Combinatoria Poetica: Counting and Visualizing Rhyme Patterns in Sonnets

Hartmut F.W. Höft
Proceedings of Bridges 2009: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2009)
Pages 79–86


In this paper visualizations of end rhyme patterns of poems, including sonnet sequences, are studied. First, a notation for the grouping structure and end rhyme pattern types of poems and sonnet sequences is developed. Then the rhyme patterns of poems with even rhymes are constructed and their counts computed. Cascading this construction over rhyme groupings leads to counts for a variety of sonnet forms. The structure and counts are visualized for two types of sonnets, as trees that are drawn in a circularly symmetric manner. Finally, systematically generated rhyme patterns for sections of sonnets as well as rhyme patterns of sequences of sonnets from the literature are visualized as color bands. These bands provide a holistic visual overview that can give insight into the structure of poem sequences that may span hundreds of lines. Different color assignments can also be used to exhibit and enhance the visual beauty inherent in rhyme patterns (see website [6]). Mathematica 6 is used to create counts, summary tables and images of end rhyme patterns.