Something Beyond the Ordinary

Do your students have smartphones? Do you, in fact, find it difficult to get their attention away from their phones? Turn a deficit into an asset: Consider having them write and film their own poems. Then have them put up their own website with their videos. Leave the technical details to them, and they will almost certainly rise to the challenge.

For some stunning examples of what is possible with this art form, check out Media Poetry Studio.


Notes on Sonnet Form

A sonnet is a poem defined by its form
14 lines of rhymed iambic pentameter= sonnet
Iambic pentameter: a line comprised of five iambic feet (PENTAmeter)
Iambic foot: one unstressed syllable + one stressed syllable

Rhyme scheme: the pattern of rhyme at the ends of the lines
In Elizabethan (English) sonnets, the rhyme scheme is a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-e-f-e-f-g-g
In Petrarchan (Italian) sonnets the rhyme scheme is a-b-b-a-a-b-b-a-c-d-c-c-d-c
(There is variation in the Italian sestet’s rhyme scheme)
Structural Elements
Octave: first 8 lines( in an Italian sonnet)
Sestet: last 6 lines (in an Italian sonnet)
Quatrain: set of 4 lines (There are 3 quatrains plus a couplet in an English sonnet)
Couplet: pair of rhymed lines, the last two lines in an English sonnet
Volta: the turning point, usually found between the octave and the sestet or at the couplet
Caesura: a deliberate pause in the middle of a line. Used to control meter.
Enjambed line: when the punctuation and natural phrasing forces movement in reading to go right on through to the next line
End-stopped line: when the punctuation and natural phrasing forces a stop or pause at
the end of the line
How to read a poem:
Follow natural phrasing, not line breaks, to pace the reading. Do not stop at the end of a line unless the punctuation or natural phrasing tells you to. Pay attention to punctuation, remembering that a semi-colon requires a longer pause than a comma, and period is a full stop.
How to get the most meaning out of a poem:
Read aloud first to get a feel for the overall tone and subject. Dig the poem’s groove.
Read a second time with a close eye on form and structure (organization).
Begin a deliberate analysis of style (diction, detail, syntax)
Identify the speaker and audience (point of view)
Be open to nuance.
Powerful Poetic Practices
To pack the most punch into a poem, poets use particular poetic practices to push the potency and point you toward profound perceptions and pleasant ponderings. So…
Pay attention to:
Alliteration (repetition of consonant sound)
Assonance (repetition of vowel sound)
Personification (non-human described with human attributes or behaviors)
Repetition (umm…this one is self-defining, isn’t it?)

And of course any simile, metaphor, symbol, or other figurative language. It all counts. You know that.

After Modernists

Write a free verse poem that is a stream of related images. These images do not need to be connected into a single story or scene. They should, however, be concrete and vivid and eventually add up to a dominant impression conveying a definite emotion of some kind. A close style analysis of a 20th Century Modernist poem will help you with this writing. T.S. Eliot’s poem, Preludes, is a good model, especially structurally.

Consider using:
An allusion
A paradox
The name of someone famous
Your own street
A pair of contrasting images
A recurrent image, symbol or color
Two voices (characters from two Modernist short stories?)