Lesson 1: Sijo: The Spring Breeze

By: U Tak (1262-1342)

Week: 1

Over the year, we'll explore nine poetic forms, including the sijo, haiku, limerick, sonnet, epitaph, acrostic, concrete/visual, ode, and blank verse. Each poetic form has its own distinct set of rules. Over the first four weeks, lessons focus on the poetic form of sijo. The sijo is a lyrical Korean poetic form of three long lines. The first featured poem, U Tak's "The Spring Breeze," is a sijo from the 14th century. The poem describes the brief appearance of a warm spring breeze melting the snow. In a shift, the author hopes it returns to melt the gray from his hair and restore his youth.

Lesson 2: Sijo: This Deep Midwinter Night

By: Hwang Jini (1506–1560)

Week: 2

"Midwinter Night" is a sijo written by the revered Korean female poet Hwang Jini. The poet wishes she could tuck away a winter night and bring it back out when her beloved returns.

Lesson 3: Sijo: My Friends

By: Yon Son-do (1587-1671)

Week: 3

Yon Son-do's sijo "My Friends" describes the aspects of nature he considers his companions, including the moon, the pine, and the bamboo. Lest the reader think the poet lonely, the poet can't imagine anything else he could want.

Lesson 4: Sijo: Green Water

By: Hwang Jini (1506–1560)

Week: 4

In the sijo "Green Water," Hwang Jini warns a young rushing mountain river to slow down a bit, for eventually it will rejoin the sea.

Lesson 5: Haiku: Old Pond

By: Matsuo Bashō

Week: 5

The next poetic form we'll explore is called the haiku. Haikus are Japanese poems of three lines and a total of seventeen syllables. Like the sijo, haikus are three lines and focus on the natural world. Traditionally, the first line of the haiku is five syllables, the second seven syllables, and the third five syllables. The "Great Four" Japanese masters of the haiku include Matsuo Bashō, Kobayashi Issa, Masaoka Shiki, and Yosa Buson. Over the next four weeks, we'll explore haikus from each of the masters. The first haiku we'll study is one of the most famous. "Old Pond" by Matsuo Bashō evokes the sight of a frog jumping into an old pond and the sound of splashing.

Lesson 6: Haiku: Snow Melting

By: Kobayashi Issa

Week: 6

"Snow Melting" is a haiku written by the celebrated Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa. The poet refers to melting snow, and in a twist, the flood of children into a village.

Lesson 7: Haiku: Moon and Plum Blossoms

By: Masaoka Shiki

Week: 7

Masaoka Shiki's haiku "Moon and Plum Blossoms" describes how a moon and plum blossoms appear to come closer and closer as the nights pass.

Lesson 8: Haiku: Blow of an Ax

By: Yosa Buson

Week: 8

In the haiku "Blow of an Ax," Yosa Buson describes an ax striking a winter pine tree, inciting the senses with the sharp scent of pine.

Lesson 9: Limerick: There was an Old Man with a Beard

By: Edward Lear

Week: 9

The next four weeks introduce four limericks. Limericks are humorous, sometimes rude, poems with five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme, containing 7-10 syllables each. The third and fourth lines rhyme and are shorter, containing 5-7 syllables. In the limerick "There was an Old Man with a Beard," Edward Lear describes something surprising in an old man's long beard.

Lesson 10: Limerick: There was a young rustic named Mallory

By: Saint John, New Brunswick Newspaper

Week: 10

"There was a young rustic named Mallory" is a limerick published in 1880 in the Saint John Daily News, a Canadian New Brunswick Newspaper. The poem describes the plight of a poor young man named Mallory, who can only afford the cheapest theater tickets. His lack of funds relegates him to sit in the uppermost balcony section of a theater.

Lesson 11: Limerick: There was a small boy of Quebec

By: Rudyard Kipling

Week: 11

Rudyard Kipling's limerick "There was a small boy of Quebec" describes a young boy buried in the snow. The boy is freezing, but unfazed, as he is from Quebec and used to cold weather.

Lesson 12: Limerick: Nantucket

By: Anonymous

Week: 12

In the classic limerick "Nantucket," the anonymous author describes a Nantucket man whose daughter ran away, taking his cash-filled bucket with her.

