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10 of the Best Sonnets by Female Poets

The best sonnets by women in English

The sonnet form was Italian in origin, of course, but a host of English poets have made it their own: Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Auden, and many besides. But what is often overlooked is what female poets have done with the form. Indeed, the first ever sonnet sequence written in English was by a woman (see below). In this post we’ve gathered together ten of the greatest sonnets by female English poets.

Anne Locke, ‘My many sinnes in nomber are encreast’. Any list of the best sonnets by English women poets that strives for comprehensive historical coverage should begin here, with the largely forgotten figure of Anne Locke (c. 1530-c. 1590). As we discuss in our book about obscure and forgotten books, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, Locke was not only the first Englishwoman to write a sonnet sequence, but the first English poet of either gender to do so. A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, appended to a translation of John Calvin’s sermons which Locke published in 1560, was written two decades before Sir Philip Sidney wrote Astrophil and Stella, which is often named as the first English sonnet sequence. Read the rest of this entry

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10 Classic Sonnets Everyone Should Read

10 of the best sonnets in the English language

The sonnet form has been used by many poets in many languages since it was invented in the Middle Ages. It really arrived in English literature during the reign of Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, when poets such as Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, introduced it at court. Since then poets have found new ways to use it to say what they want to say – it’s been a love poem, an elegy, a nature poem, an argument, a poem of remembrance, and much else. Here are ten of the finest sonnets in all of English literature, from the sixteenth century to the present day. Click on the title of each poem to read it. Read the rest of this entry