Lesson Plans: Sonnet
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     Grades: 11,12 > College Level

Objective The student will:

  • understand the definition and format of a poem written in the "sonnet" form.  understand the meaning and purpose of  "extended metaphors" in poetry.

  • demonstrate the ability to write a poem using the set, poetical format of a sonnet; the content of the sonnet will provide an extended metaphor.

Hint: Have the students research and read other sonnets before beginning the lesson.  Discuss the history and significance of meter and rhythm in poetry. Discuss examples 1 & 2 relative to understanding extended metaphors. Ask students to provide other examples of extended metaphor either in other poems or on their own.

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Write a poem which satisfies the following criteria: 

  1. The poem is exactly fourteen lines in length.

  2. Each line contains exactly ten syllables.

  3. Although each line has ten syllables,

    1. the poem does not sound stilted; it should read naturally;

    2. there should be no obvious extra padding to stretch a given line out to the required length.

    3. except where you try for special effects, the line-breaks should be at appropriate places, where natural pauses would fall.

  4. The poem should be rhythmically homogeneous (uniform), without sounding mechanical or sing-songy.

  5. The poem must develop one extended metaphor. For example, "The Silken Tent" compares a woman to a tent.

  6. The comparison must:

    1. not be picked up briefly and dropped; it must be sustained and explored at length. It must form the basis of the poem.

    2. It must be fresh and surprising, not trite and obvious.

    3. The comparison must, like the one that forms the basis of "The Silken Tent," have a point to ita point that is subtle enough to require an extended metaphor:


Implicit Extended Metaphor


A Summer Night


At the end of the street

a porch light is burning,

showing the way.  How simple,

how perfect it seems: the darkness,

the white house like a passage

through summer and into

a snowfield. Night after night,

the lamp comes on at dusk,

the end of the street

stands open and white,

and an old woman sits there

tending the lonely gate.


                 --Ted Kooser 


Implicit Extended Metaphor


The Death of the Ball Turrent Gunner


From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,

And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.

Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life

I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.


                              --Randall Jarrell




Implicit Extended Metaphor


For the Governor


Heartbeat by heartbeat our governor tours

the state, and before a word and after a word

over the crowd the world speaks to him,

thin as a wire. And he knows inside

each word, too, that anyone says,

another words lurks, and inside that. . .


Sometimes we fear from him: he, or someone,

must act for us all. Across our space

we watch him while the country leans

on him: he bears time's tall demand,

and beyond our state he must think the shore

and beyond that the waves and the miles

            and the waves.


                 --William Stafford

(a sonnet)


The Silken Tent


She is as in a field, a silken tent

At midday when a sunny summer breeze

Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,

So that in guys it gently sways at ease,

And its supporting central pole,

That is its pinnacle to heavenward

And signifies the sureness of the soul,

Seems to owe naught to any single cord,

But strictly held by none, is loosely bound

By countless silken ties of love and thought

To everything on earth the compass round,

And only by one's going slightly taut

In the capriciousness of summer air

Is of the slightest bondage made aware.


                             --Robert Frost

(a sonnet)


A Lovely Love


Let it be alleys. Let it be a hall

Whose janitor javelins epithet and thought

To cheapen hyacinth darkness that we sought

And played we found, rot, make the petals fall.

Let it be stairways, and splintery box

Where you have thrown me, scraped me with your kiss,

Have honed me, have released me after this

Cavern kindness, smiled away our shocks.

This is the birthright of our lovely love.

In swaddling clothes. Not like that Other one.

Nor lit by any fondling star above.

Nor found by any wise men, either. Run.

People are coming. They must not ca1ch us here

Definitionless in this strict atmosphere.


                                           --Gwendolyn Brooks

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