Lesson 13: Sonnet: The New Colossus

By: Emma Lazarus

Week: 13

The next poetic form we'll explore is called the sonnet. Sonnets are a poetic form of fourteen lines that follow one of a few common rhyming schemes. Emma Lazarus wrote her famous 1883 Italian sonnet, "The New Colossus," comparing America's famed Statue of Liberty as an icon of immigrants to the ancient Greek Colossus of Rhodes as an icon of war. The term "Colossus" is defined as an enormous, larger-than-life statue. "The New Colossus" poem was inscribed on a plaque and installed at the Statue of Liberty in 1903. The French gave the United States the Statue of Liberty as a gift in honor of their alliance during the American Revolutionary War. "The New Colossus" follows the characteristic da-DUM rhythm of the iambic pentameter as described in the "Concepts" section.

Lesson 14: Sonnet: Death be not Proud

By: John Donne

Week: 14

"Death be not Proud" is a Petrarchan sonnet written by the celebrated English poet John Donne and published in 1633. The poet personifies Death, admonishing Death not to be prideful about their limited powers. The poet even pities "poor" Death. Death must suffer the constant company of sickness and war. Death does not kill, rather Death is a slave to those who kill. Even drugs do a better job as a sleep aid than ineffective Death. Upon humanity dying and awakening to begin their immortal afterlives, Death loses all power.

Lesson 15: Sonnet: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

By: William Wordsworth

Week: 15

In William Wordsworth's Petrarchan sonnet, "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802," the poet stands astride a bridge spanning the River Thames in London, England (United Kingdom). The poet describes London clad in the beauty of early morning - the gliding river, the silent houses, and the reflected sunbeams glittering everywhere.

Lesson 16: Sonnet: Ozymandias

By: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Week: 16

In the Petrarchan sonnet "Ozymandias," Percy Bysshe Shelley writes in iambic pentameter (da-DUM) of Ozymandias, the Greek name for Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. Reportedly inspired by a broken statue of Ramesses II acquired by the British Museum, the poet addresses the rise and inevitable fall of power to the passage of time. Long ago, Ramesses II was a powerful pharaoh who ordered towering colossi built to demonstrate his might. Over time, the symbols of his might crumble to dust.

Lesson 17: Epitaph: Epitaph to a Dog (Excerpt)

By: Lord Byron

Week: 17

The next poetic form we'll explore is called the epitaph. Epitaphs are poems honoring the deceased, engraved on a burial marker or tomb. There are few rules for epitaphs, other than they address the deceased, are inscribed on a burial marker or tomb, and are relatively short. Most are somber, but some use humor to remember the deceased. In the provided excerpt of "Epitaph to a Dog," British poet Lord Byron honors his Newfoundland dog, named Boatswain, that died of rabies at a young age.

Lesson 18: Epitaph: Swift's Epitaph

By: William Butler Yeats

Week: 18

"Swift's Epitaph" is Jonathan Swift's self-written epitaph loosely translated by poet William Butler Yeats. Jonathan Swift was a famous clergyman and author who wrote 'Gulliver's Travels,' the story of a man who travels to exotic lands such as Lilliput, the home to the tiny Lilliputian people. The original epitaph written in Latin displayed near Swift's grave at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.

Lesson 19: Epitaph: The Soldier

By: Unknown

Week: 19

William Middleditch was a husband, father, and war hero who fought in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon's French forces were defeated. His epitaph, engraved on his gravestone at Bury St. Edmunds, highlights his contributions as a British soldier.

Lesson 20: Epitaph: The Clockmaker

By: Unknown

Week: 20

Thomas Hinde was a young clockmaker who passed away at the age of 19. His epitaph is a metaphor comparing Thomas Hinde to a broken clock that will be repaired by a higher power.

Lesson 21: Acrostic: For My Grand-Daughters, M. and L.

By: Mary Ann Bigelow

Week: 21

The next poetic form we'll study is called the acrostic. Acrostic poems have secret messages hidden in them. Particular letters, often the first letter of each line, spell out a word reflecting the meaning of the poem. What is the secret message hidden in "For My Grand-Daughters, M. and L." by Mary Ann H.T. Bigelow?

Lesson 22: Acrostic: Acrostic

By: Lewis Carroll

Week: 22

"Acrostic" is an acrostic poem written by the "Alice in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll. He gifted the poem to three little girls as a Christmas present. Can you guess their names?

Lesson 23: Acrostic: An Acrostic

By: Edgar Allan Poe

Week: 23

Edgar Allan Poe wrote his own acrostic poem in honor of his mother. What does the secret message mean?

