Blog Challenge, Writing Journey

Fourteen Lines

Welcome to Day 20 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.]


“Painting is poetry which is seen and not heard, and poetry is a painting which is heard but not seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

After recently reading a blog post on hip-hop by Lisa Rivero, I was reminded of sweet almost-forgotten memories of my early childhood.

Piled into the back of a friend’s parked pick-up truck, we shared fresh shrimp brought to us by one of the dads, and then passed the beautiful fall day reciting off-the-cuff poetry. We were a mixed group of boys and girls, mostly ages 9-14, and it was the late 1960’s. Inspired by billboards, TV, and overheard conversations, we riffed on many things including royalty, Winston cigarettes, cash, and pie. We reflected the life all around us.

There was a definite rhythm and backbeat to our words. The energy felt fresh and not of our parents. In retrospect, our newly found poetry was likely part of the growing movement of what in just a few more years would be called hip-hop.

In my local elementary school, the teachers were deep into the era of the songwriter. In our English classes we analyzed works by all the bands of the day. Words became the transport for ideas and social commentary. They were anthems and protest marches. Hip-hop would later carry that message.

My article’s title comes from the standard measure of a sonnet. Fourteen lines. That’s all.

Shakespeare is commonly associated with the sonnet. My son loves Shakespeare and takes wonderful Shakespeare courses whenever he can. Unfortunately, the teaching of the sonnet and Shakespeare in schools is often done so in a historical way, as if we were looking back at the mummified remains of an archeological find. In many schools, poetry as a whole may become compartmentalized in education as an exercise for younger children, and writers like Shakespeare are left to sometimes be complained about by students and teachers as irrelevant to today. After all, Shakespeare is among the famous set of dead white writers.

But Shakespeare and sonnets are both very much relevant and alive today. This type of rhythm-infused story-telling poetry, has come by way of hip-hop (as well the influences of jazz, blues, funk), transformed, and is now penetrating throughout society. Spoken word poetry is everywhere. Literature itself recognized the importance of verse by awarding the 2015 Newbery Medal Winner, the most prestigious award of children’s literature, to Crossover written by the lyrically gifted Kwame Alexander. I had the thrill this year of being in attendance at a conference session presented by Kwame, and afterwards was able to briefly speak with him. His poetic messages transfix all students – the advanced readers as well as the reluctant ones. Students even perform his works in classroom settings. Does this sound familiar of any famous dead white writer you know?

Listen to a remarkable TEDx video with hip-hop artist Akala, as he compares Shakespeare to hip-hop in a very entertaining and deeply informative talk.

You’ll not listen to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 the same way again. You can also read more about his message HERE.

Then, listen to hip-hop artist Devon Glover (aka The Sonnet Man) perform Shakespeare Hip-Hop Fusion to Hamlet’s famous speech.

If any of you are educators or homeschool parents, please consider sharing these videos with your students. You can also utilize the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge curriculum package on the poetics of hip-hop.

For now, I want to pay due homage to the poets of yesterday and today via an original poem of mine in the tradition of a Shakespearean sonnet. Perhaps in a later post I will post my modern take on the sonnet. Fourteen lines. That’s all.

Sonnet To Wings

They lost their wings when they were born
Left mortal in their flesh and blood
And touched the scars where they were torn
When cast into the earthen mud
How else can we explain their urge
To thus traverse in space and time
Where truth and light together merge
To seek each shadow in the rhyme
To find the walls and tear them down
To worship all the wind and sky
To stare at eyes that walk around
And wonder if THEY too could fly
The rebel souls with second sight
Those wingless ones whose words take flight

[You can enjoy all the daily posts from the #30PostsHathSept bloggers HERE]

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 30 Ideas for Blog Posts (with examples), Part II » Lisa Rivero

Comments are closed.