Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Winter Sonnet

"Mom - help!  I have to write a stupid sonnet for Ms. B." my daughter complained, flopping down on the sofa next to me.
                                                                      A sonnet, huh?  Not sure how to do that!?
"Well, what is the subject?"
"UGH! There IS no subject - it can be anything - but it has to follow this format."  She shoves a paper at me.
I glance through the requirements, counting lines, syllables, stanzas, rhyme scheme.
                                                                      OK - looks simple enough
"What do you want to write about?" I ask.
"I DON'T KNOW!! God I hate Ms. B and this class" she explodes.
                                                                     Don't even go there I remind myself.  She's 14 after all.
"Well, pick a simple subject that you know something about then." I suggest.

"Fine!  SNOW!"
"Great - let's make a list of adjectives and phrases that you equate with snow."
We both make lists, occasionally checking for inspiration from the internet and dictionary.

I begin to compose -
                                                                  Wait, what are you doing?  This is her assignment!  But...
                                                                  it's POETRY - how can I resist?  Maybe if I just get her

I write a few lines - she looks over my shoulder.  I write a few more - gradually she gets drawn into the rhyme, the meter, the cadence - suggesting a word here, a phrase there...
Our heads bow together as we play with words, as I show her how a simple shifting of phrases or a careful omission can make the difference...
"I am not a great poet by any means - but I love it" I explain.
We finish and read it over.
A pause - silence, then...
"You're much better at poetry than I am," she says quietly.
                                                                I am aghast - I can tell this is not a plea for me to assure her
                                                                  that is not the case - it is a genuine compliment - can it be?
                                                              I'm not sure I've ever heard one of those come from her.
I hand her back her paper.
"Thanks Mom."
"You're welcome, honey."
"I STILL hate Ms. B. and this stupid assignment."
                                                                  Don't bite......just breathe and nod.
Here is one version of "our" sonnet:

A downy blanket covering the world
Silent flakes drift gently down from above
At times the icy ground both danced and swirled
As gentle breezes kissed the earth with love

The breeze turns harsh and flurries fill the sky
A bitter blast of icy wind begins
It screams as would a soul that wished to die
While snow and leaves spin round the noisy din

Then just as fast the whirlwind passes by
And peace again returns to the cold night
And lights glow warm from quiet homes nearby
As drifting flakes cover the world in white

Winter’s moods can change without forewarning
Raging night gives way to quiet morning.

Quote of the day:    A poem begins with a lump in the throat.   ~Robert Frost


  1. As I read through the process of how you led your daughter through the exercise it reminded me of how much our students need that modelling in order to understand how, how we start, how we solve problems, how we make choices as we work. I like the way you wrote in two voices, and the poem is lovely.

  2. This is the age I've taught for a long time, but I know parenting is another story. It was good to hear the conversation. You showed us so well how to do, & the poem is lovely. I love it all, but especially those final two lines. I hope Mrs. B will tell her good things!