Friday, March 24, 2017

Go Poem #10 -- Rhythm That Runs Downhill

by Michelle Ambrosini

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing  
   Under the sun!  
I will touch a hundred flowers  
   And not pick one.  
I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,  
Watch the wind bow down the grass,  
   And the grass rise.  
And when lights begin to show  
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,  
   And then start down!

I project the poem onto the board, and first each student reads the poem independently.  Next, I ask students to notice what word or phrase stands out to them as I read the poem aloud.  

Students turn and talk to their table partners and share their standout words or phrases and explain their reasoning:  “Why did that word or phrase stand out to you?” I ask.

Students volunteer their standout words or phrases, which I underline on the board.  Their responses typically include “hundred flowers,” “cliffs and clouds,” “quiet eyes,” “grass rise,” and “lights begin to show.” The reasoning most students share for these words or phrases is these simple images are ones that they can easily visualize.  

We discuss how the writer does NOT describe each image with an abundance of figurative language.  I ask students to think about how the poet creates the sensation of standing at the top of the hill without this abundance of imagery.  

Now I re-read the poem aloud, asking students to notice the sound of the poem. Students typically begin by noting the rhyme pattern (2nd and 4th lines of each stanza).  

Students notice the poet’s use of repetition of “I will.” Repetition or pattern is a style choice that we have discussed throughout the year, specifically how writers can create rhythm through repetition as well as rhyme.  Students comment on the poet’s pattern in each stanza (longer line of 7 or more syllables, shorter line of 4 syllables).  We discuss how this pattern, too, creates rhythm.  

I then read the poem aloud a final time, asking students to close their eyes and to visualize themselves at the top of a hill.  When I finish reading aloud, I ask the students to share what happened in their visualization when they “started down!” Most comment that they run or roll down the hill at a fast pace.  I note that the poet created a rhythm using rhyme, repetition, and punctuation (students notice the exclamation points too) that propels them forward down the hill.  

Michelle Ambrosini teaches seventh-grade English at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA.  

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