Celebrating Love: The Evolution of a Sonnet

I started class last week asking my students, “What is happening next week?” They replied “Valentine’s Day!”, in what was pretty close to unison. It took me back to the days of staying up late to personalize a handwritten card for each of my classmates, so for Valentine’s Day, I decided that we would take on, what may be considered to be, the most famous poetic form known to mankind: the sonnet. I’ll consider that quite an upgrade.

We talked Shakespeare, and revisited Neruda, and we read Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX). Between the two we discussed the elements of a sonnet. After reading both, we highlighted comparisons of the two: both are about love, and one rhymes and one does not. I diagramed certain elements of each so the students could identify the aspects of the form more readily. After analyzing the poems, focusing more on Neruda with this activity, we created a word bank containing words we think of when we think about love. We also came up with several rhyming words to coordinate with many of those words. You will see some of the original words like happiness, heart, family, pride and sacrifice below in the “wordle” that Jashawn created as a brainstorm, while he grumbled about not knowing what love is since he is “only 13”.

His creativity inspired me to write my own sonnet for love, containing some words from our bank, which I have chosen to feature while the class continues to work on theirs…I had planned to give the 6th graders two sessions to work on sonnets, given their precise nature, but also, while Ms. Dydo and I were collecting the pieces in the next class, I noticed that many students were quite slow to give them over. They were trying to finish their third stanzas, or a classmate had told them to remember the final couplet. Some even wanted to perfect their rhyme schemes, so I asked who would like to work on them next week, and the overwhelming majority of the 7th and 8th graders raised their hands. In addition to my piece, I have included some snapshots of the drafting process. We will complete them in class this Friday, and I plan to post the masterpieces this weekend, while there is sure to be some V-day celebrations left to be had…

Sonnet 119
by Chanell Ruth

Who would relinquish a heart once more
that once was broken in myriad parts?
Afraid to chance, still, to open the door
and make whole again, the delicate art

Hands a vessel to make tragedy sane
Fingers and fists molding clay of our souls
The sacrificed craft stiffening, ordained
Throw the old into walls, breaking the mold

Suppressed whispers charmed from their deaths
awakened, uncoiled, unleashed, then alive
Turn tender screams loud and full of our breath
exasperated time to unhinge pride

So fasten our worlds; nothing is fate
fight so hard for love, there’s none left to take






“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.