Earth Day 2021

“Happy Earth Day!” I said at the top of my class. While discussing the significance, a student said, “Wait, wasn’t Earth Day yesterday?”

In response, another classmate said, “You don’t know when Earth Day is?”

“Look, it’s not like it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving or something.”

Despite its cultural weakness as a holiday, I think of Earth Day as a reminder that compels me to ask, “What can I do better?”

In the past few years, my family and I have done a number of things to reduce the damage we do to the Earth. We compost, we use cloth diapers, we try to buy fewer things that rely on plastics, we use cloth tote bags for grocery shopping, we’ve got a bidet to cut down on toilet paper, and we have a good handful of reusable water bottles. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t say I’m an environmental extremist. These are all easy, inexpensive things to do.

Today, I bought my first fountain pen, a Pilot Metropolitan, as advised by my fountain pen enthusiast friend, George. I am attracted to the idea of fountain pens because they are mostly made of metal, so their plastic footprint is low, and their ink is refillable. As long as I don’t break it, I could use it indefinitely. I also like the idea of having few high quality items versus many low quality items.

To show my appreciation for my friend, I wrote a sonnet in dedication to bad penmanship and bad poetry and mailed it to him.

Across this slip of paper. It doesn't feel
so different, so please refrain from chiding
my penmanship; it's never been ideal.
A long line of poor cursive predates me
But most noticeably, my dad who's neither
Left or right, but is unclear equally,
As is this sonnet, its inconsistent meter
O, Sonnets, o Shakespeare, how strict you are
So satisfying to my soul, yet so 
trifling to those with rhythm tough like tar
My pen, my poem, is so unlike our Poe
     Only satisfying syllables yet
     its basic qualities so poorly met.

It's not my best work, as the poem admits. I think it's too reliant on the word, "so," to fulfill its syllabic requirements (six so's in the whole poem!). I'm not crazy about the syntax in the phrase, "please refrain from chiding/my penmanship," nor my clumsy rhyme with "neither" and "meter." But I guess that's the point of the poem. 

Today’s Lesson

I thought it was pretty lucky that we’re able to celebrate Earth Day while we’re in a poetry unit. So today, I had my students compost sonnets for the Earth. We went over the most basic rules of sonnets, their ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme, the meaning behind couplets, and iambic pentameter. There are other ways sonnets are constructed, as per quatrain, but I didn’t think adding that extra weight would be helpful.

As I usually like to compose my own poems to share with the class, I wrote this out in the beginning of the day:

Dear Earth,
I have been unkind to you. I have been
destructive. I have been careless and cruel.
I know today the products of my sin
And hope to make right as I teach in school.
I've tried to leave less of myself in waste
like food and gasoline; it's easy not
But know my efforts have not been misplaced
I know the price I've paid for what I've bought.
You're the only one, the only land,
the only sea, the only day I know
So every day, not just today, I stand
to share responsibility bestowed
     Consider this as my allegiance pledged
     to do my best down to the very edge.

I got some really great poems from the kids! Out of concern for their privacy I will not share them. I hope you enjoy my poems and encourage your kids to write them as well!

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