but not every poem is a sonnet.”
Set structure No set structure
14 identical lines A number of lines within it
Rhythm in iambic pentameter Rhythm in various metrical patterns

Example of a Sonnet Poem

The following is an example for a type of poem, which falls under the category of a sonnet, by John Keats: His Last Sonnet

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art! -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors -
No -yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever -or else swoon to death.

A Sonnet Poem

 Image Courtesy:

1. “On Death – John Keats” By Tubantia (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “The Sonnet” By Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3. “Bright Star” By John Keats [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons