My other activity this week, in addition to interviewing teachers, was leading a poetry workshop for a small homeschool group that meets down the street from me. Two sixth graders, two seventh graders, two eighth graders. Four girls and two boys. On Monday, we talked about poetry in general, and wrote "synonym poems." We talked about meter, and when I mentioned iambic pentameter, there was an amazing moment when three or four of the students began to recite, in unison, the prologue to Romeo and Juliet. I explained the sonnet form, and on Wednesday one of the eighth grade girls had written a lovely and surprisingly skillful sonnet about a cat chasing a mouse. The the rhyme scheme (ababcdcdefefgg) reinforced the sense of the poem, as the rhyme was chased from line to line, and then cornered in the final couplet.
Today, we sat in the sun and, believe it or not, composed "versions" of Catullus 46. The students have had a little Latin, so I started with the original:
Iam ver egelidos refert tepores,
iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
iucundis Zephyri silescit auris.
Linquantur Phrygii, Catulle, campi
Nicaeaeque ager uber aestuosae:
ad claras Asiae volemus urbes.
Iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.
O dulces comitum valete coetus,
longe quos simul a domo profectos
diversae variae viae reportant.
Then I gave them a literal translation and asked them to rewrite it to make it a new poem based on Catullus. The two boys wandered off by themselves to write, and the girls stayed at the table with me, writing and pausing to ask questions. I dashed off my own version, too:
Now the last frost date is past,
The summer heat approaching fast,
The pleasant Zephyrs thaw the sky,
The world is warm, and so am I.
Now the time to roam is here,
To wander far and wander near.
We stayed together, now we roam,
And different highways take us home.
One of the girls, astutely, said, "I like how roam is repeated, because it makes you think of Rome."
It was altogether a lovely way to spend a warm spring afternoon.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
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