Lesson 24: Acrostic: A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky

By: Lewis Carroll

Week: 24

"A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky" is an acrostic poem written by author Lewis Carroll. He wrote this poem in honor someone who inspired him to write "Alice in Wonderland." What is her name?

Lesson 25: Visual: Cet Arbrisseau (This Shrub)

By: Guillaume Apollinaire

Week: 25

The next poetic form we'll examine is the visual or concrete poem. Poets arrange the words of visual poems to look like objects or people, often reflecting the topic of the poem. Over the next four weeks, we'll look at four visual poems by French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire. The first visual poem is called "Cet Arbrisseau" (This Shrub).

Lesson 26: Visual: La Cravate (The Tie)

By: Guillaume Apollinaire

Week: 26

The visual poem, "La Cravate" (The Tie), by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire addresses the civilized discomfort of the formal necktie.

Lesson 27: Visual: Voici la Maison (Here is the House)

By: Guillaume Apollinaire

Week: 27

The visual poem, "Voici la Maison" (Here is the House), by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire speaks of those born inside a house.

Lesson 28: Visual: Salut Monde (Greetings World!)

By: Guillaume Apollinaire

Week: 28

The final visual poem by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire is called "Salut Monde" (Greetings World!). The poem arrangement resembles the famed Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The poem uses a metaphor to compare the Eiffel Tower to a tongue being stuck out at the Germans. World War I inspired Apollinaire to write the poem as France was fighting with the Allies against Germany and the Central Powers.

Lesson 29: Ode: Ode on Solitude

By: Alexander Pope

Week: 29

The next four lessons feature odes. An ode honors or celebrates something or someone. Alexander Pope was only twelve in 1709 when he wrote his now famous "Ode on Solitude." Pope extols the benefits of a peaceful and uncomplicated existence, idealizing his perception of the life of a farmer.

Lesson 30: Ode: Ode to Neptune

By: Phillis Wheatley

Week: 30

Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa (likely Gambia or Senegal today) in 1753. At the age of seven, a local chief sold her to a slave trader, who brought her to America to be re-sold. Despite her severe hardships, she grew up to become an internationally known poet in her lifetime. Even George Washington was an admirer. She was eventually freed and married and had children. But there was no happy ending for Phillis. Three of her children died in their infancy, her husband was jailed for debt, and she died in poverty. Her "Ode to Neptune," mirrors the stormy seas of life, but ends with the hope of a safe harbor.

Lesson 31: Ode: Ode to Pity

By: Jane Austen

Week: 31

Although Jane Austen is renowned for her novels such as "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility," she also wrote poetry. Her poem, "Ode to Pity," describes the transformation of a scene in the moonlight.

Lesson 32: Ode: Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds

By: James McIntyre

Week: 32

Poet James McIntyre emigrated from Scotland and ended up living in Canada's dairy country. He wrote "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds" in honor of an enormous chuck of cheese exhibited in Canada, the United States, and Britain.

Lesson 33: Blank Verse: Mending Wall

By: Robert Frost

Week: 33

"Good fences make good neighbors" from Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall," has become a famous adage. Two neighbors walk along the wall separating their properties, making repairs as they go. The narrator feels the wall is unnecessary, but his neighbor believes "Good fences make good neighbors." The poem is written in blank verse and does not rhyme. Although it does not strictly adhere to iambic pentameter, it presents a pleasant rhythm along the way.

Lesson 34: Blank Verse: Hamlet (Excerpt)

By: William Shakespeare

Week: 34

This lesson features William Shakespeare's famous soliloquy from "Hamlet." "To be or not to be," is a famous line often quoted from Shakespeare. Written in blank verse, the excerpt mostly follows iambic pentameter and the poem does not rhyme.

Lesson 35: Blank Verse: This Lime-tree Bower my Prison (Excerpt)

By: Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Week: 35

True to form, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's blank verse poem, "This Lime-tree Bower my Prison," follows iambic pentameter, but not a rhyming scheme. In the poem, the narrator feels trapped by life circumstances while in a garden, envying the freedom of his wandering friends. Eventually, he concedes his bower is a pleasant place and decides to accept his fate.

Lesson 36: Blank Verse: The Princess (Excerpt)

By: Alfred Lord Tennyson

Week: 36

In Alfred Lord Tennyson's narrative poem "The Princess," a princess founds a university for women only. Her betrothed dresses as a woman and sneaks in to win her heart. The poem is written in blank verse and in iambic pentameter but follows no rhyming scheme.