Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On beauty.

As part of the grade 11 English Literature curriculum, students study Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 104’.

Sonnet 104

To me, fair friend, you can never be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d
In the process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
Ere you were born, was beauty’s summer dead.

As an introduction to the poem, I wrote the following assignment on the board:

‘You have just met the most beautiful person you have ever seen. Write a poem to this person describing their beauty and the effect it has had on you.’

While sometimes written assignments are met with groans and protest by this group, this day they wasted little time getting down to business. After a sufficient amount of time I collected their books and put the pile on my desk. Whenever I ask students to read their written work out to the class, it is rare to get any volunteers. To avoid this, I decided to take the pressure off of them. One by one, at random, I read out their poems to the class. I kept each book hidden so that they wouldn’t know whose I was reading, and not once did I tell them author of the poem that was being read.

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, while on the whole I thoroughly enjoy my job and working with teenagers, there are particular lessons that stand out in my mind as extra special. This day was one such lesson. The students’ reactions to the poems were entertaining beyond belief. Cheering when someone used an effective metaphor…crying out as if in church when beautiful images of beauty and love were expressed, it was a truly lively and interactive experience for all in the classroom.

Then the lunch bell rang. And not one moved. They stayed 15 minutes past the end of the period to hear all of the poems. I cannot recall even one lesson at any grade level that I have taught, in any school, in any country, where students willingly stayed that long after the lunch bell had rang, without any encouragement from the teacher. It was amazing.

Some of my favourite poems follow.
Note: Have made some minor editorial and grammatical changes to facilitate the reading of the poems.

Just look at how beautiful you are.
You are glittering like a star at night
Your smile attracts, even in my dreams.
You are like a birch tree with smooth black
beauty skin.
You smell like a rose at spring,
Your lips taste like an apple orchard.
Just look at how beautiful you are.

Gorgeous Girl

Hey you gorgeous!

Your beauty is in my heart
Your eyes are sexy like nothing on earth

Your voice is making me happy. When you talk,
to me its like nothing my ears have ever heard.

Your smile makes me happy. When you smile
at me you rub my heart.

I like the way you are beautiful.
It makes my heart feel like I’m dreaming…

Hey you gorgeous! You make me feel happy.

Your beauty…brightens
up the room, it gives life
to the corpses.

Your beauty is very dangerous:
It made me blind.

Your beauty is like water in the

When its stormy and
you walk out of
the room the sky
changes like the
clap of a hand or
a beat of the heart.

Your beauty is like
when the sun is setting
and the sky is all relaxed

Your beauty is like an infant
so innocent and pure.

My beautiful black berry
Your small eyes and cool lips
You smile like a shining star
When I see you my eyes start
To be happy my mind tends to
Wander. My life without you
Wouldn’t mean a thing.
What a surprise in my life!
Your soft black body makes me smile every day.
I wonder what life would be without you.

A red rose!

She is a red, red rose
That is newly sprung in June.

Her eyes glisten with love
With her hair so beautiful
upon her cheeks and falling
along her neck like jewels,
so vivacious and shiny.

There is a fragrance about her!
Yes, and can only be recalled by
The sound of her name.
Her teeth as white as a
Newly born goat.

She is a
red, red

I have met an angel

I have met an angel that
touched my heart.
I have met an angel that
blinded my eyes
because her beauty is like
a star shining in the night.
I have met an angel that
made me forget about everything.
I have met an angel
that no mortals can
describe because she
looks like she was picked
From heaven.
Her beauty shocked
Me like I was seeing
A ghost that wanted
To take my soul and
Tear my heart apart
Like my heart was a building
That was exploded by a
Nuclear bomb. I wish
I could see an angel
As beautiful as that again
Deep inside my heart
She has a special room
That is covered
With white and red roses.
When we meet again I will

As a follow up assignment after we had spent some time deconstructing the poem, I had the students rewrite the poem in their own words. Again, the results were astonishing.

Sonnet 104

Your beautiful face will never change in front of my eyes since the day I saw you. You are like the wind of winter that stripped my heart to be at a warm place and I wish your beautiful face could turn to be yellow. Your beautiful face has burned my heart into ashes. Since the day I saw you you were like a newborn baby that charmed the eyes of the world. Nobody could describe your beauty and instead just wish to praise you. You are sweet as a peach. Your beauty fooled me like it was a dream and I proclaim to the next generation that no one can compare to your beauty, even if you don’t remain.

Beautiful friend

Your beauty seems to be always
shining when you wake up or didn’t
go to bath you stay as brand new,
like you are fresh shining every day
and night like you are swimming in a
new bath full of Reach Fresh and
the best of all times. The first time
I saw you you were so whiteness like a
basket full of peaches and creams.
Teeth eyes hair everything about you day and night
summer winter spring autumn,
you stay shining as you are a sun in the midday heat
or a star in the midnight sky.
You were born to be the greatest example of beauty
I have ever seen.

Sonnet 104

Your age will never change your beauty
Beautiful friend.
For it seems the same as it was when
I first saw you.

Three years have passed
Since I first saw you
But you are still fresh and green.

Oh! No but beauty
Like a tortoise on a journey
Fades from the one it is glued to
That no one can recognize it.
In the same way your lovely beauty
That seems to be unchanging
Is really changing and my eyes and view
May be tricked.

But if it is,
I proclaim to future generations:
The most beautiful one in the world
died before your birth.

Sonnet 104

Your beauty does not change
It’s just the same as the first
time I saw you. Since then the
violent, windy cold winters
have turned to be three hot
summers. Then the trees
And leaves turned yellow
But when it became older
It was ruined, dry, dying.
Ever since I say you you were very
beautiful and even now you are
still hot and beautiful and young
and your beauty moves, changes
very slowly and no one can see it
when it changes. In the same way
as your beauty changes your beauty seems
unchanging and my eye is being
fooled by your beauty and
there is no one that I can compare
your beauty with and I’m making
this proclamation about the great
beauty of my friend.

1 comment:

Brook Buesking said...

Hello! I am missing the poetry club a lot already! I know they all met today...please tell everyone hello and I am working hard at gathering all the stories/photos for the magazines. If there are any last minute entries, please send them to me: hoping that bongi wants to enter hers... Keep up the great work Alex, the kids are worth so much!