#472: When I taught “The Red Wheelbarrow” . . .

Here we are on the last day of National Poetry Writing Month, or, in my neck of the woods, National Write A Sonnet Every Day Month. It has been a trip, to say the least, this project of committing oneself to a particular form over and over. I think I would recommend it. Outside of a handful of exceptions, I have strayed away from formal structures in poetry. And in a strange way I have always been sheepish about calling myself a poet because my poems were more like little paragraphs that I had just carved up into lines. They may have looked like poems on the page, but didn’t feel or SOUND like poems. I know this is stupid. William Carlos Williams would probably agree. I think I have even taught students that if a writer calls something they’ve written a poem–that’s what it is. Nevertheless, writing a sonnet every day made me feel a little more like a real poet.

What follows is my final offering.

A few quick notes: the titles of these things, as they appear in each daily blog post, are simply the day of the month on which they were posted. So today’s sonnet is number 30. Over the course of the month, however, I ended up writing about 38 sonnets, 35 of which I would consider “finished,” at least temporarily. The number in the title of the actual blog post, however, (472 today) is the total number of poems I have posted to the blog over the last decade or so. This seems significant. And while I don’t think I’ll be writing a poem every day in the merry merry month of May, it’s good to have goals, and I think a good goal for me might be to reach 500 poems by the end of the summer of 2023. How many of these will be sonnets–it’s hard to say–but I think I have a book coming on–so maybe.

In this last poem I have have jettisoned the end rhyme all the way through. Not even the couplet rhymes this time! But I did work hard to make sure every line was ten syllables long–my final nod to this supreme structure. Cheers. If you’ve been reading these, my undying gratitude to you forever and ever, amen. Thank you.


When I taught “The Red Wheelbarrow,” students
Would say, geez, even I could write that poem.
I would say, oh, but you didn’t, did you?
That would shut them up; it worked ev’ry time.
They would also say sonnets were too hard
Until they started writing them. Word up: 
The simple thing is sophistication
Incarnate; the complex thing is within
The reach of a fourteen-year-old skater.
A friend of mine wrote thirty-five sonnets
In thirty days. I said, how’d you do it? 
He thought for a minute, and then he said,
I wrote one word and then another word
And it just went on like that for a month.     

